Australia’s Samu Kerevi tries to shrug a tackle from Wales’ Gareth Anscombe. Picture: AP
Australia’s Samu Kerevi tries to shrug a tackle from Wales’ Gareth Anscombe. Picture: AP

How Wallabies blew golden chances

WALLABIES captain Michael Hooper said he blundered by ignoring penalty kicks for goal to chase tries after Australia lost to Wales for the first time in a decade.

Hooper turned down two easily kickable penalties early in the second half but the Wallabies botched both attempts at a try as Wales won 9-6 in a tryless match at Cardiff's Principality Stadium, ending a 13-match losing streak to Australia stretching back to 2009.

"If I had my time again I would have gone for the shot," Hooper said.

"I backed our guys and backed the want to the get the try and keep the foot on, but probably my reading of the game there was a miss.

"It was going to come down to penalties in the end.

"Hindsight's obviously a nice factor but I should have gone for goal."

In the 51st minute, with the scores locked at 3-all, Hooper went to the corner instead of taking a penalty goal, but his side fumbled the ball from the lineout drive.

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper tries to escape the arms of a Welsh tackler. Picture: AP
Wallabies captain Michael Hooper tries to escape the arms of a Welsh tackler. Picture: AP

Three minutes later, after initially pointing to the posts, Hooper changed his mind and turned down another shot from 25 metres out.

Australia lost the lineout after Tolu Latu overthrew the ball, and were suddenly defending their own quarter when Wales kicked downfield and won a turnover.

It was crucial to the final result.

The Wallabies have lost any psychological advantage over Wales ahead of their World Cup showdown next year.

Dan Biggar kicked a 77th minute penalty goal to seal an intense victory, after Matt Toomua had drawn the Wallabies level at 6-all in the 75th.

Aussie Kurtley Beale manages to get this one away, under the pump from a Welsh defender. Picture: AP
Aussie Kurtley Beale manages to get this one away, under the pump from a Welsh defender. Picture: AP

These two teams will play in the pool stage of the World Cup in Japan next September and Wales have now shaken the monumental monkey off their back, while the Wallabies continue to search for answers with their 10th defeat from their past 13 Tests.

Despite the enormous effort of backrower David Pocock, who won several turnovers to keep his side in the hunt, the Wallabies couldn't conjure a try.

They shifted the ball wide at every turn, but the Welsh defence shut them down, forced turnovers, or Australia coughed up possession.

Tatafu Polota-Nau gave away a penalty in the 67th minute for hands in the ruck, allowing Leigh Halfpenny to give Wales a 6-3 lead.

Wallabies star Will Genia is swamped by the suffocating Welsh defence. Picture: AP
Wallabies star Will Genia is swamped by the suffocating Welsh defence. Picture: AP

A long-range Toomua penalty with five minutes remaining made it 6-all, but Wales were back in front one minute later when Biggar kicked the hosts' third penalty after Ned Hanigan was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck.

Australia got possession in Wales' half with 90 seconds remaining but lost their lineout.

The Wallabies won the ball back in their own half and frantically sought the winning play but were penalised in possession by referee Ben O'Keeffe after the siren, sending the crowd of 64,110 into frenzied joy.

Latu largely fixed the Wallabies' lineout wobbles, throwing excellently to secure 10 of 12, but his last mistake was costly, as has been a frustrating lament for the Wallabies all year.

Scores were level 3-all at half-time, with Australia failing to take advantage of their majority possession and territory with lax handling, breakdown security and a faulty scrum.

Aussie kicker Matt To’omua boots a penalty during the friendly. Picture: Getty Images
Aussie kicker Matt To’omua boots a penalty during the friendly. Picture: Getty Images

Wales No.7 Justin Tipuric, the man of the match, won two turnover penalties as Australia were looking dangerous in attack, while the Wallabies conceded three scrum penalties in the opening half.

Wales scored first through a Halfpenny penalty goal in the 22nd minute, after Australia's scrum had been penalised for a second time in three minutes.

After loosehead prop Scott Sio collapsed on their own feed, the Wallabies were pinged for illegal wheeling, allowing Halfpenny to put his side ahead by three points after missing his first regulation attempt in the 14th minute.

Sio then collapsed on Wales' feed in the 29th minute, resulting in a third scrum penalty against Australia.

But the Wallabies drew level five minutes later when Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate was caught offside, allowing Bernard Foley to kick a 42-metre goal, making it 3-all.

Coach Michael Cheika could not have been happy with the result. Picture: Getty Images
Coach Michael Cheika could not have been happy with the result. Picture: Getty Images

Halfpenny had the chance to give his side the lead at half-time but astonishingly missed a penalty from in front after Latu had been penalised for a breakdown infringement.

Hooper said he remained confident in his under-pressure players and coaching staff to return to winning ways.

"It hurts, our preparation was really solid this week and I thought our defence was great tonight," Hooper said.

"We were able to repel a lot of what the Welsh threw at us, but credit to them they stuck at it really strong.

It has been a long time jinx playing us and you could see how happy they were to get on top of us. It was a real grudge match and a real test match. Congratulations to Wales, but it really hurts.

We will re-group again. We have got two more games to play on this trip and a hell of a lot to play for each week. This really hurts and I back the coaching group and the players to turn this into winning results."

Australia has two games remaining in 2018, against Italy next week and then England.



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