Wales were pre­pared, pre­cise – and man­aged the game beau­ti­fully

The game was al­ways go­ing to prove piv­otal for the out­come of Pool D

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Rugby -

Toomua went for touch in the 22. That is po­ten­tially a try to Aus­tralia from that line-out, and game over.

Owen Watkin’s ball rip on 75 min­utes, Liam Wil­liams’s ball rip on 79 min­utes … how of­ten have we seen Aus­tralia win th­ese tight games? For Wales to make those de­ci­sions and ex­e­cute when they are that tired is a tes­ta­ment to their prepa­ra­tion and con­di­tion­ing, hav­ing the aware­ness to make those key de­ci­sions when you are fa­tigued late in the game.

Wales’s line speed at times was fan­tas­tic, whereas con­versely Aus­tralia are a team who do not bring much speed off the line in de­fence. They let you play a bit, and Wales took ad­van­tage of that.

When Aus­tralia did look re­ally dan­ger­ous was when Toomua came off the bench and they played flat, the speed of their pass­ing was ex­cel­lent. They forced Wales to keep re­treat­ing.

On the Samu Kerevi in­ci­dent with Rhys Patchell, I am some­what torn. Kerevi has lifted his wrist, but it is not an el­bow to the throat. How many times have we seen those just waved on? Patchell was too high with the tackle, you could even ar­gue that he has used his head to tackle. It is not a head­butt, but it is head on head.

I am split on it. I could feel sym­pa­thy for both camps to be hon­est, and therein lies the prob­lem. If my­self and a lot of other peo­ple are split on it, then it can­not be good for the game, and espe­cially for the play­ers. Is Kerevi sim­ply meant to run and take a head-on-head con­tact and not even brace him­self? I felt for him there.

Back to Wales, I spoke with Shaun Ed­wards, the de­fence coach, the other day and he dis­cussed the play­ers tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. It is now un­ac­cept­able for th­ese Wales play­ers to make a tackle and then not do any work af­ter the tackle. You can see it has been coached into them – ev­ery player af­ter a tackle is think­ing: “What’s my next role? I can­not sim­ply lie here on the deck hold­ing the other player’s legs – can I get on the ball? Can I take an op­pos­ing player out? Can I slow the ball down?”

That is all com­ing into the game and has been hugely in­flu­en­tial.

This was a col­lec­tive ef­fort, but I also felt Gareth Davies was sen­sa­tional. He has been do­ing those in­ter­cep­tion tries for the last cou­ple of years, usu­ally closer to his own try line when Wales are de­fend­ing. It is al­most as if he now has been given a li­cence by Ed­wards to go for those in­ter­cepts.

If you get it wrong it can cre­ate a “dog-leg” in the de­fence, leav­ing a gap be­hind that rush­ing player in the de­fen­sive line. Yet when you get it right, it can kill an op­po­nent’s mo­men­tum. Aus­tralia were fight­ing their way back into the game at that point, and then, bang. Seven points.

I am re­ally ex­cited by that per­for­mance. We knew as soon as the draw was made two years ago that this game would de­cide the out­come of the group. That is said with no dis­re­spect to Fiji or the other teams, but it was al­ways go­ing to prove piv­otal for the out­come of Pool D. Wales have worked ex­tremely hard for this vic­tory.

Locked lips: Alun Wyn Jones, who won his 130th cap yes­ter­day, kisses Ge­orge North at the end of the match

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