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Wallaroos overcome red card to outlast Wales in dramatic WXV finish

By Ned Lester
Ivania Wong celebrates the Wallaroos try. Photo by Fiona Goodall - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

The final round of WXV1 kicked off in Auckland with a confident Australian team coming off the back of an upset win over France facing a Welsh side hungry for their first win of the tournament.

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Australia survived a red card to start the second half to outlast Wales in what would be a nailbiting Test that came right down to the wire. The win hands Jay Tregonning the “fairytale finish” Australia wanted to give their departing head coach.

The conditions were perfect as Wales got the game underway, kicking off into the Mt Smart sky and looking to pin the Wallaroos deep in their half early.

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Arabella McKenzie on the Wallaroos’ momentus win over France

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Arabella McKenzie on the Wallaroos’ momentus win over France

The Welsh defence was well-organised and consistent, but the lack of pressure at the breakdown allowed the Wallaroos to attack for endless phases.

Unable to break the Welsh line, Australia started to bring some cross-field kicks into their attack, an adjustment that finally fractured Wales’ line and handed the Wallaroos’ electric backs a chance to stretch their legs. The ball movement was exceptional once space was found, offloads were given inside and out as Australia sniffed the try line.

It was Maya Stewart who finished the play for the Wallaroos, running it in after Carys Dallinger dodged three tacklers and drew in a fourth to create the overlap.

Welsh prop Sisilia Tuipulotu was a physical force all evening, winning every collision she was involved in and driving her way upfield regardless of whether it was in a carry or tackle.

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Following Stewart’s try, Wales set up camp in Australia’s half. Also finding success in high-phase attack, the Welsh piled pressure on and Australia eventually cracked, allowing a lineout drive just five metres out. Carys Phillips rumbled over hanging on to the back of the Welsh maul.

Keira Bevan’s conversion handed Wales the lead at the half-hour mark.

Points were hard to come by, and both teams struggled to get any pay out of their high-phase attack. Australia’s decision to take the three points when awarded a penalty in the 33rd minute was a reflection of the game’s tight nature.

Dallinger’s accuracy with her second kick of the night lifted Australia to an 8-7 lead at the break.

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A monster Welsh clearance off the kick-off had Australia on the back foot to start the second half. Throughout the first 40, Australia had proved more capable in exiting their half, but Wales denied them a chance to kick on their own terms.

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A counter-attacking opportunity was cut short for Wales when Jasmine Joyce was hit high by Siokapesi Palu, who after a review was handed a red card.

Forced to play out the remaining 39 minutes with 14 players, Australia were backed in their own 22. After two chip kicks fell just out of reach of the Welsh chasers, the forwards decided it was their turn for a strike and set up another rolling maul.

The drive was sacked illegally by Australia and the one-player disadvantage turned to two as a penalty try was awarded to Wales and Sera Naiqama was handed a yellow card.

Wales looked sure to take control with the numerical advantage but a sloppy lineout handed Australia possession in the Wesh half.

The Wallaroos’ attack while down two players was daring and ambitious, putting in another chip kick which was regathered and winning a breakdown penalty. Kicking for the corner, Australia set up their lineout without a blindside flanker or lock.

Cue Eva Karpani, the hat trick hero and Player of the Match from a week ago. The prop snaffled the ball at the back of the dysfunctional Australian maul and simply refused to be tackled, powering through three tacklers for one of the most impressive scoring efforts of the tournament.

The Wallaroos roared as the Welsh lead was reduced to one. The cards had galvanised Australia, who proceeded to defend with renewed energy, holding Wales out to win the 10 minutes Naiqama spent sidelined.

Both sides struggled to make it into the 22 as the final quarter started in a fashion similar to the first.

A break from Carys Dallinger off a scrappy lineout earned Australia an attacking opportunity near the try line, a significant overlap on the right side of the field made it look as if it was the Wallaroos with the extra player on the field. It was again some ambitious cross-field kicking that put the Wallaroos in a position to score and Lori Cramer was the player to pounce on the ball and ground it.

A wide conversion from Dallinger just snuck through the posts to make the lead six.

Ivania Wong looked to put the game beyond reach five minutes later as fatigue hit Wales and Australia found their rhythm on attack.

The mad closing period was only just beginning though as Kelsey Jones crossed in the corner. With the Australian lead reduced to six just two minutes from full-time, Lleucu George found touch with a 50-22, winning her team one last crack at a win.

The final play of the game was a rolling maul, desperately defended by Australia who won the penalty. The final whistle was blown after some pushes and shoves were reviewed and Australia hung on for the dramatic win.

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Tim 1 hours ago
'It’s a mental thing': Joe Schmidt on the Wallabies' flyhalf issues

Ben Donaldson had not played Super Rugby for the past eight weeks. Surely, he was playing Shute Shield for Randwick in that time to keep up the fitness…?? Eight weeks is a long break to be thrust in against a hungry skillful side like Georgia who deserve to be in the “7 Nations”. (Italy, Wales & Scotland v Georgia, can’t wait to see those ones). In the second test against Wales, Donaldson was put on for nine minutes. That was a mistake from the coaching team, who already knew he was starting the following week against Georgia. They should have put him on for 20-25 minutes, with Nick Whyte at halfback, and their combination from the Force would have flowed. Donaldsons first 20 minutes against Georgia was a shocker. However, well done to Joe Schmidt for keeping him out there because Donaldsons game improved as the rust came off, he was hammered a few times and handled it and he came into his groove. He made mistakes which they will all learn from. Ben Donaldson is a naturally talented rugby player who the Wallabies have to stick with at no.10. “Over the black Dot-aldson” is a good nick name for him with his awesome goal kicking style. It looks as though, off the boot, it’s going to hit the post. Then it just curves in beautifully every time, once he is in the groove. Donaldsons play this season for the Force, with Kurtley and co., was amazing to watch. Kurtley making one of the best comebacks in history. Donaldson has to be played consistently with Flash Gordon, Big LEN, McReight, Tupou, Kellaway. Oh, that’s right, there is Bell, Kerevi, Petaia (This list does go on a bit). Donaldson will be slotting these weapons into gaps, and into the clear, before we know it… One more thing which I will just assume is happening, just include JOC in the Wallabies squad. He is a rugby genius. His skills, wisdom and experience would be infectious around the Wallabies relatively inexperienced backline. JOC has mastered the art of all the positions long ago. JOC is so skilled and match fit atm taking THE REDS, at no.10, within a point of beating Wales. He can come off the bench and slot into the backline for the Wallabies at 10, 12, 13 or 15 at any stage of a test match. Ummm yeah, not bad… I am assuming that BIG JOE, Laurie “Gandalf” Fischer, Mike “The scrum Doctor” Cron and the team obviously already know all this. I am just a passionate rugby union supporter, and I am very happy that these guys are in charge of the coaching duties, what a coaching team the Wallabies have been blessed with. (Good luck with selecting the match day 23 when Will Skelton, who was playing amazing rugby for La Rochelle, and the boys return from Europe/Japan, Samu Kerevi…???) Now just imagine having Bernie Larkham, Toutai Kefu, Nathan Grey and John “Nobody” Eales as your coaching apprentices… GO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY… Doing a great job Phil Waugh, Joe Roff, Dan Herbert and the team. An amazing three years ahead. GO THE WALLABIES… GO THE WALLAROOS… GO THE 7’s in Paris…

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