Davies in­jury and Beale try leave Wales curs­ing luck

The Guardian - Sport - - Rugby Union Autumn Internationals - Michael Ayl­win

One might have thought all would be over­shad­owed by a 13th con­sec­u­tive de­feat against op­po­nents who, while un­ques­tion­ably bet­ter, are not in a dif­fer­ent league, but the prospect of los­ing Jonathan Davies for the rest of this au­tumn se­ries hung heav­ier over the Wales camp.

As if they did not al­ready know it had not been their day against Aus­tralia – again – such a feel­ing was re­in­forced when Davies went down in the last play of the game, seem­ing to twist his an­kle in a tackle. He re­ceived treat­ment af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle, and the look on his face as he was carted off was not en­cour­ag­ing. He fin­ished the evening strapped up and on crutches. War­ren Gat­land ad­mit­ted his sit­u­a­tion “doesn’t look bril­liant”.

His loss would be a ter­ri­ble blow when the All Blacks come to town the week­end af­ter next. Wales are as in tran­si­tion as any team in this mid­point be­tween World Cups, and are with­out a host of key per­son­nel any­way. Davies’s pres­ence in a post-Jamie Roberts mid­field feels vi­tal to the smooth­ness of that tran­si­tion.

Not only are Aus­tralia not in a dif­fer­ent league from Wales, they are in the same pool, for the sec­ond time run­ning, at the next World Cup, which ought to make the fa­mil­iar­ity of Wales’s re­sults against them cause more than a lit­tle con­cern. Gat­land and his cap­tain, Alun Wyn Jones, in­sisted that there was no men­tal block. In­deed, the mood was, on bal­ance, pos­i­tive.

“I think there is a lot be ex­cited about,” said Jake Ball, Jones’s sec­ond-row part­ner. “There has been a fresh­ness among the squad, new guys bring­ing new things.”

Cer­tainly, Wales know what it is to be un­lucky against Aus­tralia, even if the reg­u­lar­ity of their mis­for­tune sug­gests some­thing else is at work. This time they had cause to curse the fail­ure of the of­fi­cials to spot Kurt­ley Beale’s knock-on just be­fore he can­tered clear for the break­away try that killed off their hopes.

Wales were com­mend­ably san­guine, Gat­land rightly de­scrib­ing it as a “freak try”. In­stead, they pre­ferred to fo­cus on their own mis­takes, while re­main­ing pos­i­tive about the sub­tler lay­ers de­vel­op­ing in their at­tack­ing game. “There were some er­rors in our 22 that prob­a­bly cost us the game,” Ball said. “I don’t think there was a big dif­fer­ence be­tween the two of us. We are try­ing to de­velop that bit of X-fac­tor, but I think there is a point to go­ing through the phases. When we did that we achieved some good things.”

Ul­ti­mately, what el­e­vated Aus­tralia, as ever, was the con­ver­sion of chances. Like Wales, they were ex­per­i­ment­ing with their mid­field, in their case pack­ing it with heavy cavalry, but it re­mains their con­sum­mate ball play­ers who wield the in­flu­ence. Beale, with­drawn from cen­tre to full-back in the ab­sence of Is­rael Fo­lau, se­cured the game with his bril­liant dev­ilry at the start of the fi­nal quar­ter, scor­ing his con­tro­ver­sial try by bur­gling the ball from St­eff Evans, who was oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent, fin­ish­ing the try of the day.

Aus­tralia’s half-backs, Will Ge­nia and Bernard Fo­ley, had mas­ter­minded three first-half tries, the high­light be­ing Ge­nia’s beau­ti­ful flat pass to pick out Adam Cole­man for the sec­ond.

In be­tween the first and sec­ond tries, Wales replied with a beauty of their own, which earned them a brief lead, Evans fin­ish­ing sharply af­ter Gareth Davies’s break.

The fourth try did put the game be­yond Wales’s reach – and it shouldn’t have stood. Slow-mo­tion re­plays clearly showed Beale had dropped the ball for a split-sec­ond af­ter smug­gling it from Evans’s grasp. Beale was lucky, but he was witty too, the whole in­ci­dent a se­ries of out­ra­geous un­ortho­dox­ies. Wales must learn to make their own luck in the same way.

Jonathan Davies could miss the rest of the au­tumn se­ries with an an­kle in­jury

All the talk in the buildup to the start of Eng­land’s au­tumn in­ter­na­tion­als was how they would per­form with­out Owen Far­rell and Maro Itoje. But the big­gest miss for Ed­die Jones was Billy Vunipola. Ed­die was spot on when he said Eng­land didn’t click, but while I thought a lack of co­he­sion would be un­der­stand­able there was a fair bit more of it than I ex­pected. Vunipola’s ab­sence is mas­sive in that re­spect. Billy gives you 15-20 car­ries a game, it’s al­ways over the gain line, and when you don’t have some­one do­ing that it means you don’t have enough front-foot ball.

At times Eng­land looked good; when George Ford was able to get on the front foot he could bring play­ers into the game,

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