By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
In a nutshell
The Wallabies succeeded where Wales failed last week, taking the lead with six minutes to go and controlling the ball in the closing stages to secure another narrow win and a 3-0 Test series whitewash. It was a courageous effort from Wales, an effort epitomised by captain Sam Warburton, who played on bravely for several minutes in the first half, making a few key tackles, after suffering concussion and vomiting on the pitch. Ryan Jones took over as skipper and went over for a well-worked try but Rob Horne just managed to hold onto the ball to hit back with a try for Australia. Wales will now have to wait until the autumn Test series for another crack at turning these narrow defeats into victories.
Leigh Halfpenny put in a long kick in the 72nd minute and when Kurtley Beale put his foot on the line it resulted in a Wales’ lineout in the Australian 22. It was the prime opportunity for Wales to build on their 19-17 lead but instead they gave away a penalty at the ensuing maul – the old truck-and-trailer scenario – and the Wallabies were able to clear the pressure, win a penalty of their own and secure the win.
Berrick Barnes was the official Man of the Match for the second week in succession and he did play well, but for his form across the series Leigh Halfpenny gets my vote. His goalkicking has been exemplary in all three Tests – he missed his first one in 16 attempts in this Test and even that hit a post – while he’s safe under the high ball, has a solid boot out of hand and a dangerous running game. As Barnes said: “He’s a phenomenal kicker and a quality player around the pitch. He brings a bit of subtlety with the two big wingers in the back three.”
Room for improvement
There were too many basic errors from Wales, particularly in the first half where they couldn’t control the ball at the restart, while they also need to be careful not to get isolated in attack. A few players were caught out in the first half and David Pocock was able to latch onto the ball and win Australia a penalty.
Composure was again an issue for Wales towards the end when they had chances to close out the game and they will need to improve this come November if they are to get those elusive wins agains the southern hemisphere big three.
The scrum is still an issue for Wallabies. Not only did they regularly give away free-kicks for an early engagement but in the second half, with Paul James on for Wales, they conceded long-arm penalties.
In quotes – winners
Captain David Pocock: “Our composure was good, and Berrick (Barnes) and Will (Genia) did a great job of directing us around the field. Those are the games you want to win – it was a real arm wrestle but we got in a winning position and held on.”
In quotes – losers
Coach Rob Howley: “We’re a pretty honest bunch of coaches. It’s a 3-0 whitewash and we’re not hiding away from that, but we’ve showed the ability to bounce back week after week and I’m immensely proud of the players.”
AUSTRALIA: Kurtley Beale; Adam Ashley-Cooper, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe (Anthony Fainga’a 35), Digby Ioane; Berrick Barnes, Will Genia; Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota-Nau (Stephen Moore 56), Sekope Kepu (Ben Alexander 56), Sitaleki Timani (Rob Simmons 72), Nathan Sharpe, Scott Higginbotham (Dave Dennis 56), David Pocock (captain), Wycliff Palu.
Try: Horne. Pens: Barnes 5.
WALES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Ashley Beck (Scott Williams 66), George North; Rhys Priestland (James Hook 69), Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins (Paul James h-t), Matthew Rees (Ken Owens 66), Adam Jones, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (Luke Charteris 66), Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (captain, Justin Tipuric 29), Ryan Jones (Luke Charteris 50-56).
Try: R Jones. Con: Halfpenny. Pens: Halfpenny 4.