Australia stun Wales in thriller
June 16, 2012
Australia's Mike Harris celebrates his match-winning kick in the last act of the game in Melbourne
© Getty Images
An after-the-hooter penalty from replacement fly-half Mike Harris propelled Australia to a dramatic 25-23 victory over Wales in their clash in Melbourne.
Story of the Game
Wales appeared on course to keep the series alive with an historic first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 1969 as the faultless boot of Leigh Halfpenny kept the Grand Slam champions in front. But with the clock in the red New Zealand referee Chris Pollock penalised Wales after Australia launched a powerful rolling maul and Harris showed nerves of steel to crush Welsh dreams.
Wales, accused of making a slow start last week, came flying out of the blocks with a series of powerful pick and drives. Mike Phillips, Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert were all prominent in the build up as Wales roared into the Wallabies half before George North powered over from close range.
Halfpenny, who kicked all before him in Brisbane, maintained his 100% record Down Under to stretch Wales' early lead to seven points. Wales continued to dominate the early exchanges but the Wallabies fought their way back into the encounter and began to strangle the visitors of possession.
Berrick Barnes, who only rejoined the Wallabies squad four hours prior to kick-off following the birth of his first child, Archie, hit back for the hosts and added a second penalty on the half-hour mark to cut Wales' lead to one point. Wales did themselves no favours and lost a succession of lineouts on their own throw as the pressure mounted.
They looked to have survived unscathed after Phillips burst out of his own half with a trademark break. He found Rhys Priestland in support but the fly-half was unable to release Sam Warburton for the try. Wales were penalised at the following phase and after pouncing on loose ball from the ensuing lineout, Phillips handed the Wallabies another opportunity to attack after his box-kick went out on the full.
And the Tri-Nations champions took full advantage with Barnes beating Warburton on the outside and dummying past Ashley Beck to release Rob Horne for the crucial try. Barnes added the extras on the stroke of half-time as Wales entered the interval trailing 13-7.
But the Dragons again started the half firing and an uncharacteristic mistake from last week's Wallaby hero Will Genia gave the opportunity to score. The livewire scrum-half threw an aimless pass which was hacked through by Beck and Jonathan Davies beat Rob Simmons in the foot race to score.
Halfpenny expertly slotted the conversion to regain the lead, and the full-back exchanged penalties with Barnes as Wales kept their noses in front. Barmes knocked over another penalty but Australia were dealt a blow when Cooper Vuna was sent to the sin-bin after a clumsy challenge on Halfpenny in the air.
The diminutive full-back came crashing down to earth but got straight back to his feet and slotted a monster penalty to regain the slender lead. Barnes hit-back after Bradley Davies was penalised at the break down but Halfpenny was again on target after the Welsh pack flexed its muscle at scrum time.
Wales continued to dominate the battle up front but they fell foul of the scrum lottery and Barnes stepped up to slot the simple penalty. But amazingly the fly-half, who appeared to be carrying a knock, pushed his effort wide and quickly departed to be replaced by Harris.
Australia frantically hammered at Wales but Rob Howley's men held strong as mistakes creeped into the Wallabies game. But Wales were penalised with the clock ticking and Australia kicked to the corner. They launched a rolling maul and Wales were penalised, with New Zealand-born fly-half Harris writing his name in Wallaby history.
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