Australia's Mike Harris celebrates his match-winning kick in the last act of the game in Melbourne
An after-the-hooter penalty from replacement fly-half Mike Harris propelled Australia to a dramatic 25-23 victory over Wales in their clash in Melbourne.
Wales appeared on course to keep the series alive with an historic first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 1969 as the faultless boot of Leigh Halfpenny kept the Grand Slam champions in front. But with the clock in the red New Zealand referee Chris Pollock penalised Wales after Australia launched a powerful rolling maul and Harris showed nerves of steel to crush Welsh dreams.
Wales, accused of making a slow start last week, came flying out of the blocks with a series of powerful pick and drives. Mike Phillips, Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert were all prominent in the build up as Wales roared into the Wallabies half before George North powered over from close range.
Halfpenny, who kicked all before him in Brisbane, maintained his 100% record Down Under to stretch Wales' early lead to seven points. Wales continued to dominate the early exchanges but the Wallabies fought their way back into the encounter and began to strangle the visitors of possession.
Berrick Barnes, who only rejoined the Wallabies squad four hours prior to kick-off following the birth of his first child, Archie, hit back for the hosts and added a second penalty on the half-hour mark to cut Wales' lead to one point. Wales did themselves no favours and lost a succession of lineouts on their own throw as the pressure mounted.
They looked to have survived unscathed after Phillips burst out of his own half with a trademark break. He found Rhys Priestland in support but the fly-half was unable to release Sam Warburton for the try. Wales were penalised at the following phase and after pouncing on loose ball from the ensuing lineout, Phillips handed the Wallabies another opportunity to attack after his box-kick went out on the full.
And the Tri-Nations champions took full advantage with Barnes beating Warburton on the outside and dummying past Ashley Beck to release Rob Horne for the crucial try. Barnes added the extras on the stroke of half-time as Wales entered the interval trailing 13-7.
But the Dragons again started the half firing and an uncharacteristic mistake from last week's Wallaby hero Will Genia gave the opportunity to score. The livewire scrum-half threw an aimless pass which was hacked through by Beck and Jonathan Davies beat Rob Simmons in the foot race to score.
Halfpenny expertly slotted the conversion to regain the lead, and the full-back exchanged penalties with Barnes as Wales kept their noses in front. Barmes knocked over another penalty but Australia were dealt a blow when Cooper Vuna was sent to the sin-bin after a clumsy challenge on Halfpenny in the air.
The diminutive full-back came crashing down to earth but got straight back to his feet and slotted a monster penalty to regain the slender lead. Barnes hit-back after Bradley Davies was penalised at the break down but Halfpenny was again on target after the Welsh pack flexed its muscle at scrum time.
Wales continued to dominate the battle up front but they fell foul of the scrum lottery and Barnes stepped up to slot the simple penalty. But amazingly the fly-half, who appeared to be carrying a knock, pushed his effort wide and quickly departed to be replaced by Harris.
Australia frantically hammered at Wales but Rob Howley's men held strong as mistakes creeped into the Wallabies game. But Wales were penalised with the clock ticking and Australia kicked to the corner. They launched a rolling maul and Wales were penalised, with New Zealand-born fly-half Harris writing his name in Wallaby history.
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I for one say well done Wales against such an aggressive, far larger size individuals and stepping up to the high standards of the Southern Hem.
Yes Wales could have won the game if they hadn't given away the critical penalties, but they played their hearts out against such strong opposition.
Pity but if they can work on reducing these errors in future they will be the team to beat.
you say the southern hemisphere teams are much better than the northern hemisphere teams, look how close all the games have been, apart from the first test between ireland and new zealand all the games have been close, lets not forget our teams are away.
I think the south is stronger but not by the margin you suggest and the gap is closing.
Wales lost today to a below parr Australian side. So did Ireland to a poor All Black side. It shows today the greater gap between North and South sides.
If a South side was included in the 6 Nations to make 7 etc, North sides would never win it. Its all very well playing an exciting brand of Rugby but bottom line after 80 minutes you need more points on the board than your opponents. If Preistland is picked next test it would be a disgrace. I thought he was on the Aussies side cause he kept kicking the ball to them! Dreadful game and worse than the game he had last week. Wake up Howley and co cant you see what we can? If you play him you deserve a the 3 0 result you get