DAN BIGGAR HIT a late penalty to help Wales edge out Australia and buck a 10-year, 13-match losing streak against the Wallabies.
Psychological one-upmanship was up for grabs in a dress rehearsal of what had been billed a pool-deciding match at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
But neither side shone from an attacking point of view in what was a true defensive slugfest, albeit intense, at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium where there was little reward for all the hard-hitting hustle and bustle.
The score at half-time was locked at 3-3 thanks to one penalty apiece by Leigh Halfpenny and Bernard Foley, the misfiring Welsh full-back adding one more before going off injured while Matt Toomua hit Australia’s second late in the game before Biggar knocked over the winning score with two minutes to play to extend Wales’ winning streak to seven games — the best since the 2004/5 season.
Wales dominated territory and possession in the opening 15 minutes, but the well-drilled Australian defence remained resolute in an indicator of what was to come.
That could only last so long, however, before someone infringed and so it proved with forwards straying offside from a ruck. Halfpenny went wide with the relatively easy opportunity.
Both sides seemed keen on running everything, but for all the earnest endeavour it was not the most entertaining spectacle.
Errors were few, Australia looked by far the more skilful side and Wales seemed limited in attack as defence kept its iron grip on a game that was nothing if not intense.
The Australian set-piece started to look somewhat creaky and a deliberate wheel at scrum time gifted Halfpenny a second chance, the full-back making no mistake from the tee this time around.
An Adam Coleman knock-on put pay to Australia’s best showing in attack, the lock spilling the ball deep in the Welsh 22m area with the home side under the cosh. Foley equalled the score in the 33rd minute after Dan Lydiate strayed offside in midfield.