Harris makes sloppy Wales pay the penalty

Australia 25 Wales 23: Last-minute kick deprives Dragons of first win Down Under since 1969

Etihad Stadium

The north may have closed the gap, yet the big three southern-hemisphere teams keep finding ways of pulling victories from their sleeves. Barely two hours after Ireland had been sunk in Christchurch by a last-minute drop-goal from the All Black fly-half Dan Carter, Australia left it even later to break Welsh hearts. The siren had signalled that 80 minutes were up when the Etihad Stadium held its breath. Mike Harris, with the final kick of the game, guided a penalty through the posts to settle a thrilling contest and, with it, the three-match Test series.

If next year's British and Irish Lions tour here serves up similar drama, it will be well worth following. This defeat was dramatic, agonising and possibly undeserved for Wales, who believed they were on the brink of ending a 43-year wait for a victory over the Wallabies Down Under.

As Australia's pack called in their three-quarters to mount one final drive from a line-out, Richard Hibbard, Wales's replacement hooker, was penalised for dragging down the maul. That handed another substitute, Harris, the opportunity to win the match.

The Wales captain, Sam Warburton, struggled to describe the sorrow within his ranks. He managed to say: "I'm speechless. It's so demoralising to come so close. When a team gets momentum at a line-out, it's difficult to stop. But I'm just gutted. It was very physical but we have shown character all season. It was about getting a vital win out here and we're not going to get closer than that."

Wales had clearly learned the lessons of their 27-19 defeat in the First Test in Brisbane and they turned the tables on Australia, who had started quickly the week before, as George North and Jonathan Davies scored tries inside the first four minutes of either half. Their full-back, Leigh Halfpenny, produced another perfect goal-kicking display.

This time, it was the final moments of both halves that cost Wales dearly. Leading 7-6, the tourists allowed the Wallaby fly-half, Berwick Barnes, to slip through and set up a try for the centre Rob Horne on the stroke of half-time. They then failed, in the closing stages of the game, to show the kind of composure that clinched a Six Nations Grand Slam in the spring.

Wales had possession with less than two minutes left and had only to stick the ball up their jerseys and grind out the clock. But an aimless kick upfield by the fly-half, Rhys Priestland, and the concession of two penalties in quick succession allowed victory to slip through their grasp. They will have a third chance to get a win, in Sydney next Saturday, but the series has gone.

Wales's caretaker coach, Rob Howley, said: "International rugby is about fine lines. For 79 minutes and 30 seconds we did a lot right but this is our own fault for giving away silly penalties. We played well but composure, game-management and discipline at key moments costs us dearly."

That was an understatement. North gave Wales the perfect start, barging over inside three minutes from close range, and Halfpenny converted. But Barnes, who had dashed to and from Sydney to attend the birth of his first child the previous night, kicked two penalties before showing Warburton a clean pair of heels to set-up Horne's try.

Wales turned defence into attack to strike back after the break. Ashley Beck pounced on a rare mistake by Will Genia and Davies held his nerve to kick through and score.

Australia were reduced to 14 men when Cooper Vuna was shown a yellow card for upending Halfpenny, who dusted himself off to kick one of a series of penalties exchanged with Barnes. Vuna was later cited for the challenge. The lead swapped hands six times in a topsy-turvy second half, and an injured Barnes scuffed a penalty seven minutes from time to leave Wales eyeing a piece of history. It was not to be.

Australia: A Ashley-Cooper (New South Wales Waratahs); C Vuna (Melbourne Rebels), R Horne (Waratahs), P McCabe (ACT Brumbies), D Ioane (Queensland Reds); B Barnes (Waratahs), W Genia (Reds); B Robinson, T Polota Nau, S Kepu (all Waratahs), R Simmons (Reds), N Sharpe (Western Force), S Higginbotham (Reds), W Palu (Waratahs), D Pocock (Force, capt). Replacements: S Moore (Brumbies) for Polota Nau, 51; D Dennis (Waratahs) for Palu, 54; B Alexander (Brumbies) for Robinson, 65; M Hooper (Brumbies) for Simmons, 69; A Fainga'a (Reds) for Vuna, 69; M Harris (Reds) for Horne, 74.

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert (both Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), A Beck (Ospreys), G North; R Priestland (both Scarlets), M Phillips (Bayonne); G Jenkins (Blues), M Rees (Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), A W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), R Jones (Ospreys), S Warburton (capt, Cardiff Blues). Replacements: R Webb (Ospreys) for Phillips, 65; R Hibbard (Ospreys) for Rees, 67; L Charteris (Dragons) for A W Jones, 67.

Referee: C Pollock (New Zealand).

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam