Australia vs Wales: Wallabies regain form to down late-surging Welsh
The Wallabies have recovered superbly from a shock mid-week loss to Scotland to defeat Wales 27 – 19 in a strong performance in Brisbane.
Genia was sublime individually, with the Wallabies taking control of the game from a Welsh team struggling to find their way in the match.
Only four days earlier against the Scots, the Wallabies had slow ball, were unable to unleash their backs, and looked unsure of the game and in themselves. Tonight, on all fronts this was reversed. There was a passion and confidence in their rugby, so lacking a few nights earlier and against a far inferior opponent.
From the start, Warburton and Pocock matched each other in generating turn-over penalties at the ruck. The Wallabies were able to get quick ball and they played with energy, pace, and clarity in their game plan.
The first time Genia picked up the ball and had a probe around the ruck he was into a gap, showing how much his game was lacking on the Tuesday night earlier in the week, where he failed to carry the ball over the advantage line.
The opening ten minutes saw the Wallabies with 70% of possession. They had time with the ball and for a while it seemed like the Wallabies of old.
Pat McCabe was busy at all opportunities – as was Digby Ioane. Barnes showed early interest in keeping the ball away from his boot, and Pocock was explosively fast in the rucks.
In the 13th minute, Digby Ioane pulled off a huge hit to cause a turn-over which saw the Wallabies hard on attack. But a try-saving tackle by Cuthbert caught Horne just as he was about to cruise over the line.
They remained on attack and following a series of pick and drives, Higginbotham crossed the line after pushing through the ruck. Australia was up 10-0 after 16 minutes.
On the 20th minute, Tatafu Polota Nau swept on a loose ball from a lineout and dashed, back-like, down the blind side for a 15 metre run. In Campese fashion, he executed a sublime no-look pass to Genia in support, who killed the play with a poor kick.
The halftime score was 10-3 to the Wallabies.
At halftime Nathan Sharpe touched on two telling features of the first half: the Wallabies didn’t have the points they wanted to reflect the on-field advantage, and his sense that the Welsh were showing signs of fatigue.
On resuming the second half, the Wallabies were quickly on attack.
Genia continued his outstanding form by again spotting a mismatch with a Welsh front-rower in the line. He darted through the gap, where his in-out-in was too good for fullback Halfpenny. The try was converted by Barnes and it was the start the Welsh dreaded.
A penalty shortly after kept the Welsh score creeping up, though not by the right increments.
The Wallabies focused on high tempo rugby. Barnes kicked long and deep for a flying Cooper Vuna who almost regathered the ball inside the opponent’s 22. The resulting lineout saw a series of attacking raids by the Wallabies which translated to points when Barnes gathered a loose ball and dropped a goal to bring the score to 20-6.
A penalty in the 55th minute kept Wales grimly hanging on. In the 6 Nations, they scored most points in the second half and so they knew the importance of remaining in the hunt.
Out of nowhere a nice offload in the tackle saw Alex Cuthbert into space and he had a near-clean run to the line. Halfpenny kept it 4 from 4 and the game was on: 20 – 16 to the Wallabies.
On the 59th minute, Deans – perhaps sensing the game opening up – subbed Palu for the twenty year old Michael Hooper. It was a prescient call, as Hooper was a presence on the field for the remaining part of the match.
On the 62nd minute, with momentum suddenly swinging north, Halfpenny again slotted a difficult penalty to bring them within a point at 20-19.
The crispness and clarity shown earlier in the game by the Australians was now fading. The rain fell and a sense of a looming car-crash like easier in the week suddenly seeped into the air at Suncorp.
In response, Genia marched his pack forward and, as he’d shown all night, he took a scamper around the ruck for a delayed pass to Pat McCabe, coming in on a perfect angle to run unopposed under the posts to make it 27 – 19.
With ten minutes remaining, Australia led 27-19. They had regained some of the momentum they had earlier in the game and the gap proved too hard to overcome. A relieved side and coach in Robbie Deans, winning 27-19 and taking a 1-0 lead in the best of three series.
Wallabes vs Wales - Scott Allen's match highlights -