Wales let history slip in Melbourne as Australia claim a 25 - 23 victory in the second test match with a last gasp penalty from newcomer Mike Harris.
After last week’s disappointment at Suncorp Stadium Wales got off to the dream start. After sustained pressure and good work around the fringes, George North powered over from close range to open the scoring just 4 minutes into the game.
Berrick Barnes responded with a penalty and Australia began to dominate. The home team had the lion’s share of possession and territory due to a poor Welsh lineout preventing them from getting any sort of continuity.
Barnes slotted another penalty to bring the hosts to within a point and the more pressure Wales were put under the more mistakes they began to make.
Then on the stroke of halftime Berrick Barnes received clean ball off the top of the lineout, he went on to sell a dummy to the welsh midfield and go clean through to execute a simple two on one and send Rob Horne over for the try and the teams went in at the half with Australia leading 13 – 7.
The final try of the half is a prime example of the importance of giving your backline clean ball off the set piece; Wales had very little ball clean ball and were under pressure in the first 40, and as soon as Barnes gets good ball he glides through the defence to set up the 5-pointer.
Wales couldn’t have wished for a better start to the second half. A Wallaby set move goes wrong and Wales centre Ashley Beck hacks the ball downfield for his centre partner Jonathan Davies to win the footrace and Halfpenny converted to put Wales back in the lead.
In the second half the lead changed hands a total of 8 times as Barnes and Halfpenny traded penalties. However Wales missed a massive opportunity when Cooper Vuna was sin binned for tackling Leigh Halfpenny in the air, the correct decision and possibly warranted a red card. During that 10 minute period Wales only scored 3 points and with that a big opportunity had been missed.
It all came down to a Mike Harris penalty that came as a result of a powerful driving lineout and he stepped up to break Welsh hearts and give the home team a 25 – 23 victory.
This means that Australia have won the series and this tour is now considered a failure by the players, coaching staff and Welsh public.
Wales can be proud of their effort; their defence was extremely good and only leaked one try. They may feel they deserved a victory out of the game but ultimately the scoreboard doesn’t lie and once again Wales are looking for positives in defeat.
Wales seemed to lose composure with 90 seconds on the clock, with a knock on advantage rather than keeping the ball and closing the game out they kicked the ball 60 metres downfield allowing Australia the chance to march up field and claim victory.
Wales’ kicking again was extremely poor, they didn’t learn their lessons from last week. They kicked loosely and straight down the throat of Aussie full back Adam Ashley Cooper and Wales were simply unable to gain any territory.
I think it’s now time for Priestland to be dropped, Hook deserves to be given a chance because Priestlands form has been poor. Mike Phillips at times was guilty of trying to take on the whole of Australia by himself. I’d like to see Tipuric given some game time on the big stage because ultimately Sam Warburton has been second best to David Pocock this series and a few changes might help to revitalize the team.
So Wales set their stall out at the beginning of the tour claiming that nothing less than a series victory will do, and that hasn’t happened. Now it’s about trying to salvage something, a victory next week will make history and should begin to heal the wounds, now they have to pick themselves up as they head to Sydney still in search of the elusive ‘W’ in the Southern Hemisphere.