Five things we learnt from Wallabies v Wales

Mon, 22/11/2021, 01:29 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
A brave showing in Cardiff from the Wallabies

As the siren sounded at Principality Stadium, the Wallabies had a lead which an hour earlier seemed impossible.

By the time referee Mike Adamson blew the whistle, it was gone thanks to the boot of Rhys Priestland.

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Whilst it condemned the side to a winless Spring Tour, there was plenty of talking points and areas to like out of the final Test of 2021.

1.Fight

Say what you want about certain decisions but first and foremost the effort and fight shown by this Wallabies side must be commended.

When they took the field on Sunday morning, missing was two Player of the Year nominees (Michael Hooper & Samu Kerevi), arguably the Comeback Player of the Year (Quade Cooper), the 2019/20 John Eales Medalist (Marika Koroibete & Hooper) along with multiple regular starters in Hodge, Petaia and Banks.

By the time Tompkins raced away to give Wales a 23-13 lead, they were also down a Breakout Player of the Year nominee (Andrew Kellaway - concussion), their most improved (Rob Valetini - red card) and their most damaging ball-runner (Taniela Tupou - shin).

Given the circumstances on the final day of a six month stint for some on the road, you wouldn't fault this side if they allowed Wales to run away with the contest.

But that goes against the DNA Dave Rennie and the Wallabies have built, finding a way to lift down a man and eventually take the lead with 90 seconds to go.

Sure, Wales had similar levels of injury and found a way to win but there's plenty of pride Wallaby fans can take out of another backs-against-the-wall performance from a team that's very easy to get behind heading into 2022.

2. Consistency

“It played a big part in the result. Kurtley Beale got sin binned for slapping the ball down. They did the same thing and it clearly goes forward and they get seven points out of it."

Those were the words of Dave Rennie on the Nick Tompkins try after the match and it's tough to argue against.

Let's make it clear, whilst the Rob Valetini red card will anger many, the ruling to penalise players who don't lower their body height comes after clear dialogue from World Rugby as they look to reduce the effects of concussion.

What many can't explain is how two near-identical incidents provide two different results.

To call Beale's effort not a 'genuine attempt to make a tackle' is bizarre given he makes the tackle.

This is then heightened by the decision to allow Tompkins to play on when everyone, including Tompkins, had stopped for the knock-on.

Whilst the decision ultimately was a 14 point swing to the hosts, it does speak to one of the oldest teachings in the book about playing to the whistle even if 99% the time, it'd be called a knock-on.

That was the 1%

3. Turning back the clock

After a less than impactful game against England, Kurtley Beale showed why he will remain in contention for the Wallabies heading into the 2023 World Cup.

With Tom Banks, Jordan Petaia and Reece Hodge injured, Beale stepped up in the second half and was one of the catalysts for the comeback.

Like any good legendary band, he produced all the greatest hits, starting with the step and fend before finding Len Ikitau, who put Nic White over in the 60th minute.

Needing a score late, some excellent work from Will Skelton set up a penalty shot deep for Beale, doing his best impression from Bloemfontein in 2010.

If that's the last we see of Beale in Wallaby colours, watching him slice up Wales in the First Nations jersey was a near-perfect way to celebrate his talent and influence on Australian Rugby.

4. Smart kicking

This is something Dave Rennie has stressed throughout 2021 and it proved wonders to start the game.

After their first phase with ball in hand, Nic White recognised space behind the Welsh defence and a charging Hunter Paisami re-gathered the ball on their 22.

Seven phases later and with advantage up their sleeve, a brilliant no-look kick from the centre found Andrew Kellaway for the first try of the match.

The combination of the early kicks and brutal and more direct running from the likes of Tupou, O'Connor and Ikitau set up the attack for the rest of the night, ensuring Wales couldn't just rush up and stop the Wallabies from doing what they do best.

To see advancements from 2020 and even the start of the year gives plenty of confidence that this team is making positive progress for the future.

5. Paisami power

Speaking of Paisami, the centre has firmly stepped into the massive hole left by Samu Kerevi with one of his best performances in gold.

Paisami was a menace with ball in hand, proving a nightmare for Welsh defenders as he looked electric with every touch.

His break in the 69th minute was the catalyst for Daugunu's try and his distribution continues to improve, throwing more passes than Scotland and England combined.

He finished with a team-high 13 runs for 63 metres, three line breaks, a try assist and three offloads.

Coupled that with his kick/chase at the start and it was a near-flawless performance from the 23-year-old.

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