Wallabies stroll past hapless Wales
MATCH REPORT: Australia started their Grand Slam tour on an impressive note - dismissing Wales 32-8 in Cardiff on Saturday.
Despite a slump in the early stages of the second half, the Wallabies still outscored the Welsh by five tries to one.
The most significant aspect of the win was that the Aussies hardly moved out of second gear and will know they can do much better.
Australian flyhalf Bernard Foley was in imperious form, as he helped extend the Wallabies' winning streak over Wales to 12 games.
Foley exchanged an early penalty with Leigh Halfpenny before the visitors scored three first-half tries - from skipper Stephen Moore, Reece Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani to lay the bedrock for a dominant display.
Foley himself stretched the lead early in the second period with his own try before Scott Williams pulled one back for the home side, seeking their first victory in an opening game of an year-end series since beating Romania in 2002.
But the Wallabies had the last laugh when wing Dane Haylett-Petty crossed for a fifth try after picking off a sloppy Welsh pass.
Since losing to New Zealand in the Final of last year's World Cup, Australia have endured a six-match losing streak and headed into Saturday's match with just three Test wins in the last 11.
But the Wallabies certainly did not hold back in Cardiff, displaying an all-encompassing attacking verve that left Wales looking leaden-footed and totally bereft of ideas in the opening half.
Australia showcased their intent from the off, going through phase after phase in the opening three uninterrupted minutes, which featured a sublime Israel Folau offload and culminated in a Foley penalty to open the scoring.
Halfpenny responded immediately after Rory Arnold was caught in possession from the restart.
But that was an extremely rare Welsh sortie into Australian territory, with this season's Rugby Championship runners-up in full control and Foley orchestrating waves of structured attack that had Wales on the back foot.
Spurning a kickable penalty, the Wallabies went for the corner, and Moore crashed over from the driving maul, Foley missing the extras.
The Wallabies completely dominated possession and territory for the next 15 minutes, Wales' defensive woes worsened when fly-half Dan Biggar was yellow carded for cynically holding back Haylett-Petty with the tryline begging.
The Australian wing then spilled an inside Foley pass in the Welsh 22m area before Halfpenny produced a try-saving tackle on Hodge as he waltzed through Wales' line.
But it was not long before Hodge was played in, another inside Foley pass setting Folau free. The graceful fullback sprinted into space and with options either side, passed back into the centre for the five-pointer, Foley again missing the conversion.
Halfpenny's second penalty attempt went wide and the Wallabies punished the home side with a third try, Foley's delayed pass allowing Kuridrani a clean run at the line after dummying the Welsh full-back.
Foley converted to hand the visitors a 20-3 half-time lead and was the first name on the scoreboard in the second period, running in a try of his own after slick hands in midfield.
Scott Williams, a late call-up for the injured Jonathan Davies at centre, gathered his own grubber through to pull a try back for Wales.
Replacement wing Hallam Amos had a try ruled out with five minutes to play to sum up a disappointing afternoon for a well-beaten Wales side, whose record against the "big three" of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now stands at just two wins in 34 games since Warren Gatland took charge in 2008.
Man of the Match: Gareth Davies, coming on as a second half replacement, made an immediate impact and was by some distance the best of the Welsh players. Bernard Foley directed the show and Israel Folau ran wild. Dane Haylett-Petty and Tevita Kuridrani were also impressive with ball in hand. Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold continue to grow as a lock combination. However, our award goes to Wallaby flank Michael Hooper, who was everything that was good about this - a high workrate off the ball, mostly good on defence and plenty of metres with ball in hand.
Moment of the match: You can look at any of the five Wallaby tries, but the Reece Hodge try just short of the half-hour mark was as good a score as you will see - and also put the Wallabies out of reach of a Welsh team that had little hope of closing a two-try gap.
Villain of the match: This is easy. Dan Bigger's cynical play, when he held back an opponent off the ball, not only earned him 10 minutes in the bin but also this unwanted award.
Tries:Moore, Hodge, Kuridrani, Foley, Haylett-Petty
Cons: Foley 2
Yellow card: Dan Biggar (Wales, 16 - cynical foul, holding an opponent back off the ball)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 James King, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Hallam Amos.
Australia: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 David Pocock, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore (captain), 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 James Slipper, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Scott Fardy, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Sefa Naivalu.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Agence France-Presse & rugby365com