Cooper gets Wallabies back on track

Cardiff Blues 3 Australia 31
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The Independent Online

It will only go a fraction of the way in assuaging an Australian public still disgusted at the loss in Edinburgh four days ago, but at least the Wallabies made a bit of history at the Cardiff City Stadium last night. This was the first time – at the seventh attempt and after over 100 years – the tourists had beaten a Cardiff side. And mighty impressive they were, too.

Warren Gatland will doubtless cling to the notion that the Blues were lacking eight of their internationals; although, in their starting line-up, Australia were without 14 of theirs. The Wales coach would certainly have taken note of the alarming differential in physicality at the breakdown area.

Gatland had praised Robbie Deans for daring to give youth its head on this tour and once again the potential was in abundance. At full-back, James O'Connor continued to enhance his reputation, with his creativity in attack and unerring accuracy in front of goal.

It was a shame the much-vaunted 19-year-old Matt Toomua lasted only two minutes at No 10 before going off with a cheekbone injury. The Blues, themselves, might have wished Toomua had stayed on as his replacement Quade Cooper soon became the game's most influential figure.

Cooper, who filled his normal Test position of inside centre at Murrayfield, looked effortlessly in control and was prepared to fling the ball despite the rain and wind. It took only five minutes for O'Connor to be unleashed on a defence-wrecking run. Ryan Cross was the grateful recipient of the pass on the try line.

From there the Aussies dominated the first half, the Blues only having Ben Blair's penalty to show for their inconsiderable possession. When the Wallabies' second touchdown came on the brink of the break it was long overdue. A mix-up in midfield between Chris Czekaj and Blair gave Cross the chance to move it upfield and Kurtley Beale was there to finish off. O'Connor was again clinical with the conversion.

The Blues did launch a fight-back, of sorts, but that was as much to do with Australian discipline. Two of their back-rowers – Richard Brown and Matt Hodgson – were sinbinned as the home side found their front foot. A weakness to exploit for Gatland? Perhaps. But then, the Wallabies defence still kept the Blues at bay before Luke Morahan and Beale made the scoreline embarrassing.

Cardiff Blues B Blair; R Mustoe, G Thomas, D Hewitt, C Czekaj; S Norton-Knight, G Cooper; T Filise, T R Thomas, G Powell, D Jones, S Morgan, S Warburton, B White, X Rush (capt). Replacements: S Hobbs, P Tito, R Sowden-Taylor, R Rees, C Sweeney, G Evans.

Australia J O'Connor; L Turner, R Cross, T Smith, K Beale; M Toomua, L Burgess; P Cowan, T Polota-Nau, S Kepu, D Dennis, D Mumm (capt), M Chapman, M Hodgson, R Brown. Replacements: S Ma'afu, M Dunning, M Chisholm, G Smith, R Kingi, Q Cooper, L Morahan.

Referee: J Jones (WRU).