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RWC – Third and Fourth playoff review

The Australians managed to overcome the  shock of losing  stars Kurtley Beale and  Quade Cooper to injury and led their team to a 21-18 win. Berrick Barnes, who has spent most of Australia’s World Cup campaign on the bench, was the hero on the day for the Wallabies, earning the man of the match award for his outstanding display. Which kinda leads you to think, why was he not playing earlier in the semi?

With Cooper hobbling off with a serious knee injury in the 22nd minute (looks as if he will miss a fair chunk of the Super 15 next year), the inside centre suddenly found himself at the helm of the Wallabies back line, with his fine performance including a try, a timely drop goal and an array of deft kicks for field position. He may very well have had a sense of deja vu as Barnes made his made his second appearance for Australia in a RWC 2007 match against Wales, filling in at fly half for the injured Stephen Larkham. In contrast to Barnes’ effort, Wales fly half James Hook appeared out of sorts and missed a couple of early penalties before being replaced by Stephen Jones in the 51st minute.

Despite the disruption, the Wallabies enjoyed a majority of field position courtesy of a thoughtful kicking game that constantly sent Wales scurrying back into their 22. Most noticeable was the absence of the midfield high balls that undermined their efforts against New Zealand in last week’s semi-final. However, the strategy of kicking deep meant the Wallabies were forced to spend 60 per cent of the match in defence and racked up 146 tackles to the 74 that were made by Wales. Yet the Australians displayed the dogged determination without the ball that got them through their quarter-final against South Africa.

The forwards constantly imposed themselves in the tackle, the wide men rushed up effectively when outnumbered and the team did not miss a tackle in the second half as they closed out the match. Wales did not help their own cause by making 12 handling errors, including one pass on a promising attack that ended up in the hands of the linesman rather than wing Shane Williams. Neither did they help themselves by missing several kicks, something that has cost them dearly over the last few weeks.

The new-look Wallabies front-row stood up to the challenge posed by their more experienced opponents and earned a number of scrum penalties, as well as ensuring the Welsh had to play with unsettled ball.

The breakdown was more of a torrid affair with both sides passionately throwing themselves into the fray but Australia flanker David Pocock once again showed his class by earning a couple of crucial penalties.Wales full back Leigh Halfpenny may have had the final say with a converted try to finish the match, but the night belonged to Wallaby second row Nathan Sharpe, who was carried from the field by his exhausted teammates. The 100-cap veteran inspired a brave Australian performance worthy of his impressive milestone.

Oh and one last thing, it seems Wayne Barnes has failed to pick up on another forward pass!!! Can’t blame him too much though, the touchy was right there and he missed it!!!

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