/ Rugby

Wales 16-25 Australia

Updated: Saturday, 06 Nov 2010 20:25

Kurtley Beale was outstanding for Australia
Kurtley Beale was outstanding for Australia

Wales slipped to another defeat against Tri Nations opposition as Australia's try-scoring class saw them home at a subdued Millennium Stadium.

More than 20,000 Wales fans stayed away and they ultimately missed little, with Wales suffering a 10th defeat from 11 starts at the hands of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa since coach Warren Gatland took charge almost three years ago.

The Wallabies ran in three tries - flanker David Pocock, outstanding full-back Kurtley Beale and prop Ben Alexander touching down - while wing James O'Connor added two penalties and two conversions.

Wales fleetingly threatened, notably when substitute scrum-half Richie Rees scored late on, but otherwise they had to rely on three Stephen Jones penalties and a Dan Biggar conversion for their points.

And they ultimately still look off the pace when it comes down to claiming victory against opponents that really matter.

Gatland recently signed a new four-year contract, but the 53,127 fans who witnessed the latest demise against major southern hemisphere opponents were left unfulfilled.

Wales' blunt attacking edge meant Australia never seriously broke sweat in defence, and it was only when Rees appeared instead of Mike Phillips that the home side threatened to move up a gear.

By then though, it was too little too late, and with the magnificent Beale keeping Australia moving forward, Wales could not seize the initiative.

Wales must now regroup for an appointment with world champions South Africa next Saturday - Australia head to Twickenham to face England - and any feelgood factor under Gatland is now long gone.

Results count far more than performance in professional sport, and whatever Gatland and his coaching staff do in attempting to cover up this latest loss, there is no hiding place, especially
with a World Cup just 10 months away.

Wales were without four key players through injury - Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, Jonathan Davies and Ryan Jones - and resulting changes included star centre James Hook being moved to full-back, with Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop forging a new centre partnership.

Australia's hopes of retaining the side that memorably accounted for New Zealand in Hong Kong last Saturday were dashed with hooker Stephen Moore's late withdrawal, which meant a start for Saia Faingaa.

Jones kicked Wales ahead inside 90 seconds, yet initial promise flattered to deceive as Australia scored from their first significant attack.

Sustained pressure resulted in Pocock crashing over from close range, with O'Connor's conversion giving the Wallabies an early advantage that they held comfortably, despite a second Jones penalty eight minutes before the break.

Wales dominated the half territorially, yet their lack of an attacking spark played into Australian hands, with the tourists content to absorb whatever their hosts could throw at them.

After an opening half lacking in atmosphere, Australia looked to step up a gear after the
break, and they conjured a second try inside eight minutes.

Fly-half Quade Cooper's kick bounced fortuitously off Wales lock Alun-Wyn Jones' shin into Beale's hands, but he took full advantage, linking with O'Connor before crossing for a superb try that O'Connor improved.

Wales were stung by such opportunism and although Jones then completed his penalty hat-trick, Australia remained in a different league when it came to any attacking threat.

And their third try arrived just inside the hour-mark, again the product of crisp passing and support play, which ended with Alexander touching down.

Wales had to score next or face oblivion, but their hopes were dashed when Alun-Wyn Jones' close-range effort was ruled out by television match official Graham Hughes.

Wales centre Tom Shanklin had been sin-binned for killing possession, but his team received an injection of verve and impetus through scrum-half Rees' arrival.

When he dived over for a 71st-minute try, converted by his fellow substitute Biggar, Wales had a glimmer of hope, but a late O'Connor penalty killed off any hope that Wales could complete any revival.

And it meant another opportunity to claim a Tri Nations scalp went by the board.