Another epic clash between Wales and Australia is decided with the final kick, 29-28
Last-gasp Priestland kick gives Wales breathless victory over Australia
Wales finished their autumn campaign on a high as a Rhys Priestland penalty, with the clock in the red, brought them a breathless victory over the Wallabies at the Principality Stadium.
Kurtley Beale’s long-range penalty three minutes earlier had appeared to give Australia a remarkable victory because they lost No 8 Rob Valetini to a red card after just 15 minutes.
Far from throwing in the towel at the end of a gruelling tour, the Wallabies carried the fight to their hosts with some thrilling attacking rugby. “It was an amazing Test match,” said TV pundit Stephen Larkham, on duty for Amazon Prime.
Valetini had made a dreadfully poor tackle on Adam Beard, going far too high and getting his head on the wrong side. He smashed into second-row Beard’s head, causing an immediate blood injury. Beard went off and was not to return, Ben Carter his replacement.
Scottish referee Mike Adamson made the easy decision to show Valetini a red card as the player came from distance, made no effort to drop his height and hit Beard with force. With no mitigation, a sending-off was inevitable.
Dan Biggar kicked the resulting penalty but James O’Connor quickly cancelled that out with three points of his own. With a quarter of the match gone, Australia led 10-6.
Australia had shot out of the blocks, attacking wide and narrow and including a thunderous carry by tighthead Taniela Tupou. Playing with a penalty advantage, centre Hunter Paisami – one of the stars of the autumn – put in a delicious no-look grubber for Andrew Kellaway to touch down for his ninth try in just 13 appearances. O’Connor converted.
Wales replied when Biggar kicked a penalty awarded for obstruction.
The Wallabies were reduced to 13 men on 22 minutes when Beale deliberately knocked down Nick Tompkins’s intended pass to Louis Rees-Zammit – echoes of last weekend when Fiji suffered a red and yellow card.
Wales exploited the opportunity to the full, a superbly worked lineout move seeing Tomos Williams put Ryan Elias over in the corner for a try that Biggar converted.
O’Connor squared matters at 13-13 but Tupou strayed offside on 37 minutes. Biggar punished the offence off the tee and Wales took a three-point lead into the half-time breather.
Wales created further daylight between themselves and the Wallabies with a curious try shortly after the break. Tompkins got his hand in the way of a Tom Wright pass but Adamson ruled that the ball had gone backwards – so there was no knock-on.
Tompkins hesitated before running unimpeded towards the posts for a try that was confirmed after a TMO review. James Slipper, captaining Australia in the absence of Michael Hooper, complained in vain. Biggar’s conversion had Wales 23-13 to the good.
In what was a fractious match, Will Skelton took issue with prop Gareth Thomas for a ruck cleanout on Allan Alaalatoa that referee Adamson decided, on review, was not too dangerous but warranted a yellow card. Skipper Ellis Jenkins was sacrificed when a scrum forced Wales to summon a prop and Tompkins found himself packing down in the back row.
Moments later, Beale, stepping and then gliding in the outside channel, was instrumental in a terrific try that was finished off by scrum-half Nic White. The conversion cut the Welsh lead to three points but Biggar doubled that with a penalty, 26-20 with 15 minutes remaining.
Australia showed just why they had chalked up five successive wins ahead of their European tour. A slashing break by Paisami was ended by Johnny McNicholl’s superb tackle but the ball was recycled for Filipo Daugunu to dot down in the left-hand corner. O’Connor’s conversion attempt struck the upright and Australia trailed 26-25.
Beale’s long-range effort, after Wales were turned over when over-playing, seemed to have rendered that miss irrelevant. Not so, however, as Wales attacked cleverly down the short side to force the penalty that won the match.
Wales have now won three on the bounce against the Australians, who lost all three tour games in Britain following defeats by Scotland and England. “Sometimes you have to win ugly,” said Wales captain Jenkins – although there was plenty to enjoy about this game.
Opposing skipper Slipper said the red card was a critical blow. “You just can’t win when you put yourself under that sort of pressure,” he said.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie was furious about the decision to award the Tompkins try. “We deserved better,” he said. Such are the fine margins in international sport.
Wales: Liam Williams; Louis Rees-Zammit (Johnny McNicholl 48), Nick Tompkins, Uilisi Halaholo, Josh Adams; Dan Biggar (Rhys Priestland 69), Tomos Williams (Gareth Davies 69); Wyn Jones (Gareth Thomas 51), Ryan Elias (Elliot Dee 69), Tomas Francis (Dillon Lewis 51), Adam Beard (Ben Carter 15), Seb Davies, Ellis Jenkins (capt, Christ Tshiunza 59), Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.
Australia: Kurtley Beale; Andrew Kellaway (Tom Wright 33), Len Ikitau, Hunter Paisami (Lalakai Foketi 72), Filipo Daugunu; James O’Connor, Nic White (Tate McDermott 69); James Slipper (capt, Angus Bell 62), Tolu Latu (Folau Fainga’a 43), Taniela Tupou (Allan Alaalatoa 43), Rory Arnold (Will Skelton 54), Izack Rodda, Rob Leota, Pete Samu (Lachlan Swinton 66), Rob Valetini.
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