Wales staved off a rousing fightback from Australia to claim a vital 29-25 victory in Tokyo on Sunday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
As far as World Cup pool games go, they don’t come much bigger than this, and to their credit both Wales and the Wallabies certainly played their part in what proved to be an enthralling battle.
Prior to this clash, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika had opted to start veterans Will Genia and Bernard Foley as the halfback combination, but the move backfired as both players endured forgettable games and were replaced early in the second half.
However, there is no doubt that the Wallabies’ bench made a massive impact, and after trailing 26-8 early in the second half, Australia cut the deficit to just one point with 12 minutes to play.
In a thrilling end to the clash, Wales were finally able to enjoy the necessary possession and territory to hold out for a hard-fought, but key victory that sees them take a giant leap towards finishing top of Pool D.
Wales made a storming start to this clash. From the kick-off, they claimed a turnover through a superb counter ruck, and with just 36 seconds on the clock, Dan Biggar slotted a drop goal. The experienced flyhalf again came to the fore in the 13th minute when he set up a try for Hadleigh Parks with a perfectly weighted cross-kick before slotting the touchline conversion.
At 10-0, Wales had their dream start.
From there, the Wallabies did begin to mount a comeback and reduced the deficit to just two points, before there was another considerable swing in momentum just before half-time.
Referee Romain Poite penalised Samu Kerevi for leading with the forearm as he went into contact. Replacement Rhys Patchell – who had come on for a concussed Biggar – duly slotted the penalty and then virtually from the next kick-off, Wales scrumhalf Gareth Davies snatched up an intercept and darted away to score.
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Suddenly, decisively, Wales led 23-8 at the break.
Soon after the restart, Patchell slotted a drop goal to open up an 18-point buffer, but then came another Wallabies fightback. First Dane Haylett-Petty and then Michael Hooper scored to suddenly make it a four-point ball game.
Yet, Wales ultimately did just enough to keep the gutsy Wallabies at bay and walk away triumphant.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 29, 2019
Australia – Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Dane Haylett-Petty, Michael Hooper. Conversions: Matt Toomua (2). Penalties: Bernard Foley, Toomua.
Wales – Tries: Hadleigh Parkes, Gareth Davies. Conversion: Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell. Penalties: Rhys Patchell (3). Drop goals: Biggar, Patchell.
Australia – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 James O’Connor, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 David Pocock, 5 Rory Arnold, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Jordan Uelese, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Aaron Wainwright, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images