Gat­land’s boys un­veil new tricks but Beale’s sleight of hand tops bill again

The Rugby Paper - - Autumn Internationals - PETER JACK­SON

As part of their pre-match en­ter­tain­ment, the Wales man­age­ment treated their squad to an evening in the com­pany of a ma­gi­cian duly ap­pre­ci­ated by a team ea­ger to re­dis­cover its wizardry.

Heaven knows a dis­ap­pear­ing act on Aus­tralia af­ter 12 straight de­feats had been long over­due. How ironic, that a tremen­dous Test match should end with Wales the un­sus­pect­ing vic­tims of a sleight of hand which was be­ing ar­gued about last night into the small hours.

Kurt­ley Beale’s im­pres- im­per­son­ation of a con­juror took the Wal­la­bies’ win­ning streak to 13. Like a gam­bler go­ing for the one card to com­plete a full suit of di­a­monds, he left Wales bam­boo­zled, be­mused and both­ered in equal mea­sure just as they threat­ened to run the Wal­la­bies off their feet.

Hav­ing spir­ited the ball clean out of St­eff Evans’ grasp, Beale then scorched away on a long solo run to touch down be­hind the posts by which time he had left the en­tire Wales team hope­lessly lost in a puff of smoke. It was all done in the blink of eye that even Glen Jack­son sus­pected there must have been some­thing more about it than met his eye, never mind every­one else’s.

The New Zealand ref­eree put it in the hands of the TMO, his sus­pi­cion no doubt height­ened by the ra­pid­ity with which Beale drop-kicked the con­ver­sion. Ex­am­i­na­tion of the video for any sign of a knock-on hav­ing found none, Jack­son duly con­firmed a try which ef­fec­tively put Aus­tralia out of reach at 29-16.

Fur­ther foren­sic ev­i­dence made a case, al­beit a less than con­vinc­ing one, that Beale had fum­bled the ball in the process of rob­bing Evans. By then Beale’s be­wil­der­ing ar­chi­tec­ture of an­other Aussie win was wing­ing its way into Wal­laby folk­lore.

If they didn’t quite

Glory be, a Welsh team play­ing in the tra­diti­nal way and with dis­ci­pline

man­age it on the score­board, Wales could claim a win of sorts. At last they had bro­ken the mould, re­al­is­ing at last that their one-di­men­sional power game had long been ob­so­lete. They re­placed it with a run­ning and han­dling game played at a pace which for 20 min­utes in the sec­ond half the Wal­la­bies were hard pushed to live with.

Glory be, a Welsh team play­ing in the tra­di­tional Welsh way and with dis­ci­pline so good that they con­ceded a mere three penal­ties. Nor could any­one dare ac­cuse them of lack­ing heart from the mo­ment that Beale’s spin of the wheel had stacked the odds against them.

In one match they pro­duced more wit and in­ven­tion last night than through­out last sea­son. They rat­tled the Wal­la­bies to such an ex­tent that their more fan­cied op­po­nents couldn’t cope with the red waves rolling in from all an­gles with­out pay­ing a price.

Michael Hooper’s sin­bin­ning 12 min­utes gave Wales more than the whiff of a fa­mous vic­tory. As their skip­per squirmed on the naughty chair, his be­lea­guered team some­how held out, their heroic de­fend­ing aided and abet­ted by a lack of Welsh

com­po­sure when they needed it most.

Alun-Wyn Jones lost the ball in lung­ing for the line and Hooper had no sooner come back than sub­sti­tute hooker Kris­tian Dacey stretched an arm only to find him­self inches short. Wales still had enough left for the fi­nal word, Hal­lam Amos win­ning a hair­line TMO de­ci­sion with a ter­rific fin­ish only min­utes af­ter re­plac­ing Evans.

For once, Wales pro­vided their fans with rea­son to be­lieve that they have changed their ways, ac­knowl­edg­ing, how­ever be­lat­edly, that the game re­quires run­ning round op­po­nents rather than through them.

In that re­spect Owen Wil­liams fully jus­ti­fied his se­lec­tion in the po­si­tion long oc­cu­pied by the block-bust­ing Jamie

At last Wales found hon­our in de­feat, a stark con­trast to the sur­ren­der last year

Roberts. He did more than enough to con­tinue at inside cen­tre one stop out­side Dan Big­gar and strengthen the fer­vent hope that their 10-12 com­bi­na­tion may yet prove to be the most cre­ative since Stephen Jones and Gavin Hen­son in 2005.

In the cold light of Mon­day morn­ing, they will not have to look far for the rea­sons why they have made a los­ing start, as they have done to ev­ery au­tumn se­ries since al­most the ad­vent of the 21st cen­tury. Mis­takes proved costly.

Evans, de­but long over­due, will be all the wiser for hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the highs and lows of Test foot­ball. Hav­ing in­tro­duced him­self by round­ing off a daz­zling eight-pass at­tack with an ex­cel­lent fin­ish, the Scar­let then had a hand, or more ac­cu­rately a foot in three of the Aussie tries.

Bernard Fo­ley’s dev­il­ishly clever punt to the corner forced Evans to con­cede the throw from which Hooper’s pack mauled their way over with alarm­ing ease. The harsh lessons for Evans didn’t end there.

A loose kick fell invit­ingly in mid­field, manna from heaven for a team whose half-backs, Will Ge­nia and Fo­ley, never missed a trick all night, rather like the ma­gi­cian who dropped into the Welsh team’s in­ner sanc­tum 48 hours ear­lier.

No sooner had Beale smug­gled the ball from Evans than the new cap made way for Amos. A raft of sub­sti­tu­tions fol­lowed as Wales kept their blitz at full throt­tle un­til the very end of an out­stand­ing Test.

At least Wales found hon­our in de­feat, a stark con­trast to their pa­thetic sur­ren­der to the same op­po­nents in the same sta­dium last year. But yet again they will be con­cerned about their in­abil­ity to put un­der­manned op­po­nents away.

When of­fered the most gen­er­ous of help­ing hands, in the World Cup at Twick­en­ham two years ago, Wales some­how found them­selves in­ca­pable of tak­ing ad­van­tage. The Wal­la­bies could af­ford to have two of their team sit­ting to­gether in the bin and still get away with it.

If Wales couldn’t beat 13 men, how could they hope to beat 15? The ques­tion had been asked ad in­fini­tum since they last man­aged it, so long ago that the All Blacks were in the 20th year of wait­ing to re­cap­ture the World Cup.

When­ever Wales ran them close in the nine years since, they al­ways con­trived to come up short.

Beale’s last-minute try five years ear­lier en­sured the clos­est call of all still went Aus­tralia’s way and so, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, Wales dis­cov­ered that the lessons of his­tory need to be learned if they are not to be re­peated.

Ma­gi­cian: Wal­laby full-back Kurt­ley Beale

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