Last minute penalty clinches dramatic victory for Wallabies against Wales
Wales blew yet another golden chance to grab a drought-busting win in Australia, but coach Rob Howley insists all is not lost despite surrendering the series with a game to spare.
The Dragons seemed set to force what would’ve been a tantalising decider when they led 23-22 with time up on the clock in Melbourne only for Wallabies replacement Mike Harris to coolly slot a 30 metre penalty from the left touchline to steal the game.
The result was a bitter pill to swallow for Howley and Co, who arrived Down Under with designs on not only ending their 43-year winless streak on Aussie soil, but moving into the elite bracket of world rugby with an even rarer series win.
However, if anything, the result merely reinforced most critics’ belief that the Six Nations champions lose their nerve when coming up against the southern hemisphere’s ‘Big Three’. Although, the stand-in coach was confident his side could go some way to silencing the doubters in next week’s dead rubber in Sydney.
“We were quite clinical when we had the ball and took our opportunities but we gave them one too many opportunities,” said Howley, who’s sitting in the hotseat for the injured Warren Gatland.
“I’m immensely proud of the effort of the 22 and we’ve got a great chance now, although we’ve lost the series.”
Wales trailed 13-7 at the break but appeared to have done enough after centre Jonathan Davies won a sprint to the line to score and three penalties from Leigh Halfpenny put them ahead.
The tourists were then let off the hook in the dying stages when Wallabies fly-half Berrick Barnes, who had been razor-sharp all night, shanked a 40 metre shot from in front of the posts.
But there was still time for one final Aussie assault and off a brilliant line-out drive the Welsh were penalised trying to bring it down, leaving Harris to do the rest.
The series win has certainly taken the heat off Wallabies coach Robbie Deans after the season-opening defeat to Scotland.
And he said: “It’s a significant series victory. These guys are the Six Nations champions. They had every opportunity to win it but in the end we had the weight of momentum and it warranted the result.”
It wasn’t all good news for Deans, though, with news filtering through before kick-off that injured back Kurtley Beale had been charged with assault following a late night incident earlier this month.