Wales 21-29 Australia
by DAVID NICHOLSON at the Millennium Stadium
THE Wales hoodoo against Australia stretched to 13 games on the bounce after the Wallabies snaffled four tries to silence the home fans on a damp Saturday evening in Cardiff.
Michael Cheika’s band of streetwise players had too much class in their attacking game and an obdurate defence that denied a reshaped Welsh side.
The much-derided Warrenball style of big men bashing through the phases was abandoned for a more creative approach, modelled on Eddie Jones’s England and also adopted by the Lions in the summer.
Warren Gatland had brought in Gloucester fly-half Owen Williams to play at outside half alongside Dan Biggar to increase his side’s attacking options.
There were moments when Wales looked good in attack, but, unfortunately, it was often when they were in their own half.
Continual mistakes cost the home side dear, and the normally unflappable Toby Faletau made five uncharacteristic handling errors.
Gatland was very positive after the match but conceded his team’s mistakes cost them.
“We were much better in the second half and as the game went on we got stronger. I think other than the freakish try they scored we could have won the game,” Gatland said.
“There were three new caps and some younger players in there and we will get better with the experience and the team will get stronger as we go along.”
Wallaby fly-half Bernard Foley was in stupendous form and ran the show.
But it was also the firepower of Kurtley Beale at fullback and man-of-the-match Will Genia at scrum-half which saw the visitors cross the try line four times.
A bristling Cheika was clearly unhappy with the refereeing decisions and said his side would look at it after they conceded 15 penalties and had captain Michael Hooper sent to the sin bin in the second half.
Cheika also fired back at the media for writing his team off.
“We understand the pundits don’t give us much of a chance against England and one commentator said a good club side would beat us,” Cheika said.
Wales scored tries through Steff Evans and a late effort from Hallam Amos, but injuries to winger Steff Evans and Lions centre Jonathan Davies — in the final move of the match — added to Welsh woes.
Gatland’s message to the fans was that his side were “focused on the countdown to the World Cup and developing new players and different styles of play.
“The pleasing thing was we got stronger and more accurate as the game went on.”
But in a warning to some of his players, he promised wholesale changes to the side next week to face Georgia.
“We will make a lot of changes for next week so the younger players will get a go. There’s a good chance that anyone playing well next week could be in the team to face the All Blacks,” Gatland said.
Wales will need to be on their toes against Georgia, but the fans will not allow Gatland the luxury of too many losses at home while he rebuilds his team.