Wales clung on to a 29-25 victory over Australia as the key clash in Pool D of the Rugby World Cup put the Dragons in the driving seat for a top spot and a more favourable quarter-final.
Just like the opening encounter between two of the big hitters, Wales v Australia delivered every bit as much as New Zealand and South Africa – even more so. Warren Gatland’s Six Nations Grand Slam champions were excellent in the first half, despite losing Dan Biggar who failed a head injury assessment.
Replacement Rhys Patchell kicked three penalties, a drop goal and a conversion, while Hadleigh Parkes and Gareth Davies tries gave them a healthy 23-8 interval lead.
But waves of Wallaby attacks littered the second half, Dane Haylett-Petty and Michale Hooper tries adding to Adam Ashley-Cooper crossing in the first half. But Wales, with skipper Alun Wyn Jones breaking the nation’s caps record as he earned his 130th, held on and now hold the key to top spot and a likely last eight clash with either Argentina or France.
Living up to the billing: The second seismic showdown in the pool stages and – just like the All Blacks and Springboks – this didn’t disappoint. The two powerhouses thundered into each other from the first whistle, trading blows like two punch drunk boxers in their final fight.
Wales started ferociously and drew first blood. But once the green and gold got going this tussle turned into a tantalising Test match, with neither side giving an inch.
There were bruising hits aplenty while tactics seemed to go out of the window early as adrenaline and pride led to a wide open contest.
Wallaby warriors: Despite a flawless first half from Wales, a 15-point advantage – later 18 – against a side boasting big burly ball carriers and with a deep bench always seemed precarious. A try six minutes into the second half from replacement fly-half Matt Toomua set the tone.
After that it was an onslaught as a combination of indiscipline and exhaustion left the Dragons scaling a tall wall to hold on to their advantage.
Skipper Hooper was also at the fulcrum of everything as gatekeeper Toomua had two master keys in Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete.
Against a less renowned and diligent defence, the comeback would surely have been completed.
Wallaby wobbles: The Welsh were the best side in the first half but they were simply surgical in their conversion. Michael Cheika’s men were in the game but were stupendously sloppy, dropping the ball times and time again – they gave away 17 turnovers to Wales’ nine throughout the 80 minutes.
And while the rustiness had certainly been shaken off after a rude awakening against Fiji, a more ruthless performance would almost certainly have provided the platform for victory.
They certainly would have been closer to Wales at the break. Will Genia (106) is the seventh-most capped Aussie ever, and yet his loose pass that Gareth Davies gobbled up would have left a rookie red-faced.
Anonymous attack: They might have had the best ball carrier in their ranks – scrum-half Davies led runners with 112 metres made – but Australia’s awesome second half response rendered the Welsh attack blunt as they spent the majority of the second 40 minutes struggling to find a foothold.
The Dragons had displayed a dynamic cutting edge in their opening win over Georgia, but the firepower of Liam Williams, George North and Josh Adams was drenched by a second half deluge of gold and green, as Australia reigned.
Referee calls: There was again cause for frustration in certain areas, like the breakdown, but ultimately, Roman Poite controlled the game brilliantly when it came to the big calls. Twice he kept calm and just awarded penalties against Hooper and Kerevi when another could easily have shown yellow for a late tackle and leading with the forearm.
He did the same again for Australia early in the second when Adams’ tackle was adjudged to be high.
Officials have come in for plenty of criticism in this tournament – from the game’s own governing body no less – so this was a triumph for the man in the middle.
3rd min DROP GOAL: Statement start from the men in red as they pile in to the green and gold shirts from kick-off. Biggar is in space to pierce the scoreboard inside three minutes.
12th min TRY: Wales strike while the iron is hot. They hammer away at the Wallaby defence before Biggar punts for the corner, Parkes – playing with a fractured hand – out-jumps Koroibete and touches down.
16th min FLASHPOINT: The advantage is lost for Wales but referee Poite brings it back following a late hit from Hooper on Biggar. Consulting the TMO, the Frenchman orders a penalty for Wales, but there’s no card for the Aussie flanker.
21st min TRY: Australia back in it and it’s from their first real attack. After Kerevi makes inroads, Foley’s immaculate crossfield kick finds Ashley-Cooper who scrambles over.
28th min INJURY: Biggar stops Kerevi from scoring a certain try with a tackle that forces a knock-on, but it comes at a personal cost as he leaves the field for a HIA. He’s done for the day.
29th min PENALTY: George North goes off his feet at a ruck and after a promising advantage is thwarted, Foley makes it 10-8.
33rd min PENALTY: Hooper’s hands are in the ruck and Biggar’s replacement Patchell slots it through. 13-8.
37th min PENALTY: Kerevi is on the charge but is penalised for leading with the forearm on Patchell, who after consultation kicks another penalty. 16-8.
38th min PENALTY: From the restart Genia somehow doesn’t see Davies creeping up and the pass is picked off, Davies steams past Foley and to the line for a breathtaking try. Patchell knocks over the extras, 23-8.
44th min DROP GOAL: Wales begin the second half brightly, driving deep into Australia’s half. They try to set up the drop goal and Patchell pops it over. 26-8.
46th min TRY: Brilliant response from the Wallabies, Toomua drives into Welsh territory and even though he’s halted, Haylett-Petty is over a few phases later. Toomua converts, 26-15.
62nd min TRY: A significant period of pressure from the Wallabies – including three penalty advantages – ended with a try from captain Hooper. The Aussies have begun to turn the screw and they’re rewarded. Toomua’s conversion makes it 26-22.
68th min PENALTY: Wallabies well on top and Toomua knocks over to make it a one-point game.
