Wallabies too flash for Wales
November 6, 2010
Kurtley Beale scored one of Australia's three tries
© Getty Images
High-flying Australia had too much invention for a dogged Wales side at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, running out 25-16 winners.
Fresh from ending their All Blacks' hoodoo in Hong Kong last weekend, the Australians had their wonderful backline to thank for victory after their scrum was dismantled by the Welsh front-row.
Flanker David Pocock opened the scoring for the tourists in a tightly-contested first-half before Man of the Match Kurtley Beale and tight-head Ben Alexander rounded off long-range efforts in the second period. Hong Kong hero James O'Connor took over the kicking duties from Matt Giteau converted two of the tries as well as notching a pair of penalties.
Wales lost centre Tom Shanklin to the sin-bin just after the hour but hit back for their only try of the game during his absence, replacement scrum-half Richie Rees capping a lively cameo with a close-range score.
Stephen Jones put Wales ahead with an early penalty but Australia's response was rapid in the form of a try to the in-form Pocock. The John Eales Medal-winner took the plaudits following strong phase play by the Wallabies, with their backline finding gaps at will while the forwards carried hard when in sight of the line. Wales naively flooded the breakdown in anticipation of a turnover and the ball was whipped short to Pocock, who made no mistake from close range.
Pocock dominated Wales on the floor to snuff out a promising attack soon after but the shoe was on the other foot at the scrum, where the Welsh front-row decimated their rivals to win two penalties in quick succession. Jones sent the first to the corner only to be thwarted by Australia's omnipresent flanker and hacked the second wide of the uprights from kickable range.
Wales made encouraging strides with ball in hand, particularly with a couple of neat darts from Jones, but Pocock was again on hand to rip possession from the grasp of the home side. Jones brought Wales back to within a point with a penalty but both he and O'Connor missed further opportunities before the break, with a double-movement from Will Genia following more strong, patient work from the Australian pack in the Wales 22 leaving the scores close at the break, 7-6 to the Wallabies.
Beale sent hearts racing with a brilliant chip and collect over the Welsh defence immediately after the restart and Australia followed their fullback's lead to crank up the pressure. Wales scrambled well and were spared by a knock-on from Giteau, but their grace lasted only moments as Pocock again went to work.
He wrestled possession back from Wales inside his own 22 and after a slice of luck the Wallabies backs took over to superb effect. Beale's charged-down clearance fell to Genia, who identified a mismatch on the wing to free O'Connor to speed past Gethin Jenkins. Last weekend's match-winner took play into the Welsh 22 before finding a simple offload for Beale to score, also adding the extras. Wales went back-to-basics however and duly won another scrum penalty, which was converted by Jones to close the gap to five points after 53 minutes.
Beale then came within inches of scoring his second following a wonderful moment of individual skill. The Waratahs fullback beat Mike Phillips to his own Garryowen and followed it up with the deftest of grubbers, flummoxing the Welsh defence. He dribbled for the line but lost the ball forward under pressure from James Hook.
Australia were made to wait only seconds for their third try though, Alexander firing a riposte for the Australian front-row by rounding off a brilliant team move. Cooper won a turnover with a strong piece of defence and Genia and Drew Mitchell flew upfield, exploiting several weak tackles on the way. The ball was shipped across the backs as Wales struggled to cope, landing in the arms of Alexander, who finished from close range.
Things rapidly went from bad to worse for Wales as Shanklin saw yellow for an early tackle on Pocock. Wales' loose play proved their undoing as Cooper picked off a dropped pass and cross-kicked to O'Connor, who ate up the ground before firing the ball to Pocock, who was already on the deck thanks to the Cardiff Blues centre.
Warren Gatland emptied his bench and Cardiff scrum-half Rees made an immediate impact by adding snap around the fringes, Dragons flanker Dan Lydiate finding some rare space to take play close to the Australian line. The hosts claimed a try as stand-in skipper Matthew Rees was forced towards the whitewash but the TMO ruled against them, awarding a five metre scrum.
Wales went in search of the penalty try but after conceding two penalties Australia bit back ever so briefly, only for Lydiate to exploit their wheel by sending Rees over for a well-taken try. Replacement fly-half Dan Biggar converted but immediately conceded three points with a moment of excitement. The Ospreys playmaker set off in pursuit of a Martyn Williams kick ahead from an offside position and O'Connor made no mistake.
The final moments were played out at a frenzied pace as both sides looked to finish on a high but fatigue played its part, with the game petering out to leave the Wallaby backs as victors over the Welsh forwards.
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