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September 15th, 2007
Australia punished a weak Welsh effort by bagging a 32-20
bonus-point victory at the Millenium Stadium.
Plenty of hype was built around the fact that Wales had home
advantage, and news that Stephen Larkham was ruled out
increased the belief that the Wallabies were there for the
taking. But Wales began in shaky fashion and lost two of
their key players through injury in the first half, with
centre Sonny Parker stretchered from the field and Gareth
Thomas joining him after enduring a savage tackle from
The Aussies didnít enjoy the best start either, losing a few
balls in contact due to some tenacious Welsh defence. But to
their credit, they maintained the pressure through plenty of
possession won in the line-out by Nathan Sharpe and Dan
Vickerman. Late replacement Berrick Barnes found the first
flaw in the Welsh defence, stepping past prop Adam Jones and
then offloading to an unstoppable Matt Giteau.
They landed a telling blow when Mortlock collected a clever
chip by George Gregan and scored, but the decisive moment
occurred seconds from half-time. A loose pass was flung out
to Giteau, who delivered a pin-point floater to Drew
Mitchell. The winger offloaded inside to Chris Latham who
repelled some weak defence from James Hook to see the
visitors to a unassailable 25-3 advantage at the break.
The big problem for Wales was the lack of structure. Their
backline struggled to string a significant attack together
and their forwards were often outdone at the breakdown by
George Smith, who secured some crucial turnovers.
They enjoyed some success straight after half-time, with
Jonathan Thomas burrowing over after his fellow forwards
softened up the Wallabies defence. Unfortunately for the
hosts, these sustained periods of attack were too few and
far between, and Wales surrendered possession too
Hook landed a critical conversion and penalty to bring Wales
back into the game at 25-13. If Stephen Jones hadnít missed
two penalties in the first half Wales may have been in a
position to launch a comeback.
Australia were guilty of cruising early in the second
period, as the three tries scored in the first half were all
too easy. They were lucky that Hook missed a long range
effort in the 59th minute, as the tide had begun to turn in
the Dragonsí favour.
But yet another Welsh error sealed it for Australia just
after the hour. Jones misjudged a garryowen and the ball
bounced well for Latham flying through on the follow-up. The
score restored a commanding lead and secured the bonus point
Australiaís defence was outstanding for the most part, but a
dangerous tackle earned Mitchell a yellow card, while Sharpe
was also sent to the sideline for killing the ball close to
his own line. With only 13 men on the park, Australia
finally succumbed to the Welsh assault. The build up by the
hosts was scrappy and Shane Williams appeared to knock on
before scoring. Even though the try was awarded, the
bumbling movement summed up the story of the game for Wales.
Australia won well without producing anything brilliant, and
although the victory has booked their spot in the
quarter-finals, coach John Connolly would do well to fine
tune their A game before the playoffs. Their much maligned
scrum was under fire again and their ill-discipline could
cost them more against quality opposition in the
all-important final quarter.
Wales - Tries: Jonathan Thomas, Shane Williams. Conversions:
James Hook (2). Penalty: Stephen Jones, Hook.
Australia - Tries: Matt Giteau, Stirling Mortlock, Chris
Latham (2). Conversions: Mortlock (2), Giteau. Penalty:
Mortlock. Drop goal: Berrick Barnes.
By Jon Cardinelli | Keo.co.za