|2019 Rugby World Cup: Australia v Wales|
|Australia (8) 25|
|Tries: Ashley-Cooper, Haylett-Petty, Hooper Cons: Toomua 2 Pens: Foley, Toomua|
|Wales (23) 29|
|Tries: Parkes, G Davies Cons: Patchell, Biggar Pens: Patchell 3 Drop-goals: Biggar, Patchell|
Australia fought back with a try of their own from a cross-field kick as Adam Ashley-Cooper touched down, but then Gareth Davies intercepted a pass from Will Genia before sprinting to clear to give Wales a 23-8 half-time lead.
Dane Haylett-Petty’s try early in the second half renewed Australian hope and brought to Welsh minds a foreboding sense of history repeating against a team who had beaten them agonisingly on so many occasions.
Those fears deepened as Michael Hooper drove over from close range and Matt Toomua kicked a penalty to reduce the Wallabies’ deficit to 26-25, only for replacement Rhys Patchell to kick his third penalty to restore Wales’ lead to four points.
With two wins from their first two matches, Wales are now in pole position to finish top of Pool D and earn themselves a potentially more favourable draw in the knockout stages.
Another Wales-Wallabies classic
Given the high stakes and the enduring rivalry the two sides had developed over the past decade, this fixture was among the most hotly anticipated of the World Cup pool stage.
It lived up to the hype – and then some – as both teams contributed to an absorbing, emotionally draining spectacle.
Welsh fans had travelled in their thousands to Tokyo, but they were outnumbered by vast swathes of yellow shirts to such an extent that this felt like a home fixture for Australia before kick-off.
Wales fed on the electric atmosphere as they made a blistering start, back-row dynamo Aaron Wainwright counter-rucking brilliantly to give Biggar the opportunity to put Wales ahead with a drop-goal after less than a minute.
Gatland’s side maintained the furious pace as their forwards competed ferociously at the breakdown with Australia’s masters of that particular area, Hooper and David Pocock.
Playing with penalty advantage, Biggar lofted a cross-field kick to the right wing and Parkes rose above Marika Koroibete to grab the ball and touch down for the opening try.
Australia put the brakes on the Welsh charge when Bernard Foley found Ashley-Cooper with a cross-kick, but it was the men in red who had the final say of the half as Davies latched on to Genia’s pass and sped away to give Wales their largest ever half-time advantage over the Wallabies.
Even with a 15-point cushion, however, Wales knew they could take nothing for granted against their old foes.
Wales shake off history’s shackles
This has been a fixture which has brought heartbreak for Wales in most recent years, usually by tortuously narrow margins.
Between 2008 and 2018, they suffered 13 successive defeats against the Wallabies, with only two of those losses by more than nine points.
Last November, however, they arrested that rut with a gritty 9-6 victory in Cardiff.
That was a cathartic moment for Wales and, in Tokyo, they played with a freedom that suggested they had thrown away the shackles that seemed to weigh them down over the course of that decade-long losing run.
In Wainwright, Wales had a 22-year-old who had never lost against Australia and a player who announced himself as one of the emerging stars of this World Cup with a remarkable display of hard tackling, powerful carrying and disruptive work at the breakdown.
In Biggar, they had a player who had helped them secure victory against the Wallabies last year and who started this match imperiously, kicking at goal with his usual composure, setting up Parkes’ try and defending bravely.
He did so to a fault, injuring himself as he tackled the destructive Samu Kerevi. Biggar’s replacement, Rhys Patchell, another who had never lost to Australia, rose to the challenge with a fearless performance, particularly with the boot.
But like a recurring nightmare, back came Australia.
They started the second half superbly, dominating possession and territory as they pinned Wales back on their own try line.
Haylett-Petty was the benefactor of one particularly flowing sequence of phases, scoring from Pocock’s offload.
And then after another series of drives set the platform for Hooper to burrow over for Australia’s third try, replacement Toomua kicked a penalty to reduce Wales’ lead to 26-25.
This was too much to take for Wales’ supporters, while it was a minor miracle that their players could hold their nerve in such draining circumstances.
But they did so magnificently, holding on to their lead for dear life to keep alive their hopes of winning a first World Cup.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gareth Davies: The man who sets the pace for Wales’ line speed in defence was at his irresistible best, capping off an all-action display with a brilliant try.
Australia: Haylett-Petty; Ashley-Cooper, O’Connor, Kerevi, Koroibete; Foley, Genia; Sio, Latu, Alaalatoa, Rodda, Arnold, Pocock, Naisarani, Hooper (C)
Replacements: Uelese, Slipper, Kepu, Coleman, Salakaia-Loto, White, To’omua, Beale.
Officials: Referee, Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keefe (New Zealand), Mathew Carley (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)