Skipper admits Wales were off the pace in Australia
Sam Warburton admitted Wales blew the perfect chance to snap their 43-year drought Down Under as Australia bounced back from their Scotland shock in style in Brisbane.
A slow start and some Will Genia magic saw the Dragons concede first blood in the three-Test contest, although a spirited, albeit in vain, second-half fightback proved the series is far from over.
With the Wallabies’ ranks decimated by injuries and coming off their humbling to the Six Nations wooden-spooners on Tuesday, many saw this as the optimum time for Wales to strike on Aussie soil.
However, Warburton conceded they were caught off guard by the speed of their rivals.
“The game was played at a great pace and to be brutally honest, we struggled to keep up with that in the first half,” the skipper said. “The second half was better, but there are no excuses, it wasn’t good enough in the first half.
“It is the first time for a lot of us in Australia and we have a lot of work to do before next week. We need to play a bit more territory, have better numbers at the breakdown.”
In a stark contrast to their dismal 9-6 upset defeat to the Scots, the hosts showed cohesion, poise and skill to take the heat off embattled coach Robbie Deans with a three tries to one victory.
But despite the all-round improvement, Deans would still be clinging to his job were it not for Genia’s masterclass.
The livewire scrum-half scored a sensational solo try from 45 metres out when he scythed through the line before bamboozling James Hook with some fancy footwork. He also found the space to set up the match-winning try for Pat McCabe.
The centre’s 67th-minute score snuffed out a Welsh resurgence after the tourists clawed back to 20-19 from a 14-point deficit.
Wales would’ve certainly taken the lead had fly-half Rhys Priestland, one of the stars in their rise to the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier in the year, not spilled the ball with his side hot on attack and numbers to his left.
But while Deans was thrilled the Aussies were able to hold on, he’s knows even less will separate the two sides next week in Melbourne.
“I imagine it’ll be edge of the seat stuff,” Deans said. “We know what’s going to come the other way - it’s do or die next week.”