Wales scored four tries against Australia for the first time in 39 years yet even that was not enough to end their run of heartbreak. Rhys Webb, Alex Cuthbert and Alun Wyn Jones all crossed in a sensational first half before the Welsh scrum ground their counterparts into conceding a penalty try.
It gave Wales a 28-27 lead and they held on until eight minutes remained but the effort of keeping pace with the Australians finally took its toll as Will Genia and James Horwill came on to steer the visitors to their 10th successive win over a tiring Wales.
Yet Wales will kick themselves. Their discipline was improved until it mattered most while all three Australia tries stemmed from Welsh errors. Therein lay the rub and something for Warren Gatland to address before these teams meet next, in next year’s World Cup.
Gatland said: “We will be a different beast the next time we meet after more time together. Given how little time we’ve had together, we showed a huge amount of positives and we know we can get much better. How much can Australia improve?
“We scored four good tries and looked dangerous. The defensive structure was good but missed two one-on-one tackles and threw an interception. That was frustrating but they are things we can iron out. We have pushed the players hard as part of our long-term plan with everything building to qualifying from that World Cup group.”
Gatland selected on form by picking Ospreys half-backs Dan Biggar and Webb and it paid off within three minutes. Biggar opened space for Leigh Halfpenny and Webb then followed Sam Warburton with a “show-and-go” that handed him a clear run from 20 yards.
Wales were swiftly brought back to earth as Israel Folau, without a try in four Tests, struck twice in six minutes. Biggar failed to stop Michael Hooper who handed Folau an easy finish before the full-back telegraphed Webb’s pass, as Wales surged forward, and ran 80 metres to score.
Welsh ambition remained unperturbed, despite the early loss of Halfpenny that denied them the use in midfield of George North, who created Cuthbert’s score. Warburton turned down a kick at goal and was rewarded with a score from close range by Jones to level the game 21-21 at half-time after Tevita Kuridrani dissected Cuthbert and Jones.
The tempo calmed in the second half until North was held up over the line. A penalty try was won from the resulting scrum but the man of the match, Bernard Foley, held his nerve with two late kicks.
Wales: L Halfpenny (C Allen, 30); A Cuthbert, G North, J Roberts, L Williams; D Biggar (R Priestland, 48), R Webb (M Phillips, 54); P James (G Jenkins, 58), R Hibbard (S Baldwin, 58), S Lee (R Jones, 69), J Ball (B Davies, 69), AW Jones, D Lydiate (J Tipuric, 76), S Warburton (capt), T Faletau.
Australia: I Folau; A Ashley-Cooper, T Kuidrani, C Leali’ifano (R Horne, 76), J Tomane; B Foley, N Phipps (W Genia, 69); J Slipper (T Faulkner, 73), S Fainga’a (J Hanson, 60), S Kepu (B Alexander, 65), S Carter (W Skelton, 50), R Simmons (J Horwill, 66), S McMahon (M Hodgson, 70), M Hooper (capt), B McCalman.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)Reuse content