RugbyU: Wales scalp Australia in rare win
AFP - Sunday, November 30
CARDIFF (AFP) - - Wales claimed the elusive southern hemisphere scalp they had been seeking here on Saturday, rounding off their autumn series with a well-deserved 21-18 victory over Australia.
After losing to South Africa and New Zealand, Wales followed up their win over Canada with their first victory over a Tri-Nations team in three years, and only their third defeat of a SANZAR nation in 34 games since the advent of professionalism 13 years ago.
Newly-crowned IRB world player of the year Shane Williams and full-back Lee Byrne scored tries for Wales, Stephen Jones notching up 11 points through two penalties, a conversion and drop-goal.
Australia, who lost skipper Stirling Mortlock after two minutes following a collision with Jamie Roberts, who in turn suffered a fractured skull, scored tries through Brumbies lock Mark Chisholm and Digby Ioane, with Matt Giteau knocking over eight points.
"It's been a long time coming," Byrne said. "We've been unlucky the last few games. We've worked hard in the last few weeks. We're that close to beating the top teams, and hopefully we can push on now."
Shane Williams said his try was a mere bonus to their bigger aim of a win.
"I was looking for a try today, but more importantly we were looking for a win," said Williams.
"I couldn't have asked for more really, but it was a massive team effort. I was glad to be part of it."
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans praised the Welsh.
"It was a good performance by them," Deans said. "They played good rugby, rugby with ambition, and defensively, they really pushed the boundaries."
Fittingly, it was the international player of the year who kickstarted proceedings, Williams crossing for a scintillating try after four minutes, the build-up for which had echoes of the form that took Wales to last season's Grand Slam title.
The diminutive winger made a break down midfield, and when tackled made a deft offload to man-of-the-match Byrne who passed to Roberts, the centre hauled down by Drew Mitchell five metres from the line.
Gareth Cooper saw the space out wide from the resulting ruck and threw out a huge pass that Byrne picked up from his ankles and quickly shipped on to Williams for his 44th career try and fourth against the Wallabies.
The Australians hit back in the 14th minute, Chisholm pouncing on a misdirected Alun-Wyn Jones tap-down from a line-out, stepping inside Cooper and sprinting 60 metres unmolested to the line. Giteau kicked the easy conversion.
Giteau then kicked a 25th minute drop-goal after camping out in the Welsh half for a good few minutes had yielded not a decent sight of the whitewash.
From the restart, a spilled up-and-under from Byrne saw Ryan Cross motor away and into the Welsh 22, only to be hauled down by the covering Shane Williams and Tom Shanklin.
No 8 Andy Powell then led the counter-attack back at the Wallabies, and when hooker Stephen Moore handled in a ruck, referee Alan Lewis had no hesitation in showing the Queenslander a yellow card while Stephen Jones kicked the penalty.
The Welsh handling became increasingly slick, with offloads aplenty, and Byrne crashed over for the team's second try after the ubiquitous Williams played him through the gap. Jones hit the conversion to hand Wales a 15-10 lead.
Australia were suddenly on the rack, Powell repeatedly testing their midfield defence, Martyn Williams spilling an offload from Cooper with the line at his mercy, and the pack being shunted off their own ball: half-time could not come fast enough.
Jones scuffed two easy penalties at the start of the second-half as Giteau pulled back three points for the visitors and began to marshal his troops well in midfield.
But the home side battened down the defensive hatches, repelling wave after wave of Australian attack, and Jones made amends for his earlier misses with a smartly-taken 67th minute drop-goal.
The Welsh pack then withstood a three-minute barrage on their own line, the Wallabies finally infringing to relieve the pressure.
Stephen Jones hit a second penalty in the 78th minute while Australian winger Digby Ioane crossed for a late consolation try, Giteau missing the hastily-taken conversion.
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