Wales demonstrate that, like Halfpenny, they are not as damaged as had been feared

Wales 12 Australia 14

The Millennium Stadium

Leigh Halfpenny was discharged from the University Hospital in Cardiff yesterday morning. Thankfully, the neck injury the Welsh full-back suffered in attempting to stop Australia's last-minute, match-winning try on Saturday was not as serious as it looked as Nathan Sharpe's farewell party piece conversion attempt was held up while the prone No 15 was strapped to a stretcher. "I want to say thank you to all of the medical teams who have looked after me following my injury," Halfpenny said.

What about the damage done by summer and autumn whitewashes to the clean-sweep Grand Slammers of last spring? Wales may have slipped out of the top eight in the IRB world rankings after seven successive defeats, but on the evidence of their final match of a roller-coaster 2012 they are not suffering from a terminally bad side.

Indeed, had it not been for one minute of naivety (as Warren Gatland put it) out of 80, they – like England – would have been celebrating a famous victory against one of the big three from the southern hemisphere.

As it is, none of the eight top nations will be greatly enamoured if they end up with a fixture against Halfpenny and Co in the 2015 Rugby World Cup draw at the Tate Modern this afternoon. Wales may have plumbed the depths in their first two autumn contests, against Argentina and Samoa, but for the third time in four meetings with the Wallabies this year they finished within two points of the world's second-ranked nation.

Not that Gatland, the head coach who now resumes his British and Irish Lions duties in preparation for next summer's tour to Australia, or Sam Warburton, the Wales captain, were in the mood for consolation after Kurtley Beale's last-minute score snatched victory from their grasp.

"It's probably the hardest defeat I've had to take as a player," Warburton said. "I am absolutely gutted. I felt like today was the day we were definitely going to do it."

"We put ourselves in a position where we should have won the match," Gatland added. "We just needed to be a little bit smarter at the death. We showed a little bit of naivety."

To be fair, Wales showed other failings: a laxity at the line-out and a struggle to get a grip at the breakdown, particularly in the first half, when the penalty count against them stretched into double figures. Still, with 11 players on the injured list, the credit far outweighed the debit in a performance that had the Millennium Stadium crowd singing hymns and arias again – until the cruel, deflating denouement, that is.

Halfpenny was immense, all 5ft 10in of him. It was his counter- attacking from deep that summoned back some of the Welsh mojo of last spring. It was his long-range goal-kicking (four penalties out of five) that kept the scoreboard kicking for the home side.

And it was the 23-year-old full-back's fearless, last-line defending that kept the Wallabies at bay for 79 minutes, with try-saving tackles on Drew Mitchell and Berrick Barnes.

Sadly, when it came to the crunch of Australia's last-gasp break up the right, Halfpenny nailed Dave Dennis but could not stop the replacement flanker slipping a scoring pass to Beale. Still, the young Welsh warrior departed on the shield of a stretcher after the kind of display that was the watching JPR Williams' trademark in the red 15 battle dress.

"I have always been a firm supporter of big, powerful full-backs but the more I watch this lad the more I like him," the venerable JPR said. "He's brave and quick and loves to counter-attack.

"I won't make any predictions in terms of the starting line-up for the Lions next summer because I am a big fan of Rob Kearney too. Still, I would go as far as saying that, fitness permitting, Leigh will be on the plane to Australia."

Robbie Deans, for one, will be expecting him. Australia's head coach also happens to be a paid up member of the Halfpenny fan club. "He's a huge talent," the one-time All Black full back said. "He plays with huge heart and his ability to cover the ground is remarkable... I hope he recovers OK."

Wales: Penalties Halfpenny 4.

Australia: Try Beale; Penalties Beale 3.

Wales Replacements: R Jones (Ospreys) for Charteris 5-8, 40; J Tipurec (Ospreys) for Faletau, 60; K Owens (Scarlets) for Rees, 66.

Australia: Replacements: D Dennis (NSW Waratahs) for Higginbotham, 16; S Moore (Brumbies) for Polota Nau, 40; D Ioane (Queensland Reds) for Cummins, 49; M Hooper (NSW Waratahs) for Douglas, 52; M Harris (Queensland Reds) for Tapuai, 59; J Slipper (Queensland Reds) for Robinson, 62; S Kepu (NSW Waratahs) for Alexander, 67.

Referee W Barnes (England).

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
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

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'