Australia dispel rumours of demise with five-try demolition of Wales

• Wales 8-32 Australia
• Rob Howley’s first game in charge ends in embarrassing demolition

Australia usually leave it late against Wales but this time they had secured victory by half-time against a team that look very much as they did in the last meeting between the sides, 13 months ago: big and powerful but ponderous and slow-witted. The men in red have become known as slow burners in the autumn and here, on bonfire night, they spluttered like a damp firework, unable to hold a Roman candle to a side supposedly in crisis.

It was Australia’s 12th successive victory in the series and their most comfortable for seven years as they started their five-Test tour of Europe with an assurance and fluency that belied their record of seven defeats in 10 Tests this year. They attacked with intent from the outset, using their two openside flankers to ensure quick ball from the breakdown and Wales could only watch as Bernard Foley played the role of conjuror from fly-half.

Foley stood flat, attacked the line and took advantage of support runners inside and outside him to get in behind the defence. He only received ball that was recycled at speed; otherwise Australia used their forwards, principally their captain, Stephen Moore, who was influential throughout, to take the ball up and start again. The Wallabies were calculated and discerning while Wales had to be told at half-time to hustle Foley and close his space down more quickly.

Wales aimed to surprise Australia by swapping their wings, George North and Alex Cuthbert, but not changing their numbers. It only seemed to confuse the players themselves, especially in defence, with Foley adept at exploiting their uncertainty whether to stay out wide with their marker or move inside to collar the ball-carrier and, in its way, it summed up a gap in that all that was natural came from the Wallabies.

Australia led by 20-3 at the interval having enjoyed 79% of the territory. They cut Wales at will, scoring three first-half tries, blowing two more through handling errors and were denied another when Dan Biggar tackled Dane Haylett-Petty in advance of the wing receiving a scoring pass from Israel Folau and was sent to the sin-bin. If the first was prosaic, the deserving Moore at the bottom of a driving maul having opted to kick a penalty to touch, the other two reflected the Wallabies speed of thought, hand and movement.

Dan Biggar, right, was sent to the sin-bin for an early tackle.
Dan Biggar, right, was sent to the sin-bin for an early tackle. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

First Reece Hodge cut inside after receiving the ball from Foley and, as North and Leigh Halfpenny wondered whom to take, exchanged passes with Israel Folau on his way to a try. Six minutes from the break, North was again left pondering whether to stick or twist as Tevita Kuridrani came down his way. It would have been more had Haylett-Petty held on to Foley’s well-timed pass and Bradley Davies not foiled a break-out by picking up Kuridrani’s pass in his own 22.

Wales were fortunate to head for the dressing room with three points courtesy of the boot of Leigh Halfpenny who, after such a long time out of the international game, was subdued throughout. When they did have the ball, they either used Dan Biggar to send it high into the air and away from Folau or try to crash through the middle. It made no impression on opponents who play the All Blacks three times a year and, while the home side improved marginally in the second period, the Wallabies were by then thinking about the next leg of their tour in Scotland.

Foley extended their lead on 54 minutes after another stunningly simple move; three passes, all drawing defenders, giving the fly-half the space to make an outside break and again expose a defence far more comfortable with opponents trying to run through rather than round them.

Wales gained a slither of consolation when Scott Williams, spotting that the defence had rushed up, chipped into space and reached his kick first, and Cuthbert and Hallam Amos were both denied by last-ditch tackles, but Haylett-Petty completed the scoring after Wales ceded their 17th turnover of the match. By then, many of a crowd that was nearly 20,000 below capacity had departed, some letting it be known that they were not in the mood to hear excuses.

Other than it being Wales’s first run-out against a team that were match-hardened – not that they were saying that in reverse after giving New Zealand a game for an hour in the first Test in June – there were none. A side that have for the last eight years prided themselves on their defence have now conceded 26 tries in their last five internationals, evolving in words rather than deeds.

They were without three of their back-five forwards and badly missed Liam Williams at full-back – not that the Wallabies provided many opportunities to counterattack, keeping the ball in hand, and kicking to attack. Wales did not have a lineout in the first half and won their first on the hour, and they were hit by the withdrawal of the centre Jonathan Davies through injury, but mindset rather than personnel is their problem; analogue men in a digital world.

Wales Halfpenny; North (Amos 60), Williams, Roberts, Cuthbert; Biggar (S Davies 63), Webb (G Davies 64); Jenkins (capt; Smith 58), Owens (Baldwin 58), Lee (Francis 58), B Davies (Hill 62), Charteris, Lydiate (King 68), Tipuric, Moriarty Sin-bin Biggar 15 Try Williams Pen Halfpenny

Australia Folau; Haylett-Petty, Kuridrani, Hodge, Speight (Naivalu 77); Foley (Cooper 77), Phipps (Frisby 66); Sio (Slipper 67), Moore (capt; Latu 77), Kepu (Ala’alatoa 62), Arnold (Simmons 62), Coleman, Pocock (Fardy ht), Hooper, Timani Tries Moore, Hodge, Kuridrani, Foley, Haylett-Petty Cons Foley 2 Pen Foley

Referee Craig Joubert (SA) Attendance 55,776

Game rating 7/10


Paul Rees at the Principality Stadium

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