Friday 18 October 2019

Wales hold firm to edge Australia in Tokyo thriller

Wales 29 Australia 25

Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool D - Australia v Wales - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 29, 2019 Wales and Australia players other after the match REUTERS/Issei Kato
Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool D - Australia v Wales - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - September 29, 2019 Wales and Australia players other after the match REUTERS/Issei Kato

Ruaidhri O’Connor in Tokyo

IRELAND may be licking their wounds down the road in Kobe, but the show goes in Tokyo and Wales and Australia delivered this tournament’s latest epic.

At times during the second-half of this enthralling match Wales looked like the humidity got to them in the way it had Joe Schmidt's men last night, but they had taken their early chances and summoned enough effort to hold off a storming come-back from Michael Cheika's men.

Australia are no on course to meet England in the quarter-final if Eddie Jones' men top their pool.

The watching England coach was booed by a large contingent of the 47,885 crowd when his image flashed up on the big screen at the Tokyo Stadium, but he'll have slept easy after watching his compatriots' limitations exposed by Warren Gatland's Grand Slam winners.

Despite losing Dan Biggar to a first-half injury, the men in red were ruthless in an excellent first-half and then clung on for dear life to repel what would have been the biggest comeback in World Cup history as the Wallabies chased a 15 point deficit.

Wales started with real intent, turning the ball over from the kick-off to give Biggar the chance to open the scoring with a neatly taken drop-goal.

The out-half missed an opportunity from a penalty when Adam Ashley-Cooper went off his feet, but they didn't have to wait long to extend their lead as they continued to heap pressure on the Wallabies.

Their first try started with a scrum penalty, Biggar kicked them into position and when they secured clean lineout ball and earned advantage from referee Romain Poite before the out-half caught Marika Koroibete in no-man's land as Hadleigh Parkes collected the kick to score.

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Biggar nailed the touchline conversion, but Australia stayed calm and worked their way patiently back into the game.

Second-row Isaac Rodda picked off a Ken Owens throw on the edge of his own '22 and the forwards followed that up with a big scrum that led to a Michael Hooper penalty win on Gareth Davies.

Bernard Foley kicked his team into position and, like Biggar before him, exploited penalty advantage with a clever kick for Ashley-Cooper who took the ball on the full and had time to stumble and get back up again before touching down.

The out-half missed his conversion, but made up for it minutes later with a penalty to make it a two-score game.

His side might have been in front had Biggar not brilliantly denied the rampaging Samu as he rampaged towards the line.

He picked up a head injury while doing so, but his replacement Rhys Patchell took over superbly as he kicked his first penalty after Hooper held on too long.

Kerevi then got himself in hot water when Television Match Official Ben Skeen highlighted his leading elbow on Patchell. Poite reckoned it was just a penalty and got involved in a long discussion with a frustrated Hooper, but Patchell took full advantage from the tee.

Having rebuilt their lead to eight points, Wales kept their foot on the accelerator from the restart and Davies rushed up brilliantly to pick off Will Genia and raced 60m to score. Patchell converted to make it a 15 point game at the break.

Wales came out after the break determined to make a statement and Hooper had to be alert to stop Gareth Davies getting his second try. When things slowed down, Patchell extended the lead with another drop-goal.

Michael Cheika hooked Foley and sent on Matt Toomua and the former Leicester Tiger had an instant impact, carrying brilliantly up the blindside to get his side into position, before Dane Haylett-Petty stepped inside the cover to pull a try back for the men in gold.

Australia were starting to hum, but Wales remained dangerous and Davies almost picked off Genia again and if he'd held his opposite numbers pass he'd have been in once again.

It might not have counted, once again the TMO had an incident to show the referee and once again Poite took his time before settling on a penalty against Adams that with no yellow card.

Toomua found touch, but a promising attack was snuffed out by the strong Welsh linespeed as James O'Connor rushed a pass and Kerevi knocked on.

Australia kept upping the ante with replacement scrum-half Nic White adding zip to their game.

Wales' discipline started to go and rather than take the points the Wallabies repeatedly went to the corner.

Eventually the pressure told as Australia pounded the line over and over again until Hooper eventually got over.

Toomua converted and the lead was down to four with Wales continuing to wilt in the Tokyo heat.

It was down to one after Australia's scrum earned a penalty following an Alun-Wyn Jones knock-on, but Wales found something from somewhere and earned a penalty for Patchell to restore the lead.

Having looked dead on their feet, suddenly Wales were on top again and the effort of chasing the lead took a toll on Australia.

Kurtley Beale threw a forward pass deep in his own half, giving Gatland's men crucial field position with six minutes remaining.

They took two minutes off the clock setting and re-setting scrums, but having called for another set-piece after getting a free-kick, Wales then conceded a penalty.

Tomos Williams somehow kept Toomua's kick in play, and as a number of the stadium lights went out with three minutes remaining Australia played on in search of a winner from deep.

It didn't come, Liam Williams won a superb turnover and Williams got the ball off the pitch to delight of the travelling Welsh crowd.

AUSTRALIA -- D Haylett-Petty; A Ashley-Cooper (K Beale 48), J O'Connor, S Kerevi, M Koroibete; B Foley, W Genia; B Foley (M Toomua 44), W Genia (N White 53); S Sio (J Slipper 63), T Latu (J Uelese 66), A Alaalatoa (S Kepu 63); I Rodda, R Arnold (A Coleman 63); D Pocock, M Hooper, I Naisarani (L Salakaia-Loto 68).

WALES – L Williams; G North, J Davies, H Parkes (O Watkin 70), J Adams; D Biggar (R Patchell 28), G Davies; W Jones (N Smith 49), K Owens (E Dee 66), T Francis (D Lewis 64); J Ball (A Shingler 64), AW Jones; A Wainright (R Moriarty 50), J Tipuric, J Navidi.

Ref: R Poite (France)

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