Wales 26 Australia 30 match report: Wales edged out by battling Wallabies

Two tries from George North cannot prevent Australia from coming out on top in a thrilling finale to November internationals

Millennium Stadium

There are a lot of rugby people out there who hate the fact that this game was organised in the first place – it was, after all, staged outside the agreed international “window” – but they cannot for a second take issue with the quality of the entertainment it generated. Pace, movement, wit, imagination, a wondrous execution of skills – if this is modern Test rugby, there might yet be an argument for keeping the window open for as long as possible.

Australia, drawn in the same group as both Wales and England at the next World Cup in 2015, won because they scored 20 unanswered points either side of the interval, but when the out-sized home wing George North scored the second of his tries after leaving opponents as hotly competitive as Ben Mowen and Will Genia in his wake, it seemed as though the Red Dragons would finally end their long and bitterly frustrating run of narrow defeats at the hands of the men in green and gold.

Dan Biggar’s conversion put the hosts within a score, the outside-half’s replacement Rhys Priestland made it closer still with a penalty following Quade Cooper’s early tackle on Scott Williams – Cooper ended the game in the cooler as a consequence – and there were moments at the last knockings when it seemed possible that the scoreline would tilt towards the Welsh. But it didn’t. The Wallabies, very much together again at the end of a fractious year, held out, courageously.

Weirdly – maybe for the first time ever in a match at the top level – there were no scrums in the first half. Not a single one. There was, however, everything else, in helpings so big that even William George Bunter of Greyfriars School would have been sated. The line-outs were contested with a ferocity seldom seen in an age of counter-intuitive defensive strategy; the tackling was even redder in tooth and claw. As for the tries… well, they were quite something. The first fell early to North, who had caused the Wallabies such unmitigated grief during the British and Irish Lions series last summer. It came from an Australian attack that looked like developing into something seriously dangerous, as attacks tend to do when runners as threatening as Cooper and Israel Folau are involved. Yet the ball was turned over on the Welsh 22, spun left at pace to put North in space and when Adam Ashley-Cooper dawdled in clearing up a speculative toe-poke down the touch-line, the try was duly completed.

Leigh Halfpenny, the man who never misses, added the extras and banged over a couple of penalties for good measure, one of them from a testing position near halfway. The Wallabies’ response at this stage was nothing much: Christian Leali’ifano’s straightforward three-pointer from a cosy spot in front of the sticks after Wayne Barnes, the English referee, had spotted Richard Hibbard going off his feet at a ruck.

But my, how they accelerated their response a few minutes later. Cooper, delving deep into a box of tricks that may in the fullness of time prove to be bottomless, set off on the most precise of angled runs towards the right corner flag before finding the wing Joe Tomane with a spellbinding of passes out of the “back door”, to use the modern jargon. Tomane, taking a leaf from the maestro’s book, then found Leali’ifano with a one-handed inside flick and the Wallabies were suddenly within three points of the hosts.

Halfpenny replied by flying in the face of his own reputation. In other words, he missed a shot at the sticks. Not by much – he actually hit the left one – but the scoreboard stayed the same. It only moved again when Biggar landed an easier kick on the half-hour after the Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu was judged to have contested a little too hard at a defensive breakdown. Why Biggar? Not because Halfpenny had suffered any crisis of confidence, but because he was in discomfort with a leg injury.

The respite was brief. Australia, exceptional with ball in hand, launched another withering raid from deep, and even though Folau was stopped on the line, Wales were on the wrong side of the law in doing the necessary, to the extent that Biggar was shown a yellow card. Off went the Wallabies again and this time, the full-back who flows like a fast-moving stream found his way over the line, despite high-impact tackles in the build-up from North and Hibbard.

Crucially, it continued in the same vein after the break: wave upon wave of cleverly constructed Wallaby assaults ended with a try for the excellent Tomane, who picked a pass from Folau off his toes to cross in the right corner. Most observers felt Folau’s pass was forward and they may well have been right, but match officials do not appear to base their decisions on the laws of physics these days. Barnes decided the pass was good, and there was no changing his mind.

Line-ups:

Wales: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, O Williams (L Williams, 50), S Williams, G North; D Biggar (R Priestland, 63), M Phillips (R Williams, 71); G Jenkins, (R Bevington, h-t) R Hibbard (K Owens, 63), R Jones (S Lee, 66), A W Jones, I Evans, D Lydiate (J Tipuric, 63), S Warburton (capt), T Faletau.

Australia: I Folau; J Tomane, A Ashley-Cooper, C Leali’ifano (M Harris, 62), N Cummins; Q Cooper, W Genia; J Slipper (B Robinson, 63), S Moore (T Polota-Nau, 70), S Kepu (B Alexander, 55), R Simmons, J Horwill (K Douglas, 60), S Fardy, M Hooper, B Mowen (capt, D Dennis, 70).

Referee: W Barnes (Eng).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
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

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?