Wales – Australia 28-33: Yet another agonising defeat for Wales

EVERY rugby enthusiast must experience the immense atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium. There are certain things that hit an emotional soft spot in even the toughest and bravest men. The tears in the eyes of the old gentleman seated next to me during the ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ on Remembrance Day was one of those ‘goosebump-moments’. The passion and pride shared by the crowd and the male voice choir raised the roof even if it was retracted for the occasion. If that does not amaze you then nothing will. The roof being closed almost gave the feel of an intimate indoor event, and it provided a tremendous frame for a thrilling encounter between Wales and Australia.

walesvaus1The first game of this year’s Autumn Internationals also marked my first real taste of international rugby. As I was making my way down towards the River Taff and the stadium through the Cardiff City Centre, surrounded by thousands of supporters and numerous mobile kiosks selling rugby memorabilia, I was like a kid in a candy store. Very much in the same way Charlie entered the gates to Willy Wonka’s wondrous chocolate factory, I was eagerly anticipating the intense atmosphere of an international test match at the Millennium.

I must admit I was left speechless by the ear-splitting noise that erupted after national anthems and the indoor fireworks. What followed was a relentless, madcap first half. A truly entertaining and hard-fought game went along in a rather familiar groove, as Wales suffered yet another agonising late defeat to Australia.

That being said, there are a number of encouraging aspects to extract from the defeat from a Welsh perspective. They scored four tries to Australia’s three. Wales came out with intent and got off to a flying start with Rhys Webb selling a dummy and crossing the line after only three minutes. George North, Leigh Halfpenny, and Dan Biggar linked up well on several occasions until the latter was forced off with a groin injury early in the second half, resulting in substantial periods of possession and their second try by Alex Cuthbert. A sublime collective effort by the Welsh pack just before the break culminated with Alun Wyn Jones crossing for their third. Samson Lee, in particular, was omnipresent and outstanding as the replacement for the more experienced Adam Jones. Moreover, Jake Ball and Dan Lydiate, as well as Gethin Jenkins and Scott Baldwin who came off the bench, buried themselves in heavy duties. The strenuous work-ethic of the Welsh forwards yet again payed off as Craig Joubert awarded them a penalty-try following a series of scrums the Wallabies could not cope with.

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Two mistakes and a powerful run by Tevita Kuridrani proved too costly for the Welsh. First, Biggar failed to close down Michael Hooper as he brilliant offloaded to Israel Folau for his 16th try in 26 Tests. Second, a long-pass by Webb aimed for Liam Williams on the wing was intercepted by Folau who sprinted 80 metres untouched for his second. During the Rugby Championship, Kuridrani proved to be one of the most dangerous runners for the Wallabies. The way he burst through challenges by Cuthbert and Wyn Jones to score Australia’s third once again highlighted the physical appearance and danger he adds to the game.

Wales was in the lead with thirteen minutes left on the clock and looked on track to finally end their twenty-match losing run to the Southern Hemisphere ‘Big-Three’. However, they failed to wound down the clock to claim a much-needed win. Instead, a penalty and an elegant drop-goal off the boot of the masterful Bernard Foley left the home side to lament yet another lost lead.

It was a true nail-biter for the neutral supporter, a memorable experience for me, and an overall thrilling start to a big month of rugby.