Wales 26-30 Australia
Mowen heaps praise on Cooper
November 30, 2013
Nick Cummins hands off Scott Williams, Wales v Australia, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, November 30, 2013
Will Genia looks to offload despite Mike Phillips's tackle © Getty Images

Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen praised Quade Cooper as an outstanding leader as the reformed playmaker stepped up to ensure Australia finished a rocky 2013 on a high with a pulsating 30-26 victory over Wales. Cooper produced a brilliant Man-of-the-Match display in his 50th Test to break Welsh hearts once again in a five-try Test match classic in front of 67,436 captivated fans at Millennium Stadium.

Australia showed power, precision and passion before holding on for dear life in the nerve-wracking final term when Cooper was controversially yellow-carded for an early tackle on Scott Williams. With the five-eighth, who had taken over as captain at the time, fuming on the sidelines for the last five minutes, the tourists repelled the Welsh attack for a well-deserved victory.

It put an exclamation mark on a roller-coaster year for the Wallabies, who end their European tour with four straight wins - their best streak since 2008 - after an opening loss to England. The enigmatic Cooper was at his bewildering best as he set up the Wallabies opening try, produced some signature magic tricks, defended stoutly and pulled the strings for a spectacular attacking display that had the tourists up 30-16 in the 50th minute.

"I thought Quadey was outstanding," Mowen said of his vice-captain, who had been exiled 12 months ago for lambasting the team culture. "Not many people can execute that in touch-footy in the backyard, let alone at the Millennium in those sorts of circumstances. You can't say enough about what sort of bloke Quade is and what contribution he's made in the last the period and the growth he's shown. He's turned into an outstanding leader and when he's performing, generally the team's performing very well. "

Cooper won the playing group's 'Man of Gold' for the second time since he returned to the No.10 jersey 10 Tests ago. Full of run and confidence, he produced two backhanded flick passes to Joe Tomane in the first half, one which led to a Christian Leali'ifano try and another which was butchered with a Will Genia fumble.

But it took plenty of all-round guts to hold out Wales, who were 13-3 up after 18 minutes, as they stormed back with George North's second try on the hour mark. It was the Six Nations champions' ninth straight loss to Australia and their fourth in a row by four points or fewer.

"This result was outstanding," said coach Ewen McKenzie, who finishes his first season in charge with a 6-6 record. "We wanted to play our way and I thought we did. It was thrust and parry, end to end."

In a sign of things to come, the match began with a ridiculous second-minute try to winger North after Israel Folau had almost scored at the other end. Folau, Mowen and Michael Hooper, who outplayed Welsh captain Sam Warburton at the breakdown, again starred.

Folau put the Wallabies ahead just before half-time when Welsh No.10 Dan Bigger was in the sin-bin, scoring his 10th try of the year from a Genia cut-out pass to equal Lote Tuqiri's calendar year record.

Wales coach Warren Gatland disputed a crucial second-half try to Tomane, claiming referee Wayne Barnes should have ruled Folau's pass to the winger forward.

The Wallabies held on to defeat Wales and record a fourth successive Test triumph (video available in Australia only)

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