Wales 34-39 Australia: Wayne Pivac’s future in doubt after Wallabies fightback

Wales 34-39 Australia: Wayne Pivac's future in doubt after Wallabies fightback

Australia came from 21 points down to condemn Wales to a ninth defeat in 12 Tests this year
Wales (20) 34
Tries: Morgan 2, Faletau, Dyer Cons: Anscombe 4 Pens: Anscombe 2
Australia (13) 39
Tries: Fainga’a, Nawaqanitawase 2, Penalty try, Lonergan Cons: Donaldson, Lolesio 2, Pens: Donaldson 2

The position of Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is hanging by a thread after his side threw away victory against Australia.

Wales had built up a 34-13 lead with Jac Morgan scoring two tries and further scores from Taulupe Faletau and Rio Dyer.

Australia responded with 26 unanswered points as they capitalised on yellow cards for Wales captain Justin Tipuric and Ryan Elias.

Defeat could prove the end for Pivac.

Australia wing Mark Nawaqanitawase was the catalyst for the Wallaby turnaround with two tries.

There was a further score from Folau Fainga’a, a penalty try and the winning score from replacement hooker Lachlan Lonergan.

Ospreys flanker Morgan was again a powerful presence as he scored two tries for a second successive week, while Alun Wyn Jones and George North were also impressive but their efforts proved in vain.

Wales had produced a much improved display in the first 60 minutes against a depleted Australia side but could not hold on.

Pivac on the brink

So what now for Pivac’s position as head coach after three autumn defeats and a solitary win against Argentina?

With only three victories in 12 games this year and first home defeats against Italy and Georgia, his role remains under intense scrutiny.

Pivac will do well to survive this capitulation against Australia.

A review into the autumn campaign will be held by the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), although Pivac is scheduled to fly to France on Sunday to finalise preparations for next year’s World Cup.

Former coach Warren Gatