Bernard Foley’s boot and brilliant defence saw Australia beat Wales 15-6 at Twickenham on Saturday to top the World Cup Pool of Death.
Australia’s eleventh victory in a row over Wales saw the Wallabies book a quarter-final against Scotland, with Wales now facing South Africa in the last eight next weekend.
The Wallabies crucially remain undefeated in a tournament where every World Cup winner has reached the final without losing a game.
Australia, leading 12-6, were reduced to 13 men heading into the final quarter when Will Genia and Dean Mumm were both sin-binned. But Wales could not take advantage of their two extra men to add to their score after Australia led 9-6 at the break.
Foley scored all of Australia’s points through five penalties, with opposing fly-half Dan Biggar landing two for Wales. Both sides kicked off having already booked their places in the knockout phase.
Australia made three changes to the side that knocked England out of the World Cup with an impressive 33-3 win over at Twickenham last weekend.
Flanker Michael Hooper’s suspension saw Sean McMahon brought into the back row. Australia full-back Israel Folau was passed fit after an ankle injury.
Wales boss Warren Gatland made six changes, including moving powerhouse wing George North to centre in one of two positional switches.
In the pack, skipper Sam Warburton moved across the back row to blindside flanker, allowing Justin Tipuric to start at openside as Wales sought to counter Australia’s breakdown threat. Wales came close to an early try when they turned over ball at an Australia scrum but North was held up.
Wales dominated the opening quarter but all they had to show for it was Biggar’s fourth-minute penalty.
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Meanwhile McMahon proved his worth with a thumping tackle on the Wales No 10. Australia prop Scott Sio forced a penalty wide on the right and Foley, the 28-point hero of the Wallabies’ 33-13 win over England, made no mistake to level the match.
Foley and Biggar then exchanged penalties, with Wales competing fiercely at the breakdown, before the Australian nudged his side in front.
Biggar then missed his first goal-kick in 16 attempts this World Cup before veteran centre Matt Giteau’s long-range effort on the stroke of half-time fell short to leave the Wallabies 9-6 in front.
Both sides pressed hard early in the second half, with Australia’s David Pocock winning an important turnover after a charging run by opposing No 8 Taulupe Faletau.
Faletau carelessly gave away a penalty in front of his own posts when neck-rolling Scott Fardy out of a ruck and Foley duly made it 12-6 in the 50th minute.
Wales centre Jamie Roberts tried to make ground on the crash ball, but another immense effort by the Welsh pack ended in a turnover. But Wales came again and it needed a fine tackle by Foley on North to snuff out a try.
Australia, however, found themselves a man down in the 57th minute when scrum-half Genia was sin-binned for obstructing Wales’ quick tap penalty.
Wales laid siege to the Wallaby line from a couple of scrums and drives. Faletau went over the try-line but Joubert called for replay assistance and it was ruled the back-row had knocked on.
Australia were down to 13 men when lock Mumm was yellow-carded for taking a man out at the line-out.
North should have scored a try when put through in space but was hauled down by replacement Ben McCalman in sight of the line.
Further great Australian defence, allied to Wales’ obsession with the inside pass, prevented a try.
Then, almost inevitably, a Wallaby break-out led to another simple penalty chance for Foley, who put the game beyond Wales reach with eight minutes left.
Wales wing Alex Cuthbert was then yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on only for Foley, surprisingly, to miss the ensuing penalty chance.
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