Wallabies pull off stunning comeback to beat Wales in Cardiff
REPORT: Australia came from 13-34 down to beat Wales 39-34 in an extraordinary Test in Cardiff on Saturday which will pile the pressure on home coach Wayne Pivac.
Two tries by Australia’s 22-year-old wing and man of the match Mark Nawaqanitawase sparked the comeback which ended a three-match losing run on the tour including a historic defeat to Italy.
The heartbreaking loss for the hosts could be a body blow to Pivac who ends the year with just three wins in 12 matches including a first-ever defeat by Georgia last weekend.
It was the hosts who settled their nerves as they raced into a 17-6 lead inside 23 minutes with two well-worked tries.
Alun Wyn Jones showed there is Test life left in the old legs as the 37-year-old lock produced a delightful offload to Jac Morgan, who ran over to touch down – Gareth Anscombe converted for 7-3.
The Welsh extended their lead as a smooth passing move found veteran flank Taulupe Faletau out on the right wing and he managed to get the ball down before he went into touch to mark his 100th Test for both Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Anscombe converted brilliantly from the touchline and then added another penalty for the hosts to lead 20-6 shortly before the half-hour mark.
Tempers were fraying on the Wallabies side as Len Ikitau had a few choice words with Ben Donaldson but Nawaqanitawase it was who offered them hope.
The easy-to-spot wing with a mop of curls popped up in the centre and broke through the Welsh defence but the move faltered with a knock on.
Nevertheless, this newfound confidence got its reward when Folau Fainga’a was forced over and Ben Donaldson converted to pull the visitors to within a converted try of levelling the game.
However, they were back rocking on their heels soon afterwards when Matthew Carley flashed a yellow card at a disbelieving Jake Gordon for a deliberate knock-on.
The second period began in dreadful fashion for the Wallabies.
Replacement prop Tom Robertson had barely time to warm his hands before he was warming the sin bin bench — Carley running out of patience with persistent offences by the Wallabies at the scrum.
The hosts took full advantage as Morgan scored his second try and Anscombe with a minimum of fuss added the extras for 27-13.
Robertson was still off the pitch — Gordon had returned — when Anscombe set up Rio Dyer to go over in the left-hand corner.
The peerless Anscombe converted for 34-13.
Anscombe’s day ended minutes later with him having to go off with a shoulder injury after tackling Ned Hanigan.
The Wallabies looked down and out but Nawaqanitawase led the remarkable fightback as he went over in the corner.
The Wallabies should have had another with 14 minutes remaining as Pete Samu intercepted Rhys Priestland’s pass in midfield and had an open field in front of him.
Welsh captain Justin Tipuric, though, stuck out a leg out to bring him down.
Carley sent him to the sin bin — Tipuric casting a nervous eye up to the scoreboard as he ran off.
Well he might be nervous as the visitors scored a try immediately Nawaqanitawase scoring his second — Lolesio converted for 34-25.
The Wallabies pulled to within two points with just over six minutes remaining as replacement hooker joined Tupuric in the sin bin and Carley awarded a converted penalty try for 34-32.
Their joy was unconfined when with Nawaqanitawase again to the fore in the attack Lachlan Lonergan went over and Lolesio added the conversion to complete the comeback.
Man of the match: Veteran Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones enjoyed one of his better games this year, while Taulupe Faletau was a powerhouse in open play and he scored a try as well. Loose forward Jac Morgan had another strong performance for Wales and he got a brace as well. Wallabies scrumhalf Tate McDermott brought plenty of energy off the bench and he sparked his team to shift to a higher gear. However, the award goes to wing Mark Nawaqanitawase, who produced a stunning second-half performance. He broke through a number of tackles with his speed and power and he scored two crucial tries in the comeback.
Tries: Morgan 2, Faletau, Dyer
Cons: Anscombe 4
Pens: Anscombe 2
Tries: Fainga’a, Nawaqanitawase 2, Penalty Try, Lonergan
Cons: Donaldson, Lolesio 2
Pens: Donaldson 2
Yellow cards: Jake Gordon (Australia, 38′ – cynical play, offside); Tom Robertson (Australia, 45′ – repeated infringements, collapsing the scrum); Justin Tipuric (Wales, 67′ – foul play, deliberate trip); Ryan Elias (Wales, 74′ – cynical play, collapsing the maul)
Wales: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 George North, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric (captain), 6 Jac Morgan, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Sam Costelow.
Australia: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 10 Ben Donaldson, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Langi Gleeson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Jed Holloway, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper (captain).
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ned Hanigan, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Noah Lolesio, 23 Jock Campbell.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Chris Busby (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)