It’s the same old song for Wales but they do hit some high notes

The Rugby Paper - - Autumn Internationals - By ALEX BY­WA­TER

THE HOODOO con­tin­ued as Wales suf­fered a 13th straight de­feat to Aus­tralia who again em­pha­sised their dom­i­nance over War­ren Gat­land’s side with a clin­i­cal dis­play.

Tries from Tatafu PolotaNau, Adam Cole­man, cap­tain Michael Hooper and a cru­cial Kurt­ley Beale ef­fort at the Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium en­abled the vis­i­tors to ex­tend their win­ning run in Cardiff which dates back to 2008.

Wales’ new at­tack­ing ap­proach saw them score through a sub­lime St­ef­fan Evans try and a late Hal­lam Amos ef­fort, but as dan­ger­ous as they looked with ball in hand, Gat­land’s side were also leaky with­out it.

It would have left the Kiwi head coach scratch­ing his head, de­spite the fact there were pos­i­tives – as well as neg­a­tives – to be taken from this en­counter.

Gat­land’s se­lec­tion of Owen Wil­liams and Evans be­hind the scrum gave Wales ex­tra po­tency, but too many times Aus­tralia were al­lowed to power over the gain line. Bernard Fo­ley kicked three con­ver­sions and Leigh Half­penny booted 11 points, but it was the vis­i­tors who came out on top.

Gat­land said: “I don’t think there was any­thing out there that showed we had a men­tal block against Aus­tralia, we were just ar­chi­tects of our own down­fall.

“We were much bet­ter in the sec­ond half and we got stronger and stronger as the game went on. If Kurt­ley Beale hadn’t scored his try then we would have had a shot at a come­back.

“The mes­sage was pa­tience and I thought our at­tack­ing game was pretty good. We will get bet­ter from this and im­prove for Ge­or­gia next week.”

The odds were stacked against Wales, even be­fore kick-off. Back row in­juries had forced Josh Na­vidi and Aaron Shin­gler into start­ing on the flank, while rookie cen­tre Owen Wil­liams be­gan out­side fly­half Dan Big­gar as Gat­land opted for a twin playmaker sys­tem for the first time.

Evans also made his first home Test start on the left wing, with Leigh Half­penny at full-back and Liam Wil­liams com­plet­ing the back three.

Gat­land – who main­tained in the build-up to this game that Wales are gen­uine con­tenders for the 2019 World Cup – changed his team’s ap­proach with Wil­liams along­side Big­gar and Jonathan Davies in mid­field.

It was a marked con­trast with the past as the Kiwi head coach looked for his first ever open­ing au­tumn win in charge of Wales. It failed to ma­te­ri­alise.

Aus­tralia, even with­out ab­sent ge­nius Is­rael Fo­lau, proved too much for Wales to deal with in at­tack as Beale, Fo­ley and man of the match Will Ge­nia played star­ring roles.

The Wal­la­bies – who fielded 13 starters from the team which beat New Zealand last month – were the dom­i­nant force de­spite an im­proved home dis­play.

Wales, tra­di­tion­ally slow out of the blocks at this time of year, wanted a fast start. But they weren’t helped by run­ning out to a sparsely pop­u­lated Prin­ci­pal­ity Sta­dium, in­creased se­cu­rity mea­sures lead­ing to large queues out­side the ground which many strug­gled to by­pass in time for kick-off.

When the game did be­gin, Liam Wil­liams’ charge­down of a Reece Hodge kick gave Wales im­pe­tus and Half­penny opened the scor­ing with a penalty af­ter Polota-Nau was caught off­side.

Aus­tralia soon hit back. Fo­ley’s cross-kick tar­geted Evans and af­ter he was bun­dled into touch, a driv­ing Wal­laby li­ne­out proved un­stop­pable.

Polota-Nau emerged with the ball over the line and Fo­ley con­verted to spark two more quick scores.

First, Evans went over for his third Test try. Gareth Davies’ elec­tric break gave Wales mo­men­tum and the mid­field com­bi­na­tion of Big­gar and Owen Wil­liams spread the ball left for the Scar­lets man to dive over in the cor­ner.

It was a fine fin­ish to a flow­ing team move, Half­penny giv­ing the fi­nal pass.

The full-back con­verted, but al­most as soon as Wales were ahead, they re­lin­quished their ad­van­tage. Aus­tralia went straight back up the other end to score.

Evans did well to scram­ble away some dan­ger, but Michael Cheika’s men bashed away and Ge­nia’s flat pass gave Cole­man an easy fin­ish.

Fo­ley nailed the ex­tras. Wales, in their search for a greater at­tack­ing threat, did look more dan­ger­ous than they have done so in the past. But they also made some ba­sic er­rors and strug­gled to bring down Aus­tralia’s pow­er­ful ball car­ri­ers and stop quick Wal­laby ball.

The re­sult was a 22-13 half-time lead for the vis­i­tors, Hodge’s mon­ster penalty from wide out re­sponded to from one by Half­penny be­fore Hooper dived over.

It was an­other sim­ple score for the vis­i­tors, the men in green and gold smash­ing the ball up the mid­dle down be­fore chang­ing di­rec­tion. Hooper was the ben­e­fi­ciary, mak­ing the most of in­de­ci­sion from Evans to make his way to the line de­spite the at­ten­tion of three Welsh tack­lers.

Wales had plenty of ball at the start of the sec­ond pe­riod, with­out mak­ing a de­ci­sive break­through. Half­penny kicked a sim­ple penalty to nar­row their deficit, but pushed a mon­ster ef­fort from halfway nar­rowly wide.

Still, the home team looked dan­ger­ous in pos­ses­sion with the two Davies’ lively, as was their Scar­lets team-mate Evans. But just af­ter the hour mark, Beale broke Welsh hearts.

As he had done here in

2012, the full-back crossed for a game-defin­ing try. With Wales in pos­ses­sion, Evans car­ried for­ward and the hosts felt he was tack­led high by Te­vita Kuridrani. Glen Jack­son failed to blow and Beale stripped the ball for an easy 50-me­tre run to the line.

Fo­ley con­verted to make it 29-16 and with that, the game was done.

Wales had just 37 caps of ex­pe­ri­ence on their bench and in con­trast, Aus­tralia boasted 293.

Gat­land still un­loaded his fresh legs and Amos re­placed the ex­cel­lent Evans, while Owen Watkin stepped in for Owen Wil­liams. Sam Cross and Leon Brown also won their first caps and Wales were given a sniff of a come­back when Hooper was yel­low carded for en­ter­ing a ruck from the side.

With a nu­mer­i­cal ad­van­tage, Wales bashed away and cap­tain Alun Wyn Jones was one to go close. Fi­nally, a sec­ond try ar­rived.

Jonathan Davies kicked the ball to the cor­ner and Amos col­lected to ac­ro­bat­i­cally dive over.

It was a pos­i­tive fin­ish to a game in which Wales had their mo­ments, but by that time Gat­land’s men had al­ready paid the price for not con­vert­ing their chances.

Screamer: Adam Cole­man is ec­static af­ter scor­ing the sec­ond try for Aus­tralia

Sniper: Gareth Davies cuts through the de­fence

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

Late show: Hal­lam Amos dives in for the sec­ond Wales try in the last minute

Cru­cial try: Kurt­ley Beale scores Aus­tralia’s fourth

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