Hot favourites to win the Four Nations final they may be but Australia were made to look distinctly ordinary by Wales and Lee Briers in Wrexham last night.
A hat-trick of tries from their half-back Cooper Cronk helped to ensure that there would be no unthinkable upset, nor any long-term embarrassment, but Wales went out of the tournament with a lot of credit.
Astonishingly, they had the temerity to take the lead after nine minutes and hold it for most of the first half. Just as he did in their famous World Cup match 11 years ago, Briers tormented the Australians. In his last match before going into international retirement once more, he gave a little masterclass.
"It was enjoyable, despite the 56 points, seeing the energy and enthusiasm of those lads," said the veteran playmaker, who will now play a role on the Welsh coaching staff. "To have Australia on the rack for 35 minutes was outstanding."
Spotting that Jharal Yow Yeh was still groggy after a collision, Briers put through a perfect kick for his Warrington team-mate Rhys Williams to touch down for the opener. Five minutes later, Yow Yeh was not the only one stunned as Briers ran at the defence to set up Elliot Kear for a try on the opposite wing.
For a while Australia were all over the place but Cameron Smith steadied their nerves with a close-range try and made the break that released Cronk for the first of his quick double before half-time.
Wales rather ran out of fuel in the second half as the points came thick and fast for the Kangeroos. "We looked at odds with ourselves with some of our decision-making," admitted the Australia coach, Tim Sheens. "But we finished the first half strongly and went on with it."
Wales Jones; Kear, Webster, Roets, Williams; Briers, White; J James, Budworth, Kopczak, Beasley, Bracek, Flower. Substitutes Lennon, Divorty, A James, Dudson.
Australia Boyd; Morris, Inglis, Lawrence, Yow Yeh; Cronk, Thurston; Galloway, Smith, Shillington, Watmough, B Scott, Parker. Substitutes Cherry-Evans, Gallen, M Scott, Thaiday.
Referee P Bentham (England).Reuse content