Australia again defeat Wales in a compelling encounter in which their defence managed to keep out Warren Gatland's men when down to 13 men
The first-half was cagey with penalties being trades by both sides, before Dan Biggar had his first miss of the tournament late on in the half to leave the Wallabies, who had gained the ascendancy in the latter stages, 9-6 up at the break, after three Bernard Foley penalties. As Wales chased the game in the second-half, they couldn’t turn their possession into points, even when the Wallabies were down to 13-men. It was a testament to Australia’s water-tight defence that they held out – it was the defence of potential world champions.
Australia organisation when down to 13 men
The pressure on Australia when they were down to 13 men was immense but their committment, defensive organisation and ultimately heart took the breath away. Time after time in the second half between 55 and 70 minutes, Wales continually hammered at the Wallaby line, choosing lineouts and five-metre scrums, but they couldn’t find a way through the mass of green and gold defenders. Even when they crossed the whitewash desperate Wallaby defencers held them Wales attackers up.
Wallaby scrum continues to purr
Whatever Mario Ledesma is being paid, he needs be politely asking for it to be doubled. So long derided for folding when the pressure came on, the Wallaby pack yet again showed how destructive they could be, earning several scrum penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Their ‘bajada’ or explosive eight-man shove, inspired by the Pumas, has been a feature of this tournament and Scotland, who were given a torrid time by Samoa will be wary come scrum-time.
When Rhys Webb was stretchered off the field against Italy in the warm-ups, the nation mourned but Gareth Davies, the Scarlets scrum-half has comfortably slipped into his shirt. He was agressive – fighting to get the ball back off the much larger Stephen Moore; sharp – consistently sniping around the fringes and skilful; showing deft hands as he looked to put players into space. With four tries in four games, he’s been one of the successes of Wales’ World Cup campaign.
He lasted 48 minutes but showed their Wallaby No 7 jersey is in safe hands if Pocock and Michael Hooper are unavailable. Early on a shuddering hit on Dan Biggar was felt in the stands. The young Melbourne Rebel more than competed with two Lions backrows, Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric. His strength over the ball and ball-carrying ensures that we’ll be seeing far more of the 21-year-old in the coming years.
Welsh tactics dealing with a numerical advantage
For seven minutes, the Wallabies were down to 13 men, and they played for 15 minutes a man down. Wales kept it tight and tried take Australia on in the tight exchanges. Sam Warburton, sensing Australia were vulnerable, chose on several occasions to take attacking lineouts, or scrums. With extra numbers, however, they failed to use width and spread it out to the flanks where they had a numerical advantage. Perhaps they didn’t trust their ability to create out wide but as Warren Gatland admitted it was something they would be looking at closely ahead of the South Africa game.
Welsh indiscipline in the first half
There were a few occasions in the latter stages of the first-half when Wales were on the back foot. Their backrow were penalised twice for transgressing outside the 22 when the tryline was not under threat, giving away six points. First with Justin Tipuric pinged for some illegal footwork at the breakdown 35 metres out and secondly, a Taulupe Faletau rogue boot, 30 metres out. Craig Joubert warned them that the next time, it would be yellow card. They proved expensive points.
Wales ran 291 metres to Australia’s 212, and had 60 per cent possession to Australia’s 40
Australia beat 15 defenders compared to Wales’ 10, both sides had four line-breaks
The game’s top carrier was Israel Folau with 64 metres carried. Behind him were George North with 54 and Gareth Anscombe with 52
Wales: G Anscombe; A Cuthbert, G North, J Roberts, L Williams; D Biggar, G Davies; P James, S Baldwin, S Lee (T Francis 53) , L Charteris, AW Jones, S Warburton, J Tipuric, T Faletau.
Pens: Dan Biggar (2)
Replacements: K Owens, A Jarvis, J Ball, R Moriarty, L Williams, R Priestland, J Hook
Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuridrani, M Giteau, D Mitchell; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, S Moore (c), S Kepu, K Douglas, D Mumm, S Fardy, S McMahon (B McCalman 48), David Pocock.
Replacements: T Polota-Nau, J Slipper, G Holmes, R Simmons, N Phipps, M Toomua, K Beale
Pens: Bernard Foley (5)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Man of the Match: Gareth Davies (Wal)