Rugby World Cup: Wallabies win bronze

By Michael Brown

Australia's Digby Ioane tries to shrug off a Welsh defender.  Australian fans. Photo / Natalie Slade
Australia's Digby Ioane tries to shrug off a Welsh defender. Australian fans. Photo / Natalie Slade

Australia 21
Wales 18

Australia have finally won at Eden Park for the first time since 1986 but it wasn't the game they hoped it might have been.

In beating Wales tonight, Australia have finished third and have now accumulated a full house of first, second, third and fourth in World Cups.

They held most of the cards last night but couldn't land the decisive blow on a pesky Wales side looking for their second third-placed finish at a World Cup (they beat Australia in 1987) until No 8 Ben McCalman crossed in the 76th minute.

Historically the bronze medal match is the one no one wants to play but it can also be one of the best games of the tournament as both sides unleash the shackles with little on the line.

It was just the sort of game Quade Cooper would excel and for 21 minutes he was the dominant figure.

He had the step, the swagger and the swerve back and in 21 minutes showed his full array of skills.

He laid on a beautifully-timed pass for Berrick Barnes to score in the 12th minute and looked like he wanted to leave New Zealand reminding people of what he is capable of rather than the indifferent form of most of his previous six appearances.

After a goose step, he fell to the ground as if he had been shot by a sniper behind the grassy knoll.

It was immediately clear what he had done as he clutched his right knee and he received a nice ovation as he was helped from the field _ it was significant a change from the constant boos that had greeted every touch of the ball until that point.

He might have played the role of pantomime villain with aplomb but the crowd recognised no one deserves to suffer a serious injury.

It wasn't the only injury of the night and Nathan Sharpe succumbed to a knee injury in his 100th test and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who had earlier upended Shane Williams in a spectacular tackle, also hobbled off in the second half.

Crucially, though, fullback Kurtley Beale's left hamstring also didn't last any more than eight minutes.

The departures of Cooper and Beale robbed Australia of two of their best attacking options.

Barnes moved into the pivot position and is a quality player but he brings a different skill-set to Cooper and it changed the way Australia attacked their work. They were more controlled, more predictable and both sides kicked the ball more in a clear indication they both wanted to win.

Australia still played at a greater pace than the Welsh but would have been disappointed to go to the break leading only 7-3.

They made too many mistakes to create any sort of dominance and flow and couldn't build on their ascendancy at set-piece time.

Passes were spilled and kicks went awry as they sought a decisive blow.

Wales grew in confidence as they plugged away at the Australian defence and took the lead in the 49th minute when diminutive wing Shane Williams scored.

He showed considerable skill to stab an errant pass through football-style and gather but there was a hint of a forward pass from Jonathan Davies.

It was a short-lived lead as Australia landed two two quick penalties and a dropped goal but it wasn't until McCalman crossed with four minutes remaining that the game was won, although Wales had the last say with a try to fullback Leigh Halfpenny.

It wasn't a typical bronze medal match and the amount of blood that flowed and battered bodies was a testament to that. But it hasn't been a typical World Cup.

Australia 21 (Berrick Barnes, Ben McCalman tries; James O'Connor 2 pens, con; Barnes dg) Wales 18 (Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny tries; James Hook pen; Stephen Jones pen, con). HT: 7-3.

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 28 Dec 2014 23:45:48 Processing Time: 612ms