Wales break losing run against Australia with late Dan Biggar penalty

• Wales 9-6 Australia
• Penalty kicks from Leigh Halfpenny and Biggar seal narrow win

When a losing run is as long as this, any old win will do. Wales, after 13 consecutive defeats against Australia, finally managed to beat them. That the score was 9-6, a throwback to rugby union’s bad old days, did not matter a jot to a raucous crowd.

Nor should it, but to the neutral this made for desperate viewing. A match that was meandering to a slow death at 3-3 was salvaged by three penalties in the last quarter of an hour, as well as a touch of controversy when Samu Kerevi’s attempted charge-down of Leigh Halfpenny’s clearance was adjudged OK, despite the dreaded contact with the head. Moreover, Matt Toomua kicked Australia level at the end of the same passage, only for Dan Biggar to seal the win with two minutes to go.

All the same, 9-6. Those numbers sent everyone scurrying to the record books. We were transported back to the 1980s, the last time Wales won with as few points (1981, 9-8 against Ireland) or won in as low-scoring a game (1988, 11-3 against England). The professional era has not seen anything like this. But for those last 10 minutes, we might have been back in the 19th century, 3-3 entering the final quarter.

Thank the Great Redeemer, then, for some plot lines in the dying minutes. Halfpenny had just buried what would have been hideous torture by kicking Wales into a 6-3 lead with 10 minutes to go. In the first half he had missed two, repeat two, sitters by his standards, the second a blindfolded one. So when he was granted another shot from more or less the same spot, he was quick to step up and relieved to kick straight.

Which leads us to another plot line of incompetence. It has become fashionable in the modern game to turn down shots at goal in favour of the corner. Australia took this fashion to an absurd extreme, turning down easy shots twice in the second half and making a mess of the subsequent lineouts.

So Halfpenny’s success in the 68th minute, to establish a 6-3 lead for Wales, should not be taken for granted. Then came the controversy. Halfpenny cleared for touch, and Kerevi launched himself into an attempt to charge the ball down. Once airborne he could not prevent himself colliding with Halfpenny’s head, but should he have launched himself in the first place? Rugby can feel another furious debate coming on.

Either way, pandemonium in the stadium, all the more so when the referee waved play on, all the more again when he awarded the burrowing David Pocock his umpteenth penalty of the day. Only then, from the hardest position of all, did Australia summon a kicker, and Toomua landed it – 6-6.

It is difficult to know who should have been more disappointed with the match up to that point. Halfpenny held his head in his hands with that miss at the end of the first half, from pretty much in front on the 22. That just does not happen to him – or at least it never used to.

But Australia might have felt they too should have turned round in front. No one dominated possession or territory, but the slickest moves were theirs. Kerevi had a tilt at the line in the first half; Sefa Naivalu sparked another passage. But we are clutching at straws. Neither line was threatened.

It became, as ever, a battle of the breakdown, Justin Tipuric and Pocock vying with each other, but both offences for the teams’ respective three points of the first half were for a No 6 straying offside. That is about as uninspiring as points-scoring gets.

On it went into the second half - only without the points-scoring for most of it. Tatafu Polota-Nau supplied a plot twist vaguely worthy of the name, when he came in at the side to concede Halfpenny’s redemptive penalty. That set the scene for the relative drama of the last 10 minutes of the match.

After Halfpenny and Toomua had exchanged their penalties, Ned Hanigan failed to roll away from a tackle with five minutes to go, and Biggar stepped up to put Wales – and the rest of us – out of their misery.

Nevertheless, that is now seven wins in a row for the world’s No 3 team. The timing of next year’s World Cup is starting to look propitious.


Michael Aylwin at the Principality Stadium

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wales suffer old woes against wiles of Australia’s Bernard Foley
Wales were beaten 21-29 by Australia, a 13th consecutive such loss for Wales whose pressure in the game carried a sense of futility

Michael Aylwin at the Principality Stadium

11, Nov, 2017 @7:48 PM

Article image
Rhys Priestland strikes at the last to give Wales victory over 14-man Australia
Wales defeated their 14-man opponents 29-28 thanks to Rhys Priestland’s penalty with the last kick of the game

Michael Aylwin at the Principality Stadium

20, Nov, 2021 @8:06 PM

Article image
Australia dispel rumours of demise with five-try demolition of Wales
Rob Howley’s first game in charge of Wales ended in humiliation as Australia gave under-fire Michael Cheika a respite with a 32-8 win

Paul Rees at the Principality Stadium

05, Nov, 2016 @4:44 PM

Article image
Do not write Australia off against England, says coach Michael Cheika
Michael Cheika, after Australia’s 13th consecutive win over Wales, is already thinking about the prospect of facing England and is focused on preparing for Eddie Jones’s side

Michael Aylwin at the Principality Stadium

11, Nov, 2017 @9:00 PM

Article image
Wales capable of putting Wallabies under pressure, says Jonathan Davies
Wales tend to start autumn international campaigns slowly but Jonathan Davies, their centre, believes they are boxing clever and can produce something special against Australia

Paul Rees

04, Nov, 2017 @9:59 PM

Article image
Wales coach Warren Gatland hits out at Samu Kerevi’s ‘reckless’ chargedown
The Wales coach branded as ‘reckless’ a chargedown by Samu Kerevi that led to Leigh Halfpenny being removed for a head injury assessment in the 9-6 win over Australia

Michael Aylwin at the Principality Stadium

10, Nov, 2018 @10:45 PM

Article image
Wales 12-33 Australia: How they rated
Ratings for the players from Australia's 33-12 defeat of Wales at the Millennium Stadium

Paul Rees at the Millennium Stadium

28, Nov, 2009 @8:05 PM

Article image
Wales 16-25 Australia | Autumn international match report
Wales had plenty of possession but Australia's speed and clinical finishing once again proved decisive at the Millennium Stadium

Michael Aylwin at the Millennium Stadium

06, Nov, 2010 @4:49 PM

Article image
Wales' Lions left with damaging mental scars after loss to Australia | Eddie Butler
Eddie Butler: Welsh players who tour down under in 2013 are likely to be impacted by dramatic nature of defeat to Wallabies in Cardiff

Eddie Butler at the Millennium Stadium

01, Dec, 2012 @6:11 PM

Article image
Australia 20-19 Wales | Test match report
Australia completed their series whitewash over Wales thanks to two late penalties from Berrick Barnes

Michael Aylwin

23, Jun, 2012 @8:37 AM