The Wallabies extended their dominance over Wales to 10 straight matches, with Bernard Foley’s boot and Israel Folau’s emphatic return to tryscoring form crucial factors in yet another tight contest between the two nations at Millennium Stadium.
The hosts scored four tries to three, but ultimately went down 33-28 – the ninth match in a row Australia has prevailed by a margin of 10 points or less over Wales.
Welsh halfback Rhys Webb raced away for the first try in just the third minute, but Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper brilliantly laid on a five-pointer for Folau in the 15th with a break and a deft offload. The fullback pushed Australia out to 14-7 soon afterwards with a long-range intercept try.
Tevita Kuridrani broke through for a typically barnstorming try before halftime, but Wales posted two of their own for the rivals to head to the sheds locked at 21-all.
The try-fest subsided in the second stanza, however; Foley landed two penalties to ease the Wallabies to a 27-21 lead, before concerted Welsh pressure garnered a penalty try with 15 minutes remaining to reclaim a narrow advantage.
But the ice-cool Foley continued to add to a sparkling 2014 highlights reel, the No.10 keeping any possibility of Quade Cooper’s return to the starting side on the backburner with a vital 74th-minute drop goal and a subsequent penalty goal to seal a tense win.
It was a satisfying result for Australia and new coach Michael Cheika, but a daunting – and very different – challenge awaits in Paris against always unpredictable France.
All Blacks hold off England
A gritty effort by the All Blacks kept England at bay in a typically close-fought Test at Twickenham. New Zealand overcame a three-point halftime deficit, the second-half sin-binning of Dane Coles, and an eyebrow-raising decision by referee Nigel Owens to refer a Charlie Faumuina try to the TMO after it had already been awarded to power out to a 10-point advantage, before England were awarded a last-minute penalty try for a 24-21 final scoreline. Contentious backline selections Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams were two of the standouts for the victorious ABs.
Other international results
Ireland sprung the upset of the weekend with a commanding 29-15 defeat of South Africa in Dublin, while Scotland scored five tries in a 41-31 win over Argentina at Murrayfield. A hat-trick by debutant winger Teddy Thomas propelled France to a 40-15 victory against Fiji in Marseille, Italy subdued the touring Samoa side 24-13, and the Maori All Blacks needed a last-minute Dan Pryor try to eclipse Japan 20-18 – just a week after thrashing the same team 61-21.