Australia 25 Wales 23: Wallabies snatch series victory with last-ditch penalty
12:36 GMT, 16 June 2012
Substitute Mike Harris broke Welsh hearts with an injury-time penalty to snatch a dramatic win for Australia in Melbourne.
Wales appeared on course to keep the series alive with an historic first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 1969 as the faultless boot of Leigh Halfpenny kept the Grand Slam champions in front.
But with the clock in the red New Zealand referee Chris Pollock penalised Wales after Australia launched a powerful rolling maul and Harris showed nerves of steel to crush Welsh dreams.
Kicking king: Mike Harris of the Wallabies slots home the winning penalty goal
Wales, accused of making a slow start last week, came flying out of the blocks with a series of powerful pick and drives.
Mike Phillips, Halfpenny and Alex Cuthbert were all prominent in the build up as Wales roared into the Wallabies half before George North powered over from close range.
Halfpenny, who kicked all before him in Brisbane, maintained his 100 per cent record Down Under to stretch Wales' early lead to seven points.
Party time: Australia celebrate after recording their second victory over Wales
Wales continued to dominate the early
exchanges but the Wallabies fought their way back into the encounter and
began to strangle the visitors of possession.
Berrick Barnes, who only rejoined the Wallabies squad four hours prior to kick-off following the birth of his first child, Archie, hit back for the hosts and added a second penalty on the half-hour mark to cut Wales' lead to one point.
Wales did themselves no favours and lost a succession of lineouts on their own throw as the pressure mounted.
Flying: Rob Horne of the Wallabies scores a try against Wales in Melbourne
They looked to have survived unscathed
after Phillips burst out of his own half with a trademark break. He
found Rhys Priestland in support but the fly-half was unable to release
Sam Warburton for the try.
Wales were penalised at the following
phase and after pouncing on loose ball from the ensuing lineout,
Phillips handed the Wallabies another opportunity to attack after his
box-kick went out on the full.
And the Tri-Nations champions took full advantage with Barnes beating Warburton on the outside and dummying past Ashley Beck to release Rob Horne for the crucial try.
Going nowhere: Australia's Digby Ioane (C) is tackled by Wales' Ashley Beck
Barnes added the extras on the stroke of half-time as Wales entered the interval trailing 13-7.
But the Dragons again started the half
firing and an uncharacteristic mistake from last week's Wallaby hero
Will Genia gave the opportunity to score.
The livewire scrum-half threw an
aimless pass which was hacked through by Beck and Jonathan Davies beat
Rob Simmons in the foot race to score.
Halfpenny expertly slotted the conversion to regain the lead, and the full-back exchanged penalties with Barnes as Wales kept their noses in front.
False dawn: Wales' Jonathan Davies scores a try against Australia
Barmes knocked over another penalty
but Australia were dealt a blow when Cooper Vuna was sent to the sin-bin
after a clumsy challenge on Halfpenny in the air.
The diminutive full-back came crashing
down to earth but got straight back to his feet and slotted a monster
penalty to regain the slender lead.
Barnes hit-back after Bradley Davies
was penalised at the break down but Halfpenny was again on target after
the Welsh pack flexed its muscle at scrum time.
Wales continued to dominate the battle up front but they fell foul of the scrum lottery and Barnes stepped up to slot the simple penalty.
Chance: Wales' Alex Cuthbert (left) and George North (right) congratulate Jonathan Davies
But amazingly the fly-half, who
appeared to be carrying a knock, pushed his effort wide and quickly
departed to be replaced by Harris.
Australia frantically hammered at Wales but Rob Howley's men held strong as mistakes creeped into the Wallabies game.
But Wales were penalised with the
clock ticking and Australia kicked to the corner. They launched a
rolling maul and Wales were penalised, with New Zealand-born fly-half
Harris writing his name in Wallaby history.
In his wake: Wales' Mike Phillips avoids a tackle during the defeat to Australia