72nd min PENALTY: Wallabies are offside and Patchell gives Wales a little breathing room.
Started slowly and paid the price as the Dragons danced into a 18-point lead. Their second half performance was night and day as they roared back and looked the more likely winner. Only a catalogue of errors and Wales’ formidable red wall of defence prevented victory.
Could have been considered out of sight at the break, but a game is never won against one of the game’s elite – despite Australia’s travails in recent years. The Dragons fired and fed off chances that fell to them in the first half, but they were fading and fatigued towards the end, and needed all their reserves to hold on.
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Wales put one foot in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals and announced themselves as major title contenders after beating Australia 29-25 at Tokyo Stadium.
The Six Nations champions took charge of Pool D with a second successive win that could lead to a last-eight clash against France or Argentina.
Australia, though, might be hurtling towards a knockout tie with England, who are coached by former Wallabies boss Eddie Jones, despite staging a spectacular second-half fightback.
Wales looked home and dry when they led 26-8 through tries by centre Hadleigh Parkes and scrum-half Gareth Davies.
Fly-halves Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell kicked 19 points between them – Patchell contributed 14 after replacing Biggar, who went off for a head injury assessment – but Australia got it back to one point at 26-25.
Wing Adam Ashley-Cooper, full-back Dane Haylett-Petty and captain Michael Hooper claimed touchdowns, with Bernard Foley kicking a penalty and Matt Toomua booting seven points.
But Wales held out, helped out by Patchell’s 72nd-minute strike, to beat Australia for only a second time in the last 15 Tests following a scintillating contest.
Alun Wyn Jones became Wales’ most-capped player as he led his country out, making his 130th appearance to break the record he previously shared with prop Gethin Jenkins.
Australia were without suspended wing Reece Hodge – replaced by Ashley-Cooper – while half-backs Foley and Will Genia were also called up by head coach Michael Cheika.
Wales made a dream start and were ahead after just 36 seconds when the Welsh pack secured quality possession inside Australia’s 22 and Biggar dropped a goal.
Australia were rocked by the ferocity of Wales’ start, and Biggar went close to doubling the lead but drifted a touchline penalty attempt wide.
Wales were outstanding with ball in hand, looking to involve wings George North and Josh Adams at regular opportunities.
Australia’s defence came under considerable pressure, and Wales increased their lead through a 13th-minute try.
Biggar was the architect, kicking to the wing, and centre Parkes climbed above Wallabies wing Marika Koroibete, before spinning and touching down.
Biggar’s successful touchline conversion made it 10-0, and Hooper was then warned by referee Romain Poite for a challenge on the Wales number 10.
Australia opened their account with a 21st-minute try by Ashley-Cooper after Foley’s kick found space, cutting their deficit by five points.
Centre Samu Kerevi began to cause problems for the Welsh defence with his powerful running, and Wales then lost Biggar for a head injury assessment, with Patchell replacing him.
Foley booted a penalty shortly afterwards, and Wales’ lead had been reduced to 10-8 after 30 minutes.
Wales needed to regroup, and a Patchell penalty seven minutes before half-time restored the Six Nations champions’ five-point advantage, then he kicked another three-pointer from almost 50 metres.
And it then got even better for Wales when scrum-half Davies intercepted a Wallabies pass on halfway and sprinted clear to score their second try. Patchell’s conversion put Wales 15 points in front, ending an opening 40 minutes they had dominated.
Biggar did not rejoin the action, but Patchell had acquitted himself impressively at the hub of a controlling Wales performance. And he underlined it following another spell of Wales pressure by landing a drop-goal that meant Wales had an 18-point lead.
But Australia then hit back following a flowing long-range move which ended with Haylett-Petty crossing for a try that Toomua converted. The touchdown gave Australia a new lease of life, sensing that one more try would put them well and truly back in the contest.
Wales knew it, too, but Wallabies pressure was mounting, and three close-range driven lineouts saw Australia continue to turn the screw.
And Wales could not hold out, with Hooper claiming a touchdown following relentless pressure, and Toomua’s conversion meant Australia trailed 26-22 with 18 minutes left.
Toomua and Patchell then exchanged kicks, but Wales held out and claimed arguably the finest victory of head coach Warren Gatland’s long reign.
France’s Rugby World Cup Pool C clash with the United States could fall foul of Typhoon Mitag.
World Rugby has issued a weather update admitting it has already advised France and the USA of contingency plans for their encounter in Fukuoka on Wednesday, October 2.
Pool matches cancelled on the scheduled day will not be replayed during the World Cup, with World Rugby declaring a scoreless draw and both teams awarded two points, and no bonus points.
“World Rugby and Japan Rugby 2019 are monitoring Typhoon Mitag, which is developing off the south-west coast of Japan,” read a Rugby World Cup statement.
“Based on the latest information from our weather information provider and the Japan Meteorological Agency, the typhoon could bring high winds and heavy rain to the southern island of Kyushu on October 2, possibly impacting the France versus USA match at Fukuoka.
“The latest information indicates that the typhoon is moving further away from Japan’s coastline than originally predicted, and the impact risk is reducing.
“However, in the best interests of the teams and the integrity of the tournament, we have informed France and the USA of the contingency plans in the event that adverse weather means that it is not possible to play the match in Fukuoka on the scheduled date.
“We will continue to closely monitor this developing situation in partnership with our weather information provider, local authorities, transport providers and the teams, and will provide a further update tomorrow. Fans are advised to monitor official Rugby World Cup channels for any updates.
“Fans visiting from outside Japan are reminded that while typhoons can vary in terms of strength and intensity, they are a normal occurrence in Japan and the vast majority have minimal impact on daily life.”
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