Wallabies take World Cup bronze
Australia finished the World Cup on a high with a bruising 21-18
third place playoff win over Wales at Eden Park here Friday.
The Wallabies battled on after losing star backs Quade Cooper and
Kurtley Beale with first-half injuries to edge out the Welsh with
magnificent defence after both teams scored two tries each.
It was Australia’s first win at Eden Park since 1986, but not against
their Bledisloe Cup rivals New Zealand, who take on France at their
fortress in Sunday’s final.
Both teams managed a final effort after shattering semi-final defeats
last weekend, the Wallabies going down 20-6 to the All Blacks, while the
Welsh lost 9-8 to France after playing with 14 men for the last hour.
This victory meant two-time champions Australia won their first
bronze at the World Cup after losing 22-21 to Wales in the playoff for
third place at the inaugural 1987 tournament in New Zealand.
But, for the second match in a row, Wales also missed injured
fly-half Rhys Priestland with wayward goalkicks, as they had against
France, costing them dear.
Australia’s Berrick Barnes, who shifted into the fly-half slot
following Cooper’s injury in the 22nd minute, delivered a masterly
performance and was named man-of-the-match.
“We did it tough, it was last man standing there with all the
injuries we had,” said Barnes, who added the team were delighted to have
won for lock Nathan Sharpe, playing his 100th Test.
Just nine minutes into the match, Australia lost Beale after he
re-aggravated a hamstring injury that saw him miss the semi-final.
But Cooper set up the opening try in the 12th minute, his pass
splitting Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies and allowing Barnes to
stroll over for what became a 7-0 lead when James O’Connor converted.
Prop James Slipper was penalised in the scrum for James Hook to kick
a penalty for Wales.
Hook then badly missed an easy penalty attempt five minutes after the
Sharpe’s 100th Test match finished six minutes into the second half
after he had bravely soldiered on from knee trouble suffered early on.
Wales hit the front with a fortuitous Shane Williams try, the wing
kicking ahead of what appeared to be a Hook forward pass in the 49th
minute off what appeared to be a forward pass from Hook but English
referee Wayne Barnes waved play on.
However, the Wallabies hit back with two O’Connor penalties off ruck
infringements to lead by five points as the Welsh found it difficult to
breach the resolute Australia defence.
Berrick Barnes, running the show for the Wallabies, potted a drop
goal to put his team 16-8 ahead with 12 minutes left.
Substitute fly-half Stephen Jones kept Wales alive with a 71st minute
But the Wallabies finished the stronger with No 8 Ben McCalman
surging over for their second try four minutes from time.
Wales managed a converted try to full-back Leigh Halfpenny in injury
time but all it did was reduce the Wallabies’ victory margin. AFP