Wales were prepared, precise – and managed the game beautifully
The game was always going to prove pivotal for the outcome of Pool D
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