Wales 28-33 Australia
Wales left licking their wounds once again
Steven Saunders
November 8, 2014
Israel Folau sprints away for Australia © Getty Images
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Eight minutes. That's how close Wales were to finally beating one of the southern hemisphere's big three. By comparison to Wales' previous defeats to Australia in Cardiff, it's an eternity, last year's winning score being about eight seconds from the end, after all.

But while it might indicate that Warren Gatland and his men are slipping further and further from finally breaking a hoodoo that now reads Played 26, Lost 25 against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, there is still reason to believe it can be oh so different when Wales and Australia meet at Twickenham in the World Cup next October.

Something has to change; however, that something has little to do with belief or talent or tactics. It's plain old stupid luck, especially when it comes to injuries.

After a whirlwind start that had seen Wales take the lead, lose it, get back on level terms then fall behind again, they said goodbye to Leigh Halfpenny, yet again. This time it seems it is a concussion that knocked the full-back out of the game, sustained in the build-up to Tevita Kuridrani's score in the 28th minute. Dan Biggar assumed kicking duties but also the kicker's curse, pulling a groin early in the second half. Rhys Priestland should count himself lucky that he avoided any damage while being the nominal place-kicker for the final quarter of the match.

 
"George North - in just his second start in the centres at Test level - was as pulverising a threat from the middle of the pitch as we are accustomed to seeing out wide"
 

Having been without Halfpenny for both Tests against South Africa in June, Wales will now fear he could be sidelined for the remaining matches this autumn. Fiji should be taken care of regardless next weekend, but New Zealand on November 22 and South Africa seven days later become far more appetising encounters with Halfpenny to call upon.

On the plus side, centres Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams could be back in contention having missed out against Australia through (you guessed it) injury, which would see George North return to the wing. That said, North - in just his second start in the position at Test level - was as pulverising a threat from the middle of the pitch as we are accustomed to seeing out wide.

It was his speed that set up Alex Cuthbert to cross for a 19th-minute try; it was his power that bulldozed over the line around the hour-mark, and while the TMO decided he had not been able to ground the ball, the ensuing series of scrum-fives built pressure on the Australian pack, whose repeated infringement - five consecutive resets - brought about a penalty try.

At that point, the challenge for Wales was to see things out. A one-point lead with 15 minutes to go, however, was barely likely to be enough. Australia showed calm heads to recycle, recycle, recycle for virtually the remainder of the match, and Bernard Foley's drop goal was only fractionally more inevitable than the concession of a penalty by Sam Warburton with two minutes to play, which allowed Foley to increase the match-winning gap to five points.

Skipper Warburton looked crestfallen after North knocked on to end the match. Wales and their supporters now need to hope his post-match visit to the physio's room raised his spirits.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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