Wales 26 Australia 30
WALES fell short yet again after a pulsating Test match at the Millennium Stadium this evening saw Australia deservedly hold on to win after nearly letting slip a 30-16 lead with 20 minutes to go.
The Wallabies were by far the sharper behind and outscored the hosts by three tries to two.
It Wales’ ninth successive defeat to Aussies, again by a narrow margin for at least four of those losses.
Australia’s majestic outside-half Quade Cooper was the star man, closely followed by their superb full-back Israel Folau who caused chaos in the home defence.
Wales giant wing George North two tries, including a stunning try after just 69 seconds, kicking the ball up the touchline, Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper making a complete hash of the clearance before the Northampton made touched down to give them a dream start.
A fine Leigh Halfpenny conversion and a penalty put Wales 10-0 up without having done much to deserve it before the Australians hit back with a Christian Leali’ifano penalty before it was cancelled out by another Wales strike.
A beautiful converted try scored by centre Leali’ifano after a wonderful pass by Cooper brought the score back to 13-10.
Wales went further ahead when Dan Biggar assumed the kicking duties, just slotting over a penalty.
The Aussies started to get on top and could have scored a hatful of tries, Biggar yellow carded at a ruck after Folau was brought down inches short.
The Wallabies made 14-man Wales pay with a converted try, Folau going over after a poor attempted tackle by scrum-half Mike Phillips.
The half ended with the visitors deservedly 17-16 ahead.
And it was they who took advantage of Biggar’s absence with a further penalty before wing Joe Tomane scored a contentious try, with a hint of a forward pass.
Leali’ifano’s lovely conversion and a later penalty put them 30-16 in the lead and they were cruising.
They then proceeded to take their foot off the gas for some reason. They had Wales on the canvas but let them up again.
Cue a frantic last quarter, North scoring his second try before a Rhys Priestland penalty reduced the arrears to just four points.
Wales seriously threatened to steal the game from the most unlikeliest of situations only to fail gloriously again. But it is still failure.
North was unlucky not to get his hat trick but former Monmouth School head boy Wayne Barnes ruled the ball had gone forward.
But Cooper was yellow carded for an early tackle on Scott Williams.
Wales decided to go for a try rather than take a shot at goal with six minutes to go.
They went for the 14-man lineout but the gamble failed, lock Alun Wyn Jones adjudged to have knocked the ball on this time, England official Barnes getting it wrong again.
It was as good as it got for Wales because Australia showed them how to run the clock down and emerge as worthy winners.
“Jesus, they blew it again”, said former British and Irish Lions and England legend Jeremy Guscott as he entered the media room after the game.
Sums it up really.
Wales scorers: Tries – George North (2), Conversions – Leigh Halfpenny, Dan Biggar, Penalties – L Halfpenny (2), Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland
Australia scorers: Tries – Christian Leali’ifano, Israel Folau, Joe Tomane, Conversions – C Leali’ifano (3), Penalties – C Leali’ifano (3)
Argus star man: Quade Cooper