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Australia have beaten Wales by 29 points to 21 in Cardiff and stretched their winning streak over the Welsh to 13 in a row.
It was always going to be hard for the Welsh to turn the tide against the Australians and in the review they will see plenty to be positive about but sadly more to be frustrated about, especially far too many handling errors that led to many of the Welsh attacks stumbling before they could really cause any threat.
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In the first half the Welsh were looking to find some rhythm and struggled. They had to defend a lot and then when they did have the ball in hand they gave it away through errors or poor kicks too often.
This was reflected in the stats as much as the scoreboard at halftime – they were nine points behind and had to make roughly three times as many tackles as their opponents.
The Wales of the second half was better in some ways – they held onto the ball more and forced the Aussies to make over 90 tackles – but they were always chasing a game that you felt was always going to be just beyond their reach.
For the Aussies there were quite a few positives from today that Michael Cheika will be pleased with. In the first half they played some very patient and clinical attacking rugby. Foley kicked well and kept the Welsh pinned back forcing them to run from deep time and time again.
When the Wallabies did attack they were composed and when a specific attack didn’t get a result, they didn’t panic. They reset and kept coming forcing the Welsh to keep working hard and giving them no respite.
This led to three tries for the Wallabies in the first half including an important try just before half time when Michael Hooper finished a nice period of build play with a score in the corner.
While the penalty count of 13 (four times more than the Welsh) will have annoyed Cheika, the Aussies did well to keep out wave after wave of Welsh attacks. The Aussies had to live without the ball for much of the second half but the defence stood up well.
This was especially true late in the game when Hooper was sent to the sin bin as a result of Australia persistently infringing at the ruck.
Wales threw everything at the Aussies for these ten minutes including several scrums where they had a man advantage and were just five metres from the Wallabies line – but the Welsh scored zero points during this period and the Aussies should be very happy with this effort.
Just before Hooper’s dismissal Kurtley Beale had arguably taken the game beyond the Welsh with a bizarre try that came from a rugby league style strip in a tackle.
No one really knew what had happened but Beale ran in from 35 metres out while most were assuming that he’d knocked the ball on in the tackle. This assumption seemed to be shared by Beale himself who smartly tried to take the conversion himself straight away after scoring to try and prevent any TMO review of the try itself.
The ref did review the try though and despite some pretty strong video evidence hinting that he had indeed knocked the ball on the score stood and the Aussies moved beyond the Welsh.
From an individual point of view, a number of Wallabies did well without being absolutely electric. Will Genia and Bernard Foley ran the game well and always looked comfortable.
Adam Coleman worked hard in the second row and while he did attract the ref’s attention too often he was a powerful menace.
Marika Koroibete wasn’t as busy as he’d have wanted but he did go looking for the ball sometimes and worked hard in cover defence.
Tatafu Polota-Nau did well for the most part – his try arguably more important than his loose throw at a line out – and he’s replacing Moore very nicely.
Karmichael Hunt got a chance in the second half but didn’t really make a huge impact and he’ll have to wait to try and make his case for a permanent starting shirt.
For the Welsh it was the first game post Warren Ball and they did look to move the ball around and attack wider more than they usually do.
However their execution isn’t quite up to their intent yet and while the last 20 minutes were exciting as the Welsh tried hard to come back, the Aussies never really looked at risk from about the 30-minute mark onwards.
There are definitely some exciting young talents for the Welsh who we got a glimpse of today and it’s true that they struggled without the experience of forwards like Sam Warburton and Justin Tipuric but Warren Gatland will be wanting some significant improvements from his team over the next few weeks and in next years’ Six Nations.
For Cheika this was a good start to this part of the tour and he’ll be feeling good about how things are aligning for next week – the clash with Eddie Jones’ England at Twickenham.
That game will have a lot written about it from every angle and should prove to be an absolute cracker.