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Key battles won and lost: How The Wallaroos won against Wales

By Matt Merritt
Australia celebrate during the WXV1 match between Australia Wallaroos and Wales at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart on November 03, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Ten minutes of ill discipline at the opening of the second half could have spelled the end for Australia, but instead it lit a fire under the Wallaroos who closed out their WXV 1 campaign with a ferocious rolling maul defence and a 25-19 win.
Wales held their own in a physical affair, with some powerful play through the centre of the park and aggressive tackling. They’ll rue missed chances in the first half though and allowing a comeback against a reduced strength team in the second will be a huge learning moment.
So where did Australia take the advantage against their Antipodean opposition? Let’s break it down:

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Front Row – Advantage Wales
Eva Karpani once again shone for Australia, scoring another try, threatening around the field and being rock solid at set piece.
Wales built their attack around power and they don’t come much more powerful than Sisilia Tuipulotu who Australia struggled to contain. Carys Phillips was a scoring threat once again and a menace at the breakdown too. Relapcement hooker Kelsey Jones, at the back of an impressive maul, gave Wales hope in the closing minutes of the game.

Second Row – Advantage Australia
A fairly balanced match up, with both teams’ engine rooms providing a constant tackling threat and ferocious workrate.
A yellow card for Australia’s Sera Naiqama marred her performance while Georgia Evans stood out for Wales with her defensive display and a key turnover in the second half. Ashley Marstsers, on for the final 20 minutes for Australia, was a key piece in their late game resurgence.

Back Row – Advantage Wales
Siokapesi Palu impressed for Australia in the first half, before being red carded for a high tackle a minute into the second 40. Emily Chancellor was a constant ruck threat.
The Welsh back row didn’t shine individually in the same way, but as a unit they continually frustrated Australia’s urge for quick ball, slowing down rucks, hitting tackles time and again, continallyforcing the speedy Wallaroos to play through the centre.

Half backs – Advantage Australia
Keira Bevan and Lleucu George still seem to be finding their rhythm as a half back pairing, though both showed their kicking ability to create space for Wales. George’s 50:22 kick with just a minute to play showed what her team are capable of.
Carys Dallinger directed play for her team like a conductor in front of an orchestra, continually building to impressive crescendos. Layne Morgan was, by contrast, a pest in the way only the best scrum halves can be.

Centres – Advantage tied
A fairly quiet game for both sets of centres with neither team’s players doing much wrong but neither shining above the other either.
For Wales, Hannah Bluck typified her team’s workrate while Australia’s Arabella McKenzie showed flashes of her playmaking talent.

Outside Backs – Advantage Australia
Even when down to 13 players on the field, Australia’s outside backs continually found space and threatened with their speed of foot and thought. Ivania Wong, in particular, seemed dangerous every time she got a sniff of the ball and was rewarded with a try late on. Lori Cramer, on at full back in the second half, showed her nous by pouncing on a rolling ball to put her team back in the lead in the 67th minute.
By contrast Wales’ outside backs defended well (Lisa Neumann hit a couple of beautiful tackles), but just didn’t see enough ball to show their skill and an uncharacteristic fumble by Jasmine Joyce in the first half killed the first Welsh attack of the game dead.

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