Australia get back to winning ways
Australia 27 Wales 19:Wales lost their first Test against Australia, despite a spirited second-half fight-back in Brisbane. Alex Cuthbert crossed for a try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked 14 points as the Six Nations champions threatened to pull off an historic win.
Australia took an early grip on the game when Berrick Barnes opened the scoring in the ninth minute after Wales prop Adam Jones was penalised for not rolling away at the tackle and the Wallaby fly-half kicked the resulting penalty.
Halfpenny and Scott Williams showed glimpses in midfield, but Australia dominated the first half with David Pocock edging the contest at the breakdown. The Wallaby skipper stole possession close to the Welsh line after Rhys Priestland fumbled a high kick by Barnes under pressure from Digby Ioane.
Australia looked to have created a certain try when Rob Horne darted to the left, but Cuthbert prevented the scoring pass with a crucial tackle. However, just moments later the Wallabies crossed following a series of drives from their forwards that ended with Higginbotham crashing over for his first Test try. Barnes converted and Australia led 10-0 after 16 minutes.
Halfpenny finally got Wales off the mark on 23 minutes, but the Six Nations champions were struggling to find any momentum against an Australia team playing with their tails up. Scrum-half Genia pulled the strings for Australia and went close to extending their lead but Cuthbert again saved a score.
Wales suffered a blow on 29 minutes when George North was forced off with a leg injury, forcing a re-shuffle with Halfpenny switched to the left wing and James Hook introduced at fullback. Barnes had the chance to extend Australia’s 10-3 lead before half-time, but hit the post with his effort.
However, Genia needed less than a minute of the second half to grab the Wallabies’ second try. Australia burst forward from the kick-off and the Queensland scrumhalf darted between two Welsh front-rows and past Hook to touch down under the posts and hand Barnes a simple conversion.
Wales attempted to shake-off the early blow with a second penalty for Halfpenny. Barnes responded with a 50th-minute drop goal, but Halfpenny again nudged Wales closer with a third penalty after a heavy head-to-head collision between Williams and Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota Nau that saw both players leave the field.
Ashley Beck replaced Williams for his first cap and was immediately involved in creating Wales’ first try. Hook and Priestland shipped the ball to Beck who flicked possession to Cuthbert and the wing finished in style for his fourth Test try. Halfpenny converted and added an excellent penalty from out wide to cut the deficit to 20-19 on 63 minutes.
Wales were eying a remarkable turnaround, but Australia showed their clinical edge when they needed it most. Genia was again the creator, picking his pass to McCabe who crashed over on 67 minutes. Barnes converted and Australia were once again eight points ahead.
Twice Cuthbert threatened to break clear for a second try that Wales desperately needed, but was denied as Australia recovered to hold out for victory.