Coming off the back of a series-opening defeat, Wales made four changes to the team for the Second Test in Melbourne. Matthew Rees came in for Ken Owens at hooker, Alun Wyn Jones replaced Luke Charteris in the second row, Ryan Jones came in for the injured Toby Faletau at number eight, and Ashley Beck came in for Scott Williams at centre.
Berrick Barnes had an emotional build up to the game, flying back from the birth of his child before kick off. But it was Wales who got the first score through George North after just four minutes; Leigh Halfpenny converted for an early seven point lead.
Early on Wales showed their quick defensive line speed to stifle any Australian attack in midfield, Jonathon Davies impressive in defence and further enhancing his claims for a Lions place this summer. Their work was not successful for long, however, as a tendency for conceding regular penalties became a theme of this Welsh performance. Australia got their first chance for points after Gethin Jenkins was penalised for an infringement and fly half Barnes kicked over to make it 3-7 with 18 minutes gone. From the restart Alun Wyn Jones was penalised for taking out Nathan Sharpe in the air challenging for the ball leading to the usual shirt-grabbing and pushing.
Another penalty for Australia with Ryan Jones not releasing the ball saw Barnes kick a penalty to make it 6-7, before Wales came up just shy of running in a second try. A break by Mike Phillips showed his strength and power as he handed off Digby Iaone, passing inside to Rhys Priestland who was taken down by good scramble defence.
Two minutes before half time, the Wallabies struck back. Barnes ghosted through a gap created by Beck steppig out of the line, to feed Rob Horne on his outside shoulder to go over for the try. Barnes converted to give Australia a 13-7 lead at the break.
Wales made a great start to the second half with a try from centre Davies. A misplaced Will Genia pass was hacked on by Beck and a good chase by Davies saw him gather the ball to go over for a try converted by Halfpenny to make it 13-14. Barnes and Halfpenny then traded penalties, maintaining the one-point Welsh advantage.
Near the hour mark Australia lost a man to the sin bin after wing Cooper Vuna was shown yellow for taking Halfpenny out in the air, seeing the young Welsh fullback taking a nasty fall, but luckily escaping serious injury. Vuna was arguably lucky not to see red for the dangerous challenge. Halfpenny showed great maturity to recover from the fall and kick the resulting penalty from just short of the halfway line to make it 19-20 to Wales.
Barnes winced in pain as he made a clearance kick, having suffered what was probably a muscle injury. The injury was tested as Barnes, the only recognised place-kicker in Australia’s starting fifteen, stepped up to take a penalty after Bradley Davies was penalised. He kicked the penalty to make it 22-20 for the Aussie’s, but limped away after the kick for the restart
Wales were awarded another penalty for an early engage at the scrum, Halfpenny making it 22-23 with the kick.
With two minutes to go Wales lost possession, and Australia earned a penalty, kicking the ball to touch for a line-out just inside the Welsh half. Replacement hooker Moore threw to Sharpe and Australia built a strong driving maul. As feared, Wales were adjudged to have brought the maul down illegally giving Barnes’ replacement, Michael Harris, the chance to win the game with a penalty out wide on the left touchline. He showed great composure to step up and slot it. 25-23 to Australia – a scoreline which secured the Wallabies a series victory.
After a valiant effort by Wales, being critical, Priestland kicked too deep, too often – not giving his chasers a chance to compete for the ball, and giving possession away too easily. Wales did not capitalise on their one man advantage either, scoring just once with a penalty in that ten-minute period. However, Wales know they can beat the Australians and will be relishing the third test in order to finally register a victory this series.
Tweet the author | @KhiThePie
Back to Rugby