Australia 27-19 Wales, Brisbane, June 9
Genia masterclass inspires wounded Wallabies
June 9, 2012
Australia's WIll Genia celebrates scoring an outstanding individual score against Wales at the Suncorp Stadium © Getty Images
Wales watched another golden opportunity to claim a major southern hemisphere scalp slip by against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday night.
A Wallabies side reeling from a shock defeat at the hands of Scotland and missing key personnel rediscovered their bite to bloody the nose of a Wales side that had high hopes of a historic series victory to back up a Grand Slam. That goal is obviously still within their grasp, but not if they continue to fall so short of the standards that they set in claiming the northern hemisphere crown.
Time and time again the tourists failed to deliver under pressure and those errors ultimately proved very costly. The combination of the clock, fatigue and the scoreboard drew the kind of mistakes that we are not used to from what is normally a composed and clinical Welsh side.
Despite those shortcomings they were still in the contest deep into the second-half and were threatening to turn the game on its head only for a wild pass from captain Sam Warbuton to fly-half Rhys Priestland to go awry. With it went their hopes of a first win on Australian soil since 1969. Such chances do not come that often against the southern hemisphere giants and when they are wasted you can have little argument about the result.
Let us not take too much away from Australia, who deserved their victory. They denied Wales a foothold in the game with a brutal forward display - one that perhaps Wales did not expect. Given their most recent result and the pummelling they have taken in the media, many were expecting a vulnerable Wallabies side to take to the field but they were far from fragile in both mind and body.
That physicality laid the platform for Will Genia to dominate proceedings. The scrum-half may have not been at his best in this year's Super Rugby competition but he was in scintillating form at Suncorp Stadium. He pulled the strings throughout in one of the most commanding displays in recent memory, combining speed, skill and intelligence and as long as he maintains that level of performance, the Wallabies need not worry too much about how injuries have ravaged their fly-half stocks.
Stand-in captain David Pocock was also back to his game-dominating best, causing havoc amid a ferocious breakdown battle and he was ably supported by flanker Scott Higginbotham, whose outstanding industry also brought him a try. Together they helped shackle Wales and win the all-important territorial battle.
Wales did not help themselves on that front by kicking away priceless possession but it was not all bad for Rob Howley's side. Winger Alex Cuthbert caused plenty of damage with ball in hand and had his fellow giant wing George North not been sidelined in the first-half through injury then you sense Wales may have enjoyed more success. Ashley Beck was another to impress in a cameo off the bench, especially in the build-up to Cuthbert's try, but too many of Wales' key weapons failed to fire just when they were needed most.
Relief will be the overriding emotion as far as Australia are concerned, having avoided the result that would have seen their season implode just as it was getting started. They have some breathing space for the rest of the series and while they will no doubt benefit from this morale-boosting victory, they can rest assured that the Wales will also improve significantly in the next seven days.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.