Rugby World Cup 2007
Wallabies battle past Wales
September 15, 2007
Chris Latham celebrates after scoring one of Australia's tries at the Millennium stadium
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Australia held off a second half comeback from Wales to win 32-20 in their Rugby World Cup Pool B clash at the Millennim Stadium in Cardiff. Full-back Chris Latham touched down twice as Australia outscored Wales four tries to two to secure a routine 32-20 victory in the all-important Pool B match in Cardiff.
Wales were hoping to restore the pride of northern hemisphere rugby in today's crunch clash of Pool B with Australia at the Millennium Stadium. Gareth Jenkins' men had home advantage in the wake of England's humiliation at the hands of the Springboks as they sought to move into pole position in the group in the hope of avoiding South Africa in the quarter-finals.
The Welsh were hoping to repeat their 24-22 win over the Wallabies at the Millennium Stadium two years ago. Jenkins made three changes to the side that came from 17-9 down to beat Canada 42-17 in their opening match, with full-back and captain Gareth Thomas, fly-half Stephen Jones and flanker Colin Charvis all starting the match after starting on the bench in Nantes.
Australia suffered a potentially devastating blow with the loss of Stephen Larkham, the world's most capped fly-half, who pulled out this morning with a knee injury sustained in training. Larkham, who is retiring from Test match rugby after the World Cup, will undergo exploratory surgery in Montpellier on Monday that will determine whether or not his international career is at an end.
Larkham's place was taken by rookie Berrick Barnes, who made his Test debut off the bench in last weekend's 91-3 win over Japan, while coach John Connolly's other changes saw prop Guy Shepherdson and winger Drew Mitchell come into the starting side. Australian fans looked to match the home support among the 74,500 crowd and they were the first to cheer when Wales prop Gethin Jenkins was punished for going off his feet and captain Stirling Mortlock put his side ahead after 90 seconds with a penalty.
It was then Wales' turn to dominate and Barnes showed signs of nerves with a poor clearance kick, while Mitchell put his side under pressure when he twice slipped on the lush surface to concede a line-out deep inside the Australian half. Stephen Jones levelled the scores after six minutes after the Wallabies were penalised for pulling down a maul and Wales demonstrated their intent by twice getting winger Shane Williams involved in the early action.
A steal in the line-out by Ian Gough enabled the Welsh to pile on the pressure and Jones had a chance to put his side in front after 12 minutes when the Australians forwards went off their feet but he pushed his second kick at goal wide of the mark. The first try went to Australia, however, when Barnes sliced between Adam Jones and Dwayne Peel and sent the supporting Matt Giteau over between the posts.
Barnes appeared to be tackled late by Thomas but he got to his feet after treatment, in time to watch Mortlock add the conversion to make it 10-3. In a tough and physical opening, Wales lost Charvis for a spell in the blood bin and centre Sonny Parker was carried off on a stretcher midway through the first half after hurting his knee in an innocuous tackle.
Kevin Morgan came on to replace him, with Thomas switching to the threequarters but the captain also went off on 21 minutes with a damaged shoulder, the result of a collision with Mortlock. That meant the introduction of James Hook rather earlier than Jenkins had planned, the fly-half slotting in at inside centre, and the injuries appeared to have a destabilising effect on the Welsh.
With the Wallabies in the ascendancy, Barnes increased their lead to 13-3 with a 40-metre drop goal before Mortlock was wide with a penalty from a similar distance. Jones then missed his second kick at goal after flanker George Smith had been penalised for offside and, although Wales continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack, they were stung by two tries in a six-minute spell before the break.
Winger Mark Jones lost the ball in Giteau's crunching tackle and prop Matt Dunning seized on possession to send George Gregan racing down the touchline. His kick ahead bounced kindly for Mortlock, who touched down for the 25th try of his Test career.
The Welsh had barely recovered from that shock when full-back Chris Latham finished off a sweeping move, taking Mitchell's inside ball after Giteau had produced a telling cut-out pass. Mortlock kicked his third goal from attempts to stretch his side's lead to 22 points.
Wales clearly needed the interval for they were a rejuvenated side at the start of the second half and scored their first try within four minutes of the restart. Hook's probing run gave his forwards a perfect attacking position and, after Adam Jones was brought down just short, Jonathan Thomas forced his way over the line.
Hook added the conversion but cut Australia's lead to 25-10 but the 1999 champions stormed back with a vengeance. George Smith made a determined run for the line and Giteau was bundled into touch but the pressure was relieved when Giteau missed a penalty kick at goal.
A late tackle by Latham on Morgan enabled Wales to push their opponents back into their 22 and Hook landed a penalty to make further inroads into Australia's lead. He was also short with an ambitious attempt from almost halfway. Wales' brave resistance was finally ended just short of the hour mark when Australia scored their fourth try which earned them a bonus point.
Latham's high kick took a wicked bounce to deceive Stephen Jones and the Wallaby full-back was on hand to re-gather and race away for his second try. Giteau's first goal from three attempts made it 32-13 but Australia were reduced to 14 men on 65 minutes when Mitchell was sin-binned - and could yet be banned - for a dangerous tackle on Welsh hooker Matthew Rees.
The Wallabies were briefly down to 13 men when lock Nathan Sharpe was shown a yellow card for failing to roll away from the tackle and Wales struck for a consolation try, Shane Williams making the most of a failed interception by Giteau to touch down at the corner. Hook added the conversion to add a touch of respectability to the scoreline but it could not mask a comprehensive defeat.
Wales 20 (3)
Australia 32 (25)
Wales: G Thomas (Cardiff Blues, capt); M Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues), S Parker (Ospreys), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Llanelli Scarlets), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues), M Rees (Llanelli Scarlets), A Jones (Ospreys), I Gough (Ospreys), AW Jones (Ospreys), C Charvis (Newport Gwent Dragons), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), J Thomas (Ospreys).
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas (Cardiff Blues), D Jones (Ospreys), M Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons), A Popham (Llanelli Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys), J Hook (Ospreys), K Morgan (Newport Gwent Dragons).
Australia: Chris Latham; Drew Mitchell, Stirling Mortlock (capt), Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri; Berrick Barnes, George Gregan; Matt Dunning, Stephen Moore, Guy Shepherdson, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, George Smith, Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Adam Freier, Al Baxter, Mark Chisholm, Stephen Hoiles, Phil Waugh, Scott Staniforth, Julian Huxley.
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Man of the Match: Chris Latham (Australia)
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