Rugby World Cup
'One of the most courageous efforts I have seen by any Wallabies line-up'
Greg Growden
October 10, 2015
Australia deliver defensive masterclass

I have been fortunate enough to witness some of Australian rugby's memorable moments in 30 years covering the Wallabies, including two World Cup triumphs and Bledisloe Cup series victories on New Zealand soil.

The standards are high so it is hard to get too carried away, or be absolutely stunned by what you have just seen. But that is the feeling after Australia's epic triumph over Wales, which ranks among the most courageous efforts I have seen by any Wallabies line-up.

Australia 15-6 (Australia only)

It was exceptional. It deserves endless praise.

You keep asking yourself. How did they do it? How did they keep Wales out for so long? Has Australia at last developed the self-belief and stoic resistance to be taken as a serious World Cup title candidate, one who could even seriously shake up the tournament favourites All Blacks?

Oh, yes , indeed.

Between the 59th and 67th minute, Australia were in a diabolical state. They were down to 13 men after Will Genia and Dean Mumm had been sent to the sin-bin, and ripe for a Wales onslaught. They just didn't seem to have enough personnel on the field, especially against the most tenacious of opponents who showed against England two weekends ago that they never, ever, give up and know how to seize the moment.

Australia's Bernard Foley kicks at goal, Australia v Wales, Rugby World Cup, Twickenham Stadium, London, October 10, 2015
Australia's Bernard Foley kicks at goal © Getty Images

Australia's 12- lead just did not feel enough as Genia and Mumm headed to the sideline, and the Wallabies' demise appeared inevitable through lack of numbers.

But for those eight excruciating minutes, when perched on their own line, Australia kept rallying, kept making the ball-smothering tackle, kept finding someone to fill the gap in their defensive alignment and stop Wales taking advantage of what appeared to be an inevitable attacking overlap.

Australian players fearlessly hurling themselves at their opponent thwarted countless threatening Welsh surges. Every one of the 13 Wallabies players left on the ground stood up to the onslaught, and can boast marvelous tackles, which saw an exasperated Wales finish with absolutely nothing.

Toby Faletau drops the ball over the line in a key moment of the game Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Wallabies succeeded in flustering Wales, herding them back into the midfield so they did not take advantage of glaring space out wide. White-line fever gripped the Welsh, and led to their downfall. That occurred because the Wallabies were so fast in defence, so determined not to lose this game, so eager not to waste the opportunity, after being so expansive and dominant against England at the same ground the previous weekend.

Warburton impressed with Australian defence

The seven-man Australian pack also held up during that period, refusing to give any ground, despite Wales having a substantial weight advantage and good field position from which to attack. Five times during those eight minutes, Wales had the scrum feed. And five times, Australia had Wales' measure.

So what if there were no tries. This was still the most engrossing of encounters that captivated the 80,863 crowd for every minute, and it will rank among the best matches of this tournament; it was rugby at its most brutal and compelling.

And once again, the Wallabies succeeded in astounding the locals by proving they actually have a scrum worth boasting about.

After years of being ridiculed for having a patsy of a pack, the Australian scrum has held up and even dominated in each of their four pool games. The hard work put in by Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and his forwards expert Mario Ledesma is being rewarded.

A defining moment occurred in the 23rd minute when the Wallabies drove the Welsh pack off the ball; with it came a massive surge in confidence, which was crucial when it all went a bit awry during the second half. It is so apparent that this Australian team has a strong trust in each other - an important element at finals time, which has been made so much easier by them finishing top of Pool A and with it a far more comfortable trek to the final.

As importantly, Wallabies No.10 Bernard Foley handled the pressure for the second week in a row. Last week, his poise and use of space made him a standout against England; this week, his accurate goal-kicking and admirable defence, constantly knocking down far larger opponents, marked his performance. He has picked the perfect time to overcome his yips, and is certainly a far more composed performer to the one who struggled in Sydney and Mendoza.

Stand tall Wallabies. It will take a long, long time to forget what happened at Twickenham, October 10, 2015.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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