By Sarah Mockford at Millennium Stadium
In a nutshell
The same old story for Wales. It was close but yet again Australia came out on the right side of the scoreboard – and how much will this run of nine straight wins count when the two sides meet in the 2015 World Cup pool stages?
Wales started well, George North pouncing on a loose ball, kicking downfield and benefiting from Adam Ashley-Cooper’s kick putting the ball directly in his path for a try in the first minute. A couple of kicks from Leigh Halfpenny made it 10-0 but Australia then gained dominance. They had control of possession and territory, and capitalised on quick ball at the breakdown – much of which was provided by Michael Hooper.
Wales were trying to close down Australia’s attack by blitzing fast and narrow, but the Wallabies read this well, were able to get the ball wide and then had the home side scrambling. Wales were also caught out a few times when they decided to run the ball from their own 22 – a risky strategy if you then get turned over, which they did on a couple of occasions.
Christian Leali’ifano was the first to cross the line for Australia and Israel Folau followed before half-time, while Joe Tomane made it three early in the second half as the visitors maintained a fast tempo while Wales struggled to get a foothold in the game, getting turned over or being penalised as they tried to retain possession.
George North did pull a try back, punching through the middle to score under the posts after being moved to the centre, and Wales upped their intensity in the last 15 minutes. They brought the score to within four points and had opportunities to get the try but couldn’t convert them, making errors or taking the wrong options.
Many of these Wales players may have beaten Australia with the Lions, but as the hoodoo goes on in national colours concern will grow ahead of RWC 2015. Australia, on the other hand, look a different side to the one that played the Lions, with far more creativity in their back-line.
Joe Tomane’s try in the 47th minute. Australia had scored while Dan Biggar was in the sin-bin at the end of the opening 40 and started the second half in the same dominant fashion, pinning Wales in their own 22 and forcing them to make tackle after tackle. Even with Biggar back on the field, they stretched Wales by drawing defenders out to one wing and when the ball was spread the other way Tomane showed great skill to pick up a low pass from Israel Folau and score in the corner. The TMO was called in but while the ball travelled forward, the hands went backwards – try given. That score not only gave Australia a comfortable 27-16 lead but drained plenty of Wales’ energy.
Star man – Quade Cooper
The Australia fly-half was winning his 50th cap and he certainly relished the occasion. In the first half he produced two sublime passes, one that led to a try and another that should have. The reverse one in the 18th minute to Joe Tomane allowed the winger to release Christian Leali’ifano for Australia’s first try. Later he again set Tomane free with a great pass and the winger fed Will Genia on the inside only for the scrum-half to knock on with a clear field ahead of him.
Cooper was at the centre of everything good about Australia. His ability to react on the hoof, mix up his attacking game and release his outside backs constantly had Wales defenders on the back foot. He guided his team around the field, pulling the Welsh defence left and right and ultimately stretching it. There were two blots on the copybook – a scuffed drop-goal and a late sin-bin for tackling Scott Williams without the ball – but neither hurt his team as they held on for another victory over Wales.
Australia made nine line breaks to Wales’ five while both sides beat 15 defenders.
Wales made 141 tackles to Australia’s 119, with Toby Faletau (17) and Scott Williams (16) leading the way.
No Wales player ran more than 100 metres, but three Australians did: Israel Folau (144), Nick Cummins (133) and Joe Tomane (107).
Wales – Tries: North 2 Cons: Halfpenny, Biggar Pens: Halfpenny 2, Biggar, Priestland
Australia – Tries: Leali’ifano, Folau, Tomane Cons: Leali’ifano 3 Pens: Leali’ifano 3