Emotional farewell for Williams
December 3, 2011
Shane Williams scores his 57th and final try of his international career © Getty Images
Shane Williams admitted his last-gasp try against Australia had been a dream end to his international career, but was left with mixed emotions as Wales fell to a 24-18 Millennium Stadium defeat in his 87th and final Test.
The 34-year-old winger extended his Welsh try-scoring record to 58 when he weaved his way between Berrick Barnes and Digby Ioane to touch down in added time and send the crowd into rapture.
But the score came too late to recover a result for the hosts, who paid the price for shipping 21 points during the ten-minute second half period when full-back Leigh Halfpenny was in the sin-bin.
And Williams said: "Of course there are mixed emotions, the whole point of the game was to win. It was not about me it was about getting a Welsh performance and beating Australia.
"It didn't happen so on that side it is a bit disappointing but I cannot commend the guys' effort enough. It was a tough game, we played a very good Australia side that had the majority of the ball, we did our damnedest out there and I'm very proud of that.
"It couldn't have finished any better for me to score a try, but obviously there are mixed emotions, it's nice to score tries but it is even better when you are winning."
With time running out and Australia closing out an ultimately comfortable win, the Ospreys flier admitted he thought his chance of a fairytale try had been lost.
"I thought my opportunity had gone, I thought we had an overlap on the right where we chucked it up in midfield and we were given a penalty and I thought that was it, my chance had gone.
"But luckily I was on the end of a very good pass that took me outside Barnes and inside Ioane and I managed to get to the line again.
"I couldn't have scripted the last minute of that game any better but it would have been nice to have gone out in style and won the game."
Head coach Warren Gatland, who has seen his side win just one of 16 games against Tri-Nations opposition, paid tribute to Williams but acknowledged the yellow card had been crucial.
"When we look at players there are three things that to be an international player give you an advantage and you have got to have two of those things. Speed, skill and size and that's the way it is," he said. "You have got to have two of those elements, Shane is fast and pretty skilful. If you are small, skilful and have no speed you are going to struggle.
"That's the way the game operates, you can be big, fast and have a chance, you can be big and slow and skilful and have a chance, but if you are big, slow, and not skilful you have no chance.
"I thought it was an excellent game, in the first half we played some good rugby from fairly deep, there were times we got in behind them and created attacking opportunities and scored a couple of good tries against the team with the best defence at World Cup.
"The unfortunate thing is we had the yellow card. I felt sorry for Leigh because with the angle he came form and the way the ball bounced he thought it had gone in to O'Connor's hands and he has not been able to see the ball, but he thought he had the ball at the time.
"The referee has a different angle and we accept that decision but unfortunately we conceded 21 points in that period, and that's the game."
Australia's victory, their third successive Millennium Stadium win, ends 2011 on a high for the Tri Nations champions.
And head coach Robbie Deans was impressed by his side's attitude. He said: "I am delighted with the effort, we were made to work for it. We were a bit impatient in the first half but we adapted better in the second half and we were able to bring some pressure to bear and score some points.
"There were elements of fatigue late in the second half, which is understandable, but the boys showed what it meant to them and they have earned a break."
And former All Black Deans also paid a glowing tribute to Williams. "He is a once-in-a-generation player," he said. "What he has achieved in the game no-one does really. He deserves every acknowledgement going. It was a nice way to finish, although I probably wasn't excited at the time until I saw who it was.
"He is a quality player and we wish him well. He has contributed to the game of rugby. He leaves a legacy a lot of players in Welsh rugby will want to follow. It's good for the game."
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