Publication:

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

Data:

Woe for Wallabies as Wales snatch victory at the death

Rugby

By Will Kelleher

LADY LUCK wore a daffodil hat in Cardiff, as Wales ended their autumn sneaking past Australia by a single point on a night of high drama. Not only did the Wallabies have No 8 Rob Valetini sent-off 15 minutes in, they also saw Kurtley Beale yellow-carded and a controversial Nick Tompkins try awarded against them that might not have been. However, they rallied to all but win the game when Beale kicked a penalty with three minutes left. But Wales, showing incredible resilience, stole it with the last shot of the game, Rhys Priestland hitting a penalty after Australia had dived off their feet trying to prevent a Welsh try. As the replacement fly-half lined it up, head coach Wayne Pivac up in the stands could not watch. He stood up and puffed out his cheeks before nervously retaking his seat. When the ball bisected the posts, though, he rose with two arms aloft to hail a victory he so needed. ‘Mistakes crept in and we let them back into the game,’ said Pivac. ‘We found ourselves chasing it at the end but we found a way to get it done. ‘Unfortunately there are a lot of cards these days, they are turning points. ‘Today’s result is really important for this group who have worked really really hard. They will be satisfied with the result.’ Wales had to win it. They led 26-13, after a Ryan Elias try and kicks from Dan Biggar, before Dave Rennie’s Aussies — hauled themselves off the canvas. Nic White and Filipo Daugunu scored, but a vital missed conversion from James O’Connor left them agonisingly short at the end. Within 25 minutes, Pivac would have been grinning like a Cheshire Cat. It was less the score — as at half-time his side were only 16-13 ahead — but the fact that Australia had shot themselves in both feet, going down to 13 men. First Valetini was sent-off for a poor head-on-head hit on Adam Beard. He had to go, and when he did was the sixth opposing player to be shown a red card against Wales in the 12 Tests they have played in 2021, after Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony, Scotland’s, Zander Fagerson, Paul Willemse of France, Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia and Eroni Sau for Fiji last week. Next Beale knocked a Tompkins offload down illegally, as the centre tried to put Louis Rees-Zammit away on the right, and was yellow carded. So Wales had all the help they could get. When Beale had walked they immediately took advantage, Tomos Williams bursting blind to feed Elias who had hung on the right wing, the hooker scoring his fourth Test try. The problem otherwise, though, was that Wales’ scrum and driving lineout were poor once again. Australia had scored right at the start, with Hunter Paisami kicking a glorious no-look grubber through for Andrew Kellaway. Otherwise they and Wales shared two penalties each in the first half. The night often smiled for Wales. Next they were awarded a try that in other circumstances would have been chalked off. Paisami passed wide and Tompkins stuck out an arm to block it, the ball dropping down. He regathered as Australia stopped, checking to see whether he had knocked it on, but when referee Mike Adamson encouraged him to play on he did and ran in a score 35 metres. TMO Marius Jonker and the officials agreed as the ball had not been knocked on the try stood — the thinnest of lines between Beale’s knock-down and Tompkins’ intercept. Biggar’s conversion had Wales 10 ahead but they still had time to make some stupid decisions. Gareth Thomas unnecessarily hit Allan Alaalatoa in the face with a swinging arm and was yellow-carded. Once the numbers were even, the Aussies went on the assault. White scored a converted try under the posts after a great Paisami break, Biggar kicked a penalty to ease Welsh concern, but then Daugunu dived in. O’Connor’s conversion struck a post, but Beale’s hit his penalty as Wales’ luck looked to have run out. But with the clock dead Priestland’s priceless penalty saw them snatch a third consecutive Wallaby win — the first time they had done that since 1975. SCORERS: Wales — Tries: Elias, Tompkins. Cons: Biggar (2). Pen: Biggar (4), Priestland. Australia — Tries: Kellaway, White, Daugunu. Cons: O’Connor (2). Pens: O’Connor (2), Beale.

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