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Joe Schmidt era begins with a win as Wales drop out of world top 10

By PA
Australia’s Tom Wright (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a try during the rugby union Test match between Australia and Wales at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on July 6, 2024. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --

Wales’ long run of defeats continued despite a battling performance in Sydney as they were beaten 25-16 by Australia.

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It was their 12th successive loss to the Wallabies in Australia, and eighth on the bounce against all opponents.

Warren Gatland’s team have not won a Test match since they saw off 2023 World Cup pool opponents Georgia nine months ago, but they pushed new-look Australia close at the Allianz Stadium.

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Wales crushed Australia 40-6 at the World Cup, yet Eddie Jones’ head coach successor Joe Schmidt enjoyed a winning start to his reign following tries from prop Taniela Tupou, wing Filipo Daugunu and full-back Tom Wright.

Wallabies fly-half Noah Lolesio kicked a conversion and two penalties, while Tom Lynagh – son of Australia World Cup winner Michael Lynagh – added the extras to Wright’s touchdown.

Fixture
Internationals
Australia
25 - 16
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Wales
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Wales’ last win against Australia came in 1969, and there were times when they threatened to end that sequence, posting a penalty try and three penalties from fly-half Ben Thomas.

But Australia had just enough in the tank, with Wright’s try 11 minutes from time sealing the deal and finally subduing a spirited Wales display.

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Wales made a promising start and were ahead after just three minutes when Thomas kicked a long-range penalty after Wallabies prop James Slipper’s dangerous tackle on Dewi Lake, but Lolesio quickly cancelled out that strike.

Lolesio missed a penalty chance four minutes later, but he then booted Australia ahead after Wales infringed at the game’s first scrum as poor technical discipline began to surface.

Referee Pierre Brousset issued a team warning to skipper Lake, and Australia breached the Welsh defence after 21 minutes when Tupou went over following relentless pressure, with Lolesio’s conversion opening up a 10-point lead.

Brousset’s patience ran out as he yellow-carded Wales prop Gareth Thomas, yet the visitors responded impressively to that setback.

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Wing Rio Dyer touched down behind Australia’s line, although the score was ruled out following a knock-on by centre Owen Watkin, before Wales gained a penalty try after the Wallabies illegally collapsed a maul on their own line.

It brought Wales back to just three points adrift, and Australia had a player yellow-carded as a result with flanker Fraser McReight being sent from the field.

Wales continued to have scrummaging issues, with the powerful Tupou proving a particular handful, but they were strong in other areas through strong breakdown and defensive work.

And they remained firmly in contention at the halfway point, trailing 13-10 following an impressive second quarter.

Gareth Thomas went off early in the second period after taking a blow to his leg, being replaced by Scarlets prop Kemsley Mathias, and Wales pressed after a promising attack that involved Liam Williams and debutant Josh Hathaway.

Fly-half Thomas drew Wales level through a 46th-minute penalty, but Australia went back in front after a fine solo score by Daugunu, who outstripped defending centre Mason Grady on a race to the line.

Wales then thought they had drawn level when they drove Australia’s forwards backwards and replacement James Botham went over just seconds after joining the action.

But the try was ruled out for obstruction and Australia escaped on the back of what appeared to be a marginal call following consultation between Brousset and television match official Marius Jonker.

Thomas completed his penalty hat-trick 14 minutes from time to guarantee a tense finale, but the closing stages belonged to Wright, who rounded off a brilliant counter-attack, before Lynagh’s conversion completed the scoring.

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3 Comments
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Utiku Old Boy 13 days ago

Wallabies looked a lot clearer and focused compared to the bumbling EJ era. Better balance and selections. Some skills and combinations need work but off to a good start against a motivated Welsh outfit.

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finn 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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