Wallabies squeak past Wales
Will Genia (Getty Images)
Brisbane - The Wallabies bounced back from their shock defeat to Scotland to down Six Nations champions Wales 27-19 in the first of three Tests here on Saturday.
Australia outscored the Welsh three tries to one and take a series lead into next week's second Test in Melbourne.
Inspired by halfbacks Will Genia and Berrick Barnes, the Wallabies were a far different proposition than their stuttering 9-6 loss to Six Nations wooden-spooners Scotland in stormy Newcastle on Tuesday.
Australia dominated the first half and led 10-3 at half-time, stretched their lead to 20-6 early in the second term before Wales fought back to trail 20-19 with 17 minutes left.
But the home side had more left in the tank and finished off with a converted try by centre Pat McCabe in the 67th minute to see off the Welsh threat.
The defeat meant Wales have yet to win in nine Tests in Australia since their only win in Sydney in 1969.
"It was important that we put the Scotland loss behind us pretty quickly and it was important to start the series well with some more tough games to come," Wallaby skipper David Pocock said.
The Welsh struggled to match Australia's first half intensity and got more into the match in the second half as both teams used their replacements.
"The game was played at a great pace and intensity and we struggled to keep up in the first half," Wales captain Sam Warburton said.
"We have plenty to work on ahead of next week and the best team won today."
The Wallabies ripped into the rucks from the outset to deliver Genia and Barnes quick ball and put the Australian attack on the front foot.
Barnes kicked Australia into the lead with a ninth-minute penalty before Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert saved a certain try.
Cuthbert cut down centre Rob Horne with winger Digby Ioane unmarked outside him before the home side increased their lead.
Blindside flanker Scott Higginbotham powered over in the 16th minute for his first Test try after Ioane jolted the ball clear from Rhys Priestland off a high kick.
Barnes's conversion pushed the Wallabies out to a 10-0 lead and could have stretched their advantage after hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau sent Man of the Match Genia racing clear only for the No 9's kick ahead to go out on the full.
Halfpenny kicked Wales's first points with a 23rd-minute penalty, but the Six Nations champions suffered a blow when winger George North was forced off after 29 minutes with a thigh injury to be replaced by James Hook.
Barnes hit the post with a penalty attempt minutes later as the Wallabies finished the half on top.
The influential Genia gave the Wallabies a flying start to the second half when he darted through an opening and stepped past fullback Hook to score beneath the crossbar in the opening minutes for a 17-3 advantage.
Halfpenny kicked his second penalty to reduce the gap to 11 points before Barnes slotted over a drop goal for 20-6.
Wales brought on three fresh forwards and Halfpenny's third penalty was followed by a converted try to Cuthbert to trail 20-16.
Halfpenny landed another penalty to whittle Australia's lead to one point with 17 minutes remaining.
But the Wallabies hit back when Genia sent Pat McCabe racing over at the angle for Barnes to kick the home side into a 27-19 lead with 13 minutes left and seal the contest.Teams
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Cooper Vuna, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Pat McCabe, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Berrick Barnes, 9. Will Genia, 8. Wycliff Palu,7. David Pocock (captain), 6. Scott Higginbotham, 5. Nathan Sharpe, 4. Rob Simmons, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Tatafu Polota Nau, 1. Benn Robinson
Substitutes: 16. Stephen Moore, 17. Ben Alexander, 18. Dave Dennis,19. Michael Hooper, 20. Nic White, 21. Anthony Fainga'a, 22. Mike Harris Wales
15. Leigh Halfpenny, 14. Alex Cuthbert, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Scott Williams, 11. George North, 10. Rhys Priestland, 9. Mike Phillips, 8. Toby Faletau, 7. Sam Warburton (captain), 6. Dan Lydiate, 5. Luke Charteris, 4. Bradley Davies, 3. Adam Jones, 2. Ken Owens, 1. Gethin Jenkins
Substitutes: 16. Matthew Rees, 17. Paul James, 18. Alun Wyn Jones, 19. Ryan Jones, 20. Lloyd Williams, 21. James Hook, 22. Ashley BeckMatch officials:
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Keith Brown (New Zealand), Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Television match official: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)