Tuesday 6 December 2016

Howley's defence rings hollow after Wallabies run Wales ragged

Wales 8 Australia 32

Tom Cary

Published 07/11/2016 | 02:30

Tevita Kuridrani powers over to score Australia’s third try. Photo: Getty
Tevita Kuridrani powers over to score Australia’s third try. Photo: Getty

The initial excuse proffered by Wales for this limp performance - that it was the first match of the autumn series and they were coming up against a battle-hardened Wallabies team - was torpedoed a little more than six hours later.

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Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago on Saturday made Rob Howley, Wales's interim head coach, look foolish for having suggested in the immediate wake of this drubbing that Wales "traditionally get stronger" over the autumn period, while their opponents had had the benefit of having played together for two months.

Australia's Reece Hodge is tackled by Wales' Sam Davies. Photo: Getty
Australia's Reece Hodge is tackled by Wales' Sam Davies. Photo: Getty

New Zealand were also coming in off the back of the Rugby Championship and, unlike Australia, the best team on the planet were chasing a world-record 19th consecutive win. Ireland did not appear to find it too difficult getting up to speed.

Could the problem be more with Wales' build-up to the match? The squad find themselves in a strange state of limbo nine months out from a Lions Tour, with Warren Gatland simultaneously there but not there. If the Wales players are unsettled by the set-up, unhappy with Howley or unclear as to what he wants from them, they were keeping their counsel in the wake of this defeat.

Asked about the transition from Gatland to Howley, Jamie Roberts said: "It's quite seamless. It's obviously different not having Warren there, but a lot of the coaching staff are similar. They've been there for a long time and a lot of the players are familiar with that."

The Harlequins centre, who missed a number of first-half tackles and made none of the rampaging runs for which he is famed, added: "It's just disappointing. In the first half we just couldn't slow their speed of ball, ruck speed was very quick, so in defence we just couldn't get off the line and we made poor reads, myself included."

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge. Photo: Getty
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny is tackled by Australia's Reece Hodge. Photo: Getty

At least that was an honest summary of a one-sided first half in which Australia ran Wales ragged; tries from Stephen Moore, Reece Hodge and Tevita Kuridrani gave the visitors a 20-3 lead which hardly did their dominance justice.

Australia fly-half Bernard Foley added another after the break, and although Wales performed better in the second period, with even a try from Scott Williams, Dane Haylett-Petty's touchdown was no more than he and Australia deserved.

It was difficult to tell what the Wales game plan was, as they saw so little of the ball.

Unless they raise their game drastically for this weekend's clash against Argentina, they are going to take another beating. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Australia's Dane Haylett-Petty breaks away to score his team's fifth try. Photo: Getty
Australia's Dane Haylett-Petty breaks away to score his team's fifth try. Photo: Getty
Wales - L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, S Williams, J Roberts, G North (H Amos 61); D Biggar (S Davies 63), R Webb (G Davies 65); G Jenkins (capt; N Smith 59), K Owens (S Baldwin 59), S Lee (T Francis 59), B Davies (C Hill 64), L Charteris, D Lydiate (J King 69), R Moriarty, J Tipuric.
Australia - I Folau; D Haylett-Petty, T Kuridrani, R Hodge, H Speight; B Foley, N Phipps (N Frisby 66); S Sio (J Slipper 67), S Moore (capt), S Kepu (A Alaalatoa 62), R Arnold (R Simmons 62), A Coleman, D Pocock (S Fardy h-t), L Timani, M Hooper.
Ref - C Joubert (South Africa)

Telegraph.co.uk

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