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Cardiff: A last-gasp try to Kurtley Beale gave Australia a thrilling 14-12 victory over Wales yesterday which condemned the Welsh to a seventh successive defeat and left them facing a daunting World Cup challenge.
Flyhalf Beale dived over in the corner with 20 seconds of time left under a closed roof at the Millennium stadium.
Wales, needing a draw or win to stay in the world’s top eight after a miserable run of form, now find themselves cast into the third band of seeds for tomorrow’s 2015 World Cup pool draw.
Beale also kicked three penalties for the Australians, who return home after tour wins over Wales, Italy and England, with their only blemish a heavy opening defeat by France. Leigh Halfpenny, who needed lengthy treatment which delayed the end of the game, landed three penalties for Wales.
The Welsh, forced to name another patched-up side after a succession of injuries in home defeats to Argentina, Samoa and New Zealand, did not lack for ambition with Warren Gatland’s men showing the determination to continue the momentum from a bright second-half showing against the All Blacks last weekend, despite a 33-10 defeat.
They were initially on the backfoot as the Wallabies twice wasted promising early openings.
Adam Ashley-Cooper was penalised for a forward pass having broken through the first line before some resilient Welsh defending forced a turnover with the opponents camped on their tryline.
Pushed back, Wales countered with a scintillating break from wing Alex Cuthbert who took an attack that started from behind his own line all the way to Australia’s 22 before being forced into touch.
Halfpenny’s pace then set up another chance, bursting deep into Australia’s half before his kick forward set up a race to the line.
Fortunately for the Wallabies, Wycliff Palu just got his hand down first despite the attentions of Sam Warburton and Toby Faletau.
Halfpenny’s penalties put Wales ahead 12-9 up after an hour, but, with the Wallabies seemingly running out of gas and ideas, they conjured one final piece of magic from a gruelling season as Beale burst clear from a Dave Dennis pass to break Welsh hearts.
Wales coach Warren Gatland said the two sides were equally matched.
“Pretty gutted,” said the New Zealander, who will lock horns again with opposite number Robbie Deans in the southern hemisphere summer when he takes the British and Irish Lions to Australia.
“Apart from the last minute I thought we played some outstanding rugby today, it was a close tough tight test match. We put ourselves in a position where we should have won it,” he said to reporters after the match at Millennium Stadium. AFP