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Classic Matches: Wales v Australia

Classic Matches: Wales v Australia

Classic Matches: Wales v Australia

If last year’s Autumn Nations Series fixture between Wales and Australia is anything to go by, then fans are in for a treat when these two clash on Saturday.

Rhys Priestland held his nerve to kick Wales to victory with the final kick of the game as Wayne Pivac’s side finished their 2021 in style.

Another win would stretch their unbeaten run against the Wallabies to a record four matches, a remarkable turnaround after losing 13 straight meetings between 2009 and 2018.

Here, we take a look at some of the all-time classics between these two, starting with Wales’ bonkers tour Down Under in 1969.

1969 – Australia 16-19 Wales

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The British & Irish Lions set a precedent for travelling south in the first half of the 20th century, so it remains something of a mystery as to why it took more than 52 hours for the Wales squad to reach Australia in 1969.

The tourists were forced to sleep through an earthquake after taking in stops at Switzerland, Tel Aviv and Dubai among others, leaving fly-half Barry John to comment “we must have stopped everywhere bar Tenby on the way over.”

Wales had been firmly second best in two matches against New Zealand prior to their trip to Sydney and showed no signs of registering a first Test win on tour in the opening stages against Australia, trailing 11-0 after just 23 minutes.

But a remarkable comeback followed, with Wales scoring 19 unanswered points to take a firm grip of the game, with Gerald Davies, Dai Morris and John Taylor all crossing, while Keith Jarrett added 10 points from the tee.

Wallabies full-back Arthur McGill scored to set up a grandstand finish but Wales held out for an historic 19-16 triumph.

1987 – Australia 21-22 Wales

Rugby World Cup third-place play-offs are not always the best spectacles, but Wales’ meeting with Australia in 1987 certainly broke the mould.

Their bronze medal in the inaugural World Cup remains their best-ever finish and it came courtesy of a surprise win over the tournament co-hosts.

Their task was made easier after flanker David Codey was dismissed, as he became the first Australian to be sent off in a Test match, and though there was a numerical mismatch, the contest was certainly an even one.

Australia led heading into the closing stages, with Michael Lynagh in fine fettle from the tee, kicking 13 points.

But it was his counterpart Paul Thorburn who won the game for Wales, converting Adrian Hadley’s last-ditch try to register his country’s second ever win outside the UK against one of the three southern hemisphere superpowers.

2006 – Wales 29-29 Australia

A six-try thriller ended in stalemate in Cardiff, with a 21-year-old James Hook kicking a 71st-miunte penalty to seal a draw.

The game was in the balance throughout, with Australia just a nose ahead at 17-16 at the interval – Cameron Shepherd and Matt Giteau’s earlier scores were cancelled out by a wonder try from Shane Williams and a succession of penalties from Hook, Gavin Henson and Stephen Jones, who departed with a knee strain after just 23 minutes.

Another Hook penalty put Wales ahead for the first time after the interval as they piled on the pressure in the third quarter and were rewarded with a second try when Martyn Williams crossed.

Back came the Wallabies, with Shepherd and man of the match Chris Latham going over to make it 29-26 to the visitors before Hook’s boot brought the scoring in a pulsating and topsy-turvy encounter to a close.

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2012 – Wales 23-25 Australia

Replacement Mike Harris’s last-gasp penalty denied Wales a first win in Australia for 43 years in 2012.

Wales led with the clock in the red but were penalised for a collapsed maul, handing Harris, who had only been introduced moments before in place of Berrick Barnes, a shot at glory.

It was a bitter pill for Wales to swallow, having had possession of the ball with just a minute remaining of their second summer Test against Robbie Deans’ side.

That was not the end of the tourists’ frustration on this particular tour – Australia edged the final contest 20-19, with the reliable Barnes kicking another late penalty as Wales ill-discipline cost them dear once again.

2019 – Australia 25-29 Wales

One of Wales’ greatest-ever World Cup victories ensured their place at the top of Pool D in 2019.

The bulk of the work was done in the first half, with Warren Gatland’s side stunning the 2015 runners-up to lead 23-8 at the break.

Hadleigh Parkes claimed a Dan Biggar cross-kick to kickstart the party in Tokyo, with Gareth Davies following up with an interception try just before the break.

Wales had won just three of 29 fixtures since their 1987 World Cup clash, so victory was all the sweeter ahead of their run to the semi-finals.

Australia tried with all their might to inflict yet more Antipodean heartbreak on Wales and there was just a point between the sides with ten minutes to play.

A Rhys Patchell penalty gave the men in red a little more breathing space and they held on for a truly memorable victory.

2021 – Wales 29-28 Australia

Trailing by two points in the final play of the match, Rhys Priestland slotted an overtime penalty to clinch a win against 14-man Australia.

No.8 Rob Valetini was sent off after just 15 minutes for a dangerous tackle on Adam Beard but Wales were pushed till the last and outscored 3-2 on tries by a Wallabies side determined to register a first win of the autumn after defeats to Scotland and England.

Kurtley Beale thought he had won it with a 78th minute penalty, nine years on from scoring a last minute try against the same opposition, but up stepped Preistland, two minutes into overtime, to ensure Wales ended their year on a high.

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