Careless Wales Fall Again

Possession 60% – 40%. Territory 63% – 37%. Pretty compelling stats those aren’t they? Usually, if the game ends with numbers like that, there’s only one winner.

Not at Twickenham this afternoon where Wales dominated the game for large periods, but were in no mind to accumulate points. Instead, seemingly not heeding the lessons of recent matches, they went for the jugular while 2 men up for 7 minutes and failed to convert any of the pressure.

The game was dominated by Australia’s defence and, as probably feared before the game, Wales lack of creativity and killer instinct. To be in with a chance of winning these matches, you have to put yourself in good positions – and Wales regularly did that.

The attacking composure evident in Australia’s last game against England was not in evidence this evening. In fact, it was a surprise to see Australia make so many errors and turn over the ball in so many key positions. Wales managed to disrupt Australia’s lineout and even began pretty strongly at scrum-time, although that wasn’t sustainable.

Wales Fall Again

But all of that is totally irrelevant if you can’t build scoreboard pressure – and Wales didn’t with all the opportunities they had to do so. You wonder who was making those decisions during the periods Australia were without Genia and Mumm – and were they pre-planned or spur of the moment. But, the fact was, this wasn’t five minutes from the end with Wales chasing the game.

With twenty minutes remaining, Wales could have taken the points, received the ball from kick-off and manoeuvred their way again to within point-scoring range and kept the scoreboard ticking over. However, the longer Wales hammered away at the Australian line without any success, the more you expected them to weather the storm, and to come away, score points of their own and contain Wales until the end of the game.

And that is exactly what they did, by turning stout defence into effective attack. In the moments when the Australians were down through the cards and the minutes following their return, Australia showed just how battle-hardened, intelligent, professional and bloody-minded they really are. From the joie de vivre of last Saturday to the grit and determination of tonight, where Wales threw their own little kitchen sink at them this team have shown exactly how to win pretty and win ugly, against two excellent sides.

This has once again shown the gap there still is between Northern and Southern Hemisphere sides. There will be some who say Wales pushed them close, but with open eyes it has to be acknowledged that this is the way to win close games. For all the bluff and bluster Wales showed, they were not clinical or professional enough to finish off the job they had started so well.

If they had any real aspirations on this trophy, this was an ideal opportunity to show just what they are capable of. In many ways, with the difficult route they now have to plot, the teams that await them probably won’t be that worried tonight, if they ever were. It’s an uphill climb now, but the same could also be said of Australia. As Michael Cheika said this week, the longer you are involved in a tournament, the more brutal the games get.

Obviously, Wales face the tougher route now and must return to Twickenham to play South Africa. But that is the only game they can think of now. It really is one game at a time. But in knock out rugby the aim is to play with no fear – form and reputation count for very little in the later stages.

There will be tough lessons to be learned this evening, and over the next week, and this team will be fed up of having to feel “proud” in defeat. But that’s the way it is when you lose, especially in this manner. It’s South Africa next – who Wales beat last Autumn. Every time Wales seem to take steps forward, they appear to also go back one or two, and to see Wales fall again in this manner is both frustrating and heart-breaking. Further advancement requires the schooling they have had for some time now is dredged from the depths and put into play this week.

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