Try-scorer Gareth Davies praised Wales’ character following their thrilling 29-25 Rugby World Cup victory over Australia at Tokyo Stadium.
Wales took charge of Pool D as a result, moving closer to a potential quarter-final appointment with France or Argentina.
But they did it the hard way as Australia fought back to a point behind from 26-8 adrift before Wales claimed a first World Cup victory against the Wallabies since 1987.
“I am sure they (Australia) would have got a rollocking at half-time,” said Davies, who claimed a memorable first-half interception touchdown.
“We knew they would come out all guns blazing, and that is what they did. It shows our character, because in past years we might not have held on.”
Wales face remaining group games against Fiji and Uruguay, but have 10 days before playing the Fijians in Oita.
Davies added: “We know it was a very important win for us, but we are not going to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“We just need to keep building. It was a very tough test, and now we’ve got a couple of days to chill out.”
Replacement Rhys Patchell played a key role in Wales’ victory, kicking 14 points – including a drop-goal – after going on for Dan Biggar, who failed a head injury assessment.
Biggar also dropped a goal, and Patchell said: “We were aware that when we were down in Australia’s half we wanted to come away with points.
“‘Bigs’ hit his (drop-goal) phenomenally well. Mine was a bit more scratchy.
“But they all count. I wanted to make sure we got some points on the board early in the second half.
“When you get to a World Cup, everybody thinks tries win a World Cup. But what wins World Cups is goalkicking and being able to take those points.
“Historically – 2003, 2007, 2011 – it was probably only 2015 when the All Blacks ran away with the game and were able to put a bit of light between Australia and themselves. As kickers, you have got to be ready for those opportunities.
“We have got a great bunch of kickers that enjoy putting in the hard work, and today we came off the right side of the ledger. I am just pleased they went over.”
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Australia boss Michael Cheika said he was “embarrassed” by the decision to penalise Wallabies centre Samu Kerevi following a tackle incident during his team’s 29-25 Rugby World Cup defeat to Wales.
French referee Romain Poite and the television match official punished Kerevi after a first-half collision with Wales replacement Rhys Patchell, who appeared to have been caught high by Kerevi, although Patchell also tackled him high.
A lengthy television match official review followed and it was decided that Kerevi had made contact with Patchell’s throat with his elbow, although it seemed unintentional.
Cheika could not mask his frustration at events after a game that was stopped several times to check the legality of tackles.
It followed Wallabies wing Reece Hodge being cited and banned for a dangerous tackle in Australia’s opening group game against Fiji last weekend.
Cheika had already hit out at World Rugby in the wake of that and his latest comments will undoubtedly attract further attention.
Asked for his view after the Patchell-Kerevi incident, Cheika sarcastically said: “It was pretty funny because I thought I had seen that tackle before. It could have been Reece Hodge, I’m not sure.
“Our guy makes that tackle and has the high-tackle framework in his head. He gets suspended, but this guy doesn’t think about the high-tackle framework and we get penalised.
“As a rugby player, as a former player, I am embarrassed about that. I don’t know the rules anymore.
“You’ve got to take care, you’ve got to look after players, but not to an extreme where you are looking after players just for doctors and lawyers. You’ve got to look after players for players.
“Referees are worried about making wrong decisions and become ultra-cautious. With a crowd like that, there shouldn’t be booing, that shouldn’t be happening.
“I don’t understand anymore. They all seem spooked. Everybody seems worried, they are all worried about stuff so much.
“I am not sure why they are worried, the players aren’t worried. Then it’s affecting everything else on the field.”
Kerevi, meanwhile, was in no mood to hold back either as Australia were left to reflect on a defeat that could see them facing England in the quarter-finals.
“The way rugby is going, I might as well join the NRL next, seeing how they police it,” Kerevi said.
“It’s a hard decision for the referees, I understand that, I guess I just have to change my technique and the way I run. I respect what the referees decide and I have to move on from that.
“If you slow it down, that slow, it kind of looks like I’ve been playing like that for my whole career.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard that I can’t lead with my arms and bump. It’s hard when you slow it down, and in one tenth of a second it seems like I’m on his neck, but I am not.
“There is no malice in it. I apologised to him. The way rugby is going that’s just the ruling now. I love my rugby league, so (I might) have a look at NRL.
“This is not a contact sport, this is a collision sport, and if you want to play touch, go play basketball.
“We are here to run straight at people. I’ve got to be more careful. I felt like I let the team down.”
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.