The Wallabies bounced back from their humiliating loss on Tuesday to post an impressive victory over a strong Welsh outfit at Suncorp.
They played with speed and skill, clearly revelling in the dry conditions. It was a real belter of a game with high quality footy on show for the whole 80. Will Genia had a barnstormer, directing the Wallabies like Polanski at his finest, setting up a try and scoring one himself. He showed he is the talisman for the Wallabies and if he stays in this form then we will be hard to stop this winter.
Wales put in a very strong performance, and will be ruing a couple of defensive lapses that ultimately cost them the game. Coming into the last 20 it looked like they would take the game, scoring 13 straight points after being down 20–6. However, their lack of recent match practice told and the fitter, faster Wallabies finished over the top of them.
The Wallabies started promisingly, with a couple of great turnovers from David Pocock and a nice snipe by Genia. They were playing high tempo, well executed rugby and were rewarded with the first points of the game, a Berrick Barnes penalty goal. Wales made a good break after a nice inside ball by Rhys Priestland, but they knocked on at the next phase. This break seemed to spark the boys back into action. Passes were crisp, support play was good and most importantly they kept the tempo high. And the opportunities came. A crunching Digby Ioane tackle and subsequent Pocock turnover gave the Wallabies the ball in great position, and had Rob Horne passed to an unmarked Ioane the try would have been scored. But this mistake was quickly made up for, with Scott Higginbotham scoring next to the posts after some great phases of forward play. Berrick added the extras and the Wallabies were up by 10 after 20.
The Welsh hit back soon after through a long-range penalty to Halfpenny. The rest of the half was a struggle between the 22s, with the Wallabies on top for periods. However, they couldn’t breach the strong Welsh defence so went to the break up only 10–3.
The second half started sensationally for the home side. Will Genia went for a run about 30 metres out, sold the dummy and made the break. With the fullback to beat he went shimmy left, shimmy right, in under the posts. Try-time, and the Wallabies extended their lead to 14. That lead would be short-lived, however, with Halfpenny slotting a penalty to bring it back to 17-6.
Wales had plenty of possession but just couldn’t crack the Wallaby defensive line, which was rock solid. Berrick Barnes potted a droppy after a beautiful bit of defensive play by Cooper Vuna from a Barnes long kick to take it back out to 14. Wales started to work into the game, and had their best spell in attack, resulting in yet another penalty to Halfpenny. The game was right on soon after, with the visitors scoring their first try seemingly out of nothing following a great offload from Beck to Alex Cuthbert who ran 30 metres to score. Halfpenny added the extras and the margin was back to 4 entering the final 20.
Wales had the momentum with them, and were looking dangerous with every touch. A Higginbotham error was compounded by a Ioane error and Halfpenny struck yet again to take the score to just 20–19 to the home side. The Wallabies had barely had the ball in the second period. But their luck turned in the 68th minute, with yet another solid leadup resulting in a try to Pat McCabe, running a beautiful line to pierce the Welsh defence thanks to yet another brilliant Genia pass. The Wallabies were now up by 8 and once again looked the goods. Barnes missed a penalty but the Wallabies stayed hot on attack well into the final ten minutes, and Wales never looked likely. 27-19, game over.
Genia was obviously the star of the show, but he was ably supported by a number of others — Pat McCabe and Berrick Barnes both had great games in the backline, and Digby Ioane was his usual bullocking self. Of the pack I was impressed by most players, but specifically Scott Higginbotham, Benn Robinson and David Pocock. Overall it was a great team effort, with the defensive performance especially pleasing. The Wallabies’ defensive line looked rock-solid and regularly caught the Welsh behind the advantage line.
So pride is restored, for now anyway. This series is shaping up as a cracker, and I can’t wait for Round 2 next Saturday.