Wallabies return from 21 to overhaul Wales 39-34

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Australia dropped 21 points with 23 minutes remaining to overhaul Wales 39-34 in a stunning turnaround in their rugby test in Cardiff on Saturday.

After the historic loss to Georgia last weekend, Wales were desperate for victory more than the heavily exhausted Wallabies and delivered in style as they rolled 34-13 with their best rugby of the month.

But Wales offered a comeback to diehard Australians when captain Justin Tipuric was shown a yellow card for tripping.

They were smart enough to expose Tipuric’s absence when winger Mark Nawaqanitawase scored on the lineout ball. Then the Wallabies forwards were awarded a penalty try on a rolling maul and they were just 34-32 up with six long minutes remaining.

Moreover, Wales were reduced to 13 players as replacement hooker Ryan Elias was shown a yellow card for collapsing the maul.

Australia also counted. Nawaqanitawase’s break was sustained, Welsh scrum-half Kieran Hardy intercepted the final pass but sent it forward, and substitute Australian hooker Lachlan Lonergan recovered and ran in the winning try, his first in rugby test, in the 78th minute.

Despite racking up the most points against Australia, the Welsh mismanaged the final quarter and their ninth defeat in 12 tries gave them their worst calendar year since 2010. Coach Wayne’s future Pivac was already doubtful before the game.

Australia also lost nine Tests this year but ended a grueling and bruised five Test European tour with victory for the first time in nine years.

The teams are due to meet in the group stage of the Rugby World Cup next September, but while the Wallabies are full, only five or six from the Cardiff side are set to start in Lyon, France. They didn’t have Michael Hooper, Rob Valetini, Nic White, Bernard Foley or Tom Banks. Flyhalf Ben Donaldson, who missed the last-minute conversion to beat Italy, and number 8 Langi Gleeson started a test for the first time.

A big shot from Gleeson on Welsh full-back Josh Adams gave Donaldson an early penalty which he netted to calm nerves.

Adams started after Leigh Halfpenny suffered a back spasm during the warm-up and retired late for the second time this month. But Wales had reloaded with Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Gareth Anscombe and all enjoyed the big games.

The team patiently held the ball and looked for space. Jones featured an offload and a backpass before the first two tries from back rowers Jac Morgan and Faletau, who was playing his 100th Test and 95th for Wales. Anscombe started Wales 20-6 after 28 minutes.

Australia came back with a rolling maul try for hooker Folau Fainga’a and survived a stressful half-time finish without scrum-half Jake Gordon.

After a fourth straight five-yard scrum, Hardy ran to the short side and was held back by Tom Wright, with the fullback covering Gordon behind the scrum.

Wales came out of half-time 20-13 in an even better position.

A 52-yard penalty attempt by Reece Hodge hit the post and then prop Tom Robertson, who replaced captain James Slipper during the break, was shown a yellow card and Australia were down to 13 men.

Morgan had two tries on a second consecutive try on a rolling maul.

Gordon returned but Australia were still a man down, and Wales winger Rio Dyer arrived after a backlog of textbooks. Wales were cruising at 34-13 but then started to lose their temper.

Anscombe, who extended his record for perfect kicks this month to 14 from 14, injured his right shoulder.

Then Nawaqanitawase, who made his debut just two weeks ago, kicked off Australia’s fightback with a pair of brilliantly successful tries.

Wales were still leading by nine with the captain in the trash when Jones and Faletau were substituted. It was then that the home side fell apart and the Wallabies cashed in to win in Cardiff for the first time in five years.

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