Thursday 23 November 2017

Wallabies showcase class to extend Welsh hoodoo

Wales 21 Australia 29

Australia's Michael Hooper dives over to score despite the efforts of Wales' Gareth Davies. Photo: Getty Images
Australia's Michael Hooper dives over to score despite the efforts of Wales' Gareth Davies. Photo: Getty Images

James Corrigan

There was very little unlucky about this 13. In the previous 12 defeats to Australia there were times when Wales had every right to look to the heavens. Not this time.

Warren Gatland's men were not humiliated here but their Wallaby run has long gone past the red-faced. Anthony Joshua's world championship win against Carlos Takam was the last sporting event to happen here in the Principality Stadium, and two weeks on essentially it was a similar story.

Kurtley Beale of Australia touches down for his side's fourth try. Photo: Getty Images
Kurtley Beale of Australia touches down for his side's fourth try. Photo: Getty Images

A class opponent doing as much as necessary against a wannabe. Like Takam, Wales left thinking they could hold their held high, maybe they even had a pop at glory, but also, deep down, wondering how to breach this gap.

Then again, they were used to seeing four tries shipped past them in the opening match of the autumn series. The last time Wales won an opening game in the fall was in 2002 - against Romania. Maybe someone needs a word with the fixture secretary.

It should not be all doom and gloom, however. Warren Gatland, through injury and ambition, was forced to play an ambitious 15 and they did a damn sight better than last year's 32-8 humbling to the same side 12 months ago - Wales were without the likes of Sam Warburton, Ross Moriarty, George North and Justin Tipuric, so Gatland can take promise from this.

Yes, Gatland came in wishing to end his awful run, but there is some optimism to take away. The Owen Williams experiment worked if nothing else, and much-hyped wing Steff Evans grabbed a try on his first home start, after Tatafu Polota-Nau had put the Wallabies ahead from a rolling maul that brushed aside feeble Welsh defence.

Wales' Jonathan Davies is tackled by Australia's Marika Koroibete. Photo: Getty Images
Wales' Jonathan Davies is tackled by Australia's Marika Koroibete. Photo: Getty Images

With Bernard Foley pulling the strings, and Will Genia storming back to his strategic best, the Aussies regained the lead through lock Adam Coleman.

Leigh Halfpenny's penalty brought the gap back to four points, but Wales all Wales made a mess of the kick-off and Michael Hooper stormed over the stretch the lead to nine at the break. Halfpenny brought it back to six points, and Wales had a spell in the ascendancy. However, chances were spurned, with Taulupe Faletau uncharacteristically dropping a pass in a promising move and Halfpenny missing a kick from near half-way.

They were punished when the otherwise excellent Gareth Davies lost the ball under the close and highly physical pressure of Tevita Kuridrani and Beale ran the length of the pitch to score.

There appeared a miniscule to non-existent chance of Wales coming back from 13 points, but they poured forward and when captain Hooper was sin-binned the belief soared. First Davies came within a yard and then replacement Hallam Amos almost made it a grandstand finish.

Wales' Steff Evans takes a high ball despite the attentions of Australia's Michael Hooper. Photo: Getty Images
Wales' Steff Evans takes a high ball despite the attentions of Australia's Michael Hooper. Photo: Getty Images

Hooker Kristian Dacey thought he had scored and then Amos dived in at the corner, with the TMO eventually deciding that the Dragons wing had done the necessary. With the conversion to come, the gap was eight points, and there was just enough time left for a play and for a famous win.

But the conversion was missed, and the Wallaby curse lives on.

Scorers - Wales: Evans, Amos try each; Halfpenny 3 pens, con; Australia: Polota-Nau, Coleman, Hooper, Beale try each; Foley 3 pons; Hodge pen

Telegraph

Australia's Michael Hooper is closed down by Wales' Dan Biggar. Photo: Getty Images
Australia's Michael Hooper is closed down by Wales' Dan Biggar. Photo: Getty Images

Telegraph.co.uk

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