A magnificent 13-man defensive effort and another assured kicking display by Bernard Foley earned Australia an 15-6 victory over Wales yesterday to earn a World Cup quarter-final meeting with Scotland and leave the Welsh to face South Africa.
Both teams had already been assured of progressing thanks to their victories over England, but there was still everything to play for at Twickenham, with the Pool A winners earning an easier route to the final. The losers, even if they get past the Springboks, would probably have to play holders New Zealand in the semi-finals.
The match was effectively decided during a remarkable spell midway through the second half when, despite being down to 13 men after two yellow cards, Australia repelled everything Wales threw at them to protect a six-point lead.
There were no tries in the match but no shortage of intensity.
The first quarter was a fascinating arm-wrestle between two equally matched packs as Australia, so long the world’s whipping boys at scrum time, were full of confidence after their demolition job on England.
Wales edged the early encounters but had only a Dan Biggar penalty to show for their efforts despite territorial dominance in the first 20 minutes.
Australia defended superbly and when they finally built some momentum Welsh indiscipline at the breakdown was punished with three Foley penalties.
Biggar added a second for Wales but then missed one, his first failure in 16 attempts in the tournament, to leave the Wallabies 9-6 ahead at the break.
The momentum appeared to swing back to Wales in the second half as Australia scrumhalf Will Genia and lock Dean Mumm were sin-binned within four minutes and then key flanker David Pocock was forced off with injury.
Despite relentless Welsh pressure on the line and wave after wave of crash-ball charges, Australia repelled every assault and twice managed to hold the ball up when Wales did cross the line.
When the 13-man Wallabies finally earned a penalty after another crunching tackle.
A minute later they went the length of the field and earned another penalty. There was no muddled thinking or white-line fever on their side as they calmly opted to allow Foley to slot the kick over for a 15-6 lead which they held onto.
Earlier, Scotland came from behind to beat Samoa 36-33 and go through to the quarter-finals.
Samoa outscored their opponents by four tries to three in a thrilling contest, but were undone as they conceded a series of careless penalties in the second half.
They were punished by the boot of Greig Laidlaw, who scored a decisive try late in the second-half and kicked 21 points.
Other result: Pool A – England vs Uruguay 60-3.
Playing today: Pool C – 13.00 Argentina vs Namibia. Pool D – 14.30 Italy vs Romania; 17.45 France vs Ireland. Pool B – 21.00 USA vs Japan.
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