Wales just edge out Wallabies

tshiunza aus.jpg
Exeter Chiefs forward Christ Tshiunza is all smiles at the final whistle after Wales just edged out Australia in their final Autumn Test match. Picture: JMP Sport

By Mark Stevens

Wales recorded a third successive victory over Australia as they ended their Autumn Nations Series campaign by beating the 14-man Wallabies 29-28 in dramatic fashion.

Substitute Rhys Priestland’s penalty with the final kick of a frantic game thwarted Australia and sent a 68,000 Principality Stadium crowd wild.

Australia No.8 Rob Valetini was sent off after just 15 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Wales lock Adam Beard, who played no further part in the game as a result, but Wales were pushed to the wire and outscored 3-2 on tries by a resilient Wallabies outfit.

Hooker Ryan Elias and centre Nick Tompkins scored tries for Wales, yet it was fly-half Dan Biggar’s goalkicking that proved the difference, as he amassed 16 points through four penalties and two conversions, until Priestland struck.

Australia, desperate for a win following losses to Scotland and England, made Wales fight every inch of the way despite the numerical disadvantage, as wings Andrew Kellaway and Filipo Daugunu touched down, with former Exeter Chiefs scrum-half Nic White also scoring.

James O’Connor booted two penalties and two conversions, yet his conversion attempt of Daugunu’s late score hit the post, and Wales could breathe a huge sigh of relief, despite Kurtley Beale’s 78th-minute penalty.

Post-game, Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said he was "proud" of his side after they finished their Autumn campaign with two wins from four matches.

"Two wins from four in what's probably the toughest autumn we've faced to date," said Pivac. "With the squad that we've faced it with, I'm really proud of the group and the effort they've put in week in, week out behind the scenes.

"When the dust settles, we'll look back at the squad we've used, the depth that we've created. When we go one to 15 on our depth chart, the benefits will lie there, really Everyone has to deal with Covid and we had a couple of scares in the camp. It's been a difficult time. To come out with a win, no matter how it comes, we're just pleased to get that result. To fall behind and then to get it at the death, we probably made 70,000 people and everyone watching at home pretty happy."

Since succeeding Warren Gatland in 2019, Pivac has focused on improving Wales' strength in depth in preparation for the 2023 World Cup and during the four games, he has used close to 40 players, including highly-rated Exeter Chiefs young gun, Christ Tshiunza, who came on during the second half for his second Test cap.

“Individually there have been some very good performances, we're really pleased and the depth is building," the New Zealander said. "But you've got some serious international talent and experience that is missing at the moment. When those boys are available and at the peak of their powers, some of them are some of the best in the world.

"We've learned a lot about players each week, that's why it's so pleasing to get this result [against Australia] with the side that finished up on the field. If you'd have asked me before we named our initial squad, if you'd have said we'd finish the game clawing back a two-point deficit with a minute and a half to go, with that side, I'd have thought you were joking. It's just a credit to all those young men out there. Ben Carter came on at about 15 minutes and had to call the line-outs. Just a marvellous job.

"Christ Tshiunza coming on. Again, he throws himself about, he's full of energy. At 19 years of age, what an exciting young talent. Taine Basham who came in after the summer where he was a bit undercooked, he came in and made four starts and played well. The depth chart is now looking a little bit better than it was at the start of this campaign."

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