Wales 26 Australia 30: Four talking points as Wallabies win
Wales 26 Australia 30: Four talking points as the Wallabies edge past the Red Dragon on Saturday
The perfect start
The first try came 69 seconds into one of the best first halves you will see. After a Welsh turnover, George North received the ball on the wing and his kick should have been picked up by Adam Ashley-Cooper, but the Australian kicked it backwards to set up North for the easy finish in the corner. Wales were 13-3 up when the try of the game came for Australia. After big contact in the tackle to turn it over, the ball was eventually passed onto to Quade Cooper, who drew the defenders in before passing the ball out of the back of his hand to Joe Tomane. Tomane flipped the ball back inside to Christain Leali’ifano who finished the scintillating move off. Kicking duty was then passed on to fly-half Dan Biggar because usual kicker Leigh Halfpenny was struggling with injury. Will Genia then missed the chance to score another memorable try for the Aussies, Cooper was again involved in the build up. It seemed like a replay of the first try as Cooper passed the ball out of the back of his hand to Tomane but when the winger passed inside to Genia the scrum-half dropped the ball. Down a man the Welsh were aggressive in defence, North and Richard Hibbard hit the Wallaby players with two big tackles but it was not enough to stop Australia taking the lead. Israel Folau scored the converted try to rap up an enthralling first half which finished 17-16 in their favour.
A man with more than a few critics, but even his critics must love seeing Cooper in full flow. He has clearly learnt from his spat with Robbie Deans which cost him his place in the squad and a once in a lifetime chance to face off against the British and Irish Lions. Cooper has finished this year as the vice-captain after having to convince his team-mates and the Australian public he deserved his place under current coach Ewan McKenzie. He proudly made his 50th Test appearance today – and there are fewer players you would want to watch in world rugby today. Cooper kicked well today placing balls out of play in positions where his team could build the pressure on Wales. However, the best of Cooper is shown when his is running at the line of defence, no one wants to step towards him because he will just skip past them but you cant give him the space or he will pick you off with a kick or pass. His two passes out the back of his hand were mesmerising and even though the first one led to a try, the second one was even better as he had the audacity to pass it under North’s hand. After his perfect game for 71 minutes, Cooper tried a drop goal attempt to put his team sevens points ahead but produced a tame effort which amounted to his first poor decision of the game. It did get worse in the 74th minute when he received a yellow card for a tackle that was deemed too early but his team held out for a deserved victory. The Queensland Red’s man will probably never be held in the same acclaim as Dan Carter and will never be as basic or reliable as Owen Farrell but he is the fly-half most would pay to watch and rightly was awarded the man-of-the-match.
Favourites for the Six Nations?
Wales will go into next year’s Six Nations as the reigning champions but they will need to battle to retain their championship. It was all set for England to win the Grand Slam last spring but the Red Dragons totally dominated the game and only allowed one Farrell penalty in a 30-3 victory. The Red Rose will push them hard next year again after becoming the only team to get a victory against one of the major southern hemisphere forces, beating this Australian side even when they did not play well. However, man for man, the Wales team still outshines the English squad. Stuart Lancaster has players to come back and there is time until the championships begin in February but the Lions tour is just one example of the Welsh strength, when they had ten players in the starting line-up that beat Australia 41-16. North and Halfpenny are two class acts that shone today in the loss, and these two alone will put Wales on a different level to the other five nations.
Southern hemisphere dominance
Apart from England’s 20-13 victory over Australia, not one of the European teams have beaten South Africa, New Zealand or the Wallabies this autumn. The southern hemisphere teams have been pushed close in a few games especially the All Blacks against Ireland but one loss out of 11 games shows total dominance for the big three. And this is an Australia team that only won two games in the 2013 Rugby Championship and both of those victories came against Argentina, who did not secure a point all tournament. It is going to be hard for the European teams to break the dominance in time for the 2015 World Cup and this Wales team is one of the great hopes to do just that. Wales did push the Aussies hard for the victory but all the quality play came from the men in the yellow jerseys – and this is the third best team below the equator. A ninth straight victory for the Australians over the Welsh.