The Qantas Wallabies have opened their 2017 Spring Tour with a 29-21 victory over Wales at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Three first half tries for the Wallabies through Tatafu Polota-Nau, Adam Coleman and Michael Hooper set up a 22-13 advantage at the break, however it was a runaway five-pointer from Kurtley Beale midway through the second half that provided the fatal blow as Wales were surging in front of a vocal home crowd.
Beale snatched the ball from the clutches of Welsh winger Staff Evans in a tackle and took off for the line, running 60 metres untouched to give the Wallabies a healthy lead as the game entered the final quarter.
The men in gold were forced to dig deep to defend their lead, after skipper Michael Hooper was shown a yellow card following repeated warnings for both sides by referee Glenn Jackson for infringements at the ruck.
In an open, expansive contest, it was the Wallabies resolute defence in those final stages that sealed the win, which was Australia’s thirteenth in a row over Wales and their fourth straight Test victory this year.
Qantas Wallabies Captain Michael Hooper said: “Its never easy to win here and they really took it to us there in the second half and we had to dig deep with fourteen men on the field.
“They they had some new threats we hadn’t seen before, and moved the ball around a lot and created opportunities, but we were able to deal with them and got the reward. I thought the team showed a lot of heart only conceding that try right at the end and I'm really proud of the effort tonight."
It was the home side on the board first when Leigh Halfpenny slotted a penalty in the ninth minute, but the Wallabies answered soon after when Polota-Nau crashed over from a rolling maul which was started 10 metres downfield from a lineout win.
Bernard Foley's conversion made it 7-3 but then it was Wales on the front foot again after 19 minutes when Steff Evans, playing his first home Test for Wales, finished a brilliant movement in the left corner as the home side worked the ball through the hands.
The Wallabies went immediately on the attack following the Evans try and after Foley’s cross-field kick just evaded winger Reece Hodge in the corner, the visitors showed patience and a couple of phases later Adam Coleman launched through the line off a perfect cut-out ball from man-of-the-match Will Genia to score.
A penalty goal from long-range specialist Hodge, followed by another try to Hooper who found space out wide on the right, gave the Wallabies a nine-point buffer at the half.
In a pulsating second half, it was only Beale’s steal that resulted in any real damage on the scoreboard with a try on full time to replacement winger Hallam Amos for Wales closing the final margin to eight points.
The Wallabies endured some nervous moments in the final 15 minutes, with Wales peppering the line with scrums, but the defensive line held firm for the men in gold as they extended their current unbeaten run to eight matches.
They now move on to play Eddie Jones’ England at Twickenham Stadium next Saturday 18 November (2am Sunday morning kick-off AEDT).
HOW IT HAPPENED:
9 min: Leigh Halfpenny pen AUS 0-3 WAL
13 min: Tatafu Polota-Nau try, Bernard Foley con AUS 7-3 WAL
18 min: Staff Evans try, Leigh Halfpenny con AUS 7-10 WAL
22 min: Adam Coleman try, Bernard Foley con AUS 14-10 WAL
35 min: Reece Hodge pen AUS 17-10 WAL
38 min: Leigh Halfpenny pen AUS 17-13 WAL
40 min: Michael Hooper try AUS 22-13
52 min: Leigh Halfpenny pen AUS 22-16 WAL
63 min: Kurtley Beale try, Bernard Foley con AUS 29-16 WAL
80 min: Hallam Amos try AUS 29-21 WAL
Australia 29 (Tatafu Polota-Nau, Adam Coleman, Michael Hooper, Kurtley Beale tries; Bernard Foley 3 cons; Reece Hodge pen) defeated Wales 21 (Staff Evans, Hallam Amos tries; Leigh Halfpenny 2 cons; 3 pens)