Wales hold off Australia comeback in thrilling encounter

Rugby World Cup 2019

Pool D

Australia 25-29 Wales 

Wales survived a fierce second-half comeback from Australia to celebrate their greatest victory in a Rugby World Cup and take command of Pool D.

Their victory in a pulsating encounter at Tokyo Stadium makes them very strong favourites to win the pool and means they are likely to avoid meeting England and New Zealand before the final.

Their 18-point lead was whittled down to just one point at one stage, but they held on to secure only their second win against the Wallabies in 15 games, and their first against one of the southern hemisphere big three in the tournament for 32 years.

But it was so close. Australia looked a different side after a poor first half, which Wales led 23-8, after the decision to recall half-back duo Will Genia and Bernard Foley backfired.

All the talk beforehand was about the kicking threat of Wales’s outside-half Dan Biggar, but Gatland’s men showed right from off they were prepared to run the ball from deep.

Biggar gave them the perfect start with a drop goal inside the first minute. Then, on 13 minutes, from his crossfield chip centre Hadleigh Parkes outjumped wing Marika Koroibete to score a try. Biggar converted.

Australia’s Samu Kerevi gave away a penalty for leading with the arm against Wales’ Rhys Patchell.

The Wallabies were already in need of another comeback, having overturned an eight-point deficit in their opening game against Fiji.

And after captain Michael Hooper escaped a potential yellow card for a shoulder hit on Biggar, Australia responded with a try from their own crossfield kick.

Centre Samu Kerevi – looking a threat every time he had the ball – punched a hole in the Wales defence and Foley’s kick found wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, who plunged over. Foley missed a relatively simple conversion.

Foley and Rhys Patchell – on as a replacement as Biggar had a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) for a try-saving tackle on Kerevi – swapped penalties.

Kerevi was then given a severe lecture from French referee Romain Poite for leading with a high arm as he ran at Patchell, who was tackling him. But the fly-half had recovered to land a long penalty off the inside of a post.

It got even better for Wales just before half-time as Gareth Davies intercepted scrum-half Genia’s pass on his own 10-metre line to race in unopposed for the try, pictured above. Patchell’s conversion gave Wales a commanding 23-8 advantage at the break.

Gareth Davies goes over for Wales’ second try.

Wales started the second half as they had the first, with Patchell landing a drop goal. Cheika immediately responded by ending Foley’s afternoon four minutes into the second half to send on Matt Toomua.

Suddenly, the Wallabies looked a different outfit with Toomua involved several times in their best move of the match for full-back Dane Haylett-Petty to score a fine try. Toomua converted to reduce the arrears to 11 points.

Wales wing Josh Adams was then lectured by the referee after a review of a high tackle, as Wales began racking up the penalty count against them in the face of a sustained onslaught from Australia.

The pressure finally told as Hooper burrowed his way over from close range with 18 minutes left. Toomua converted from in front of the posts and Wales’s lead was down to four points.

Toomua kicked a 68th-minute penalty to bring Australia – now in complete control – within one point, having scored 17 unanswered points in a devastating 23-minute spell.

Patchell finally responded for Wales four minutes later with a much-needed penalty and Wales held on in the final minutes as Australia went in search of the game-winning try.

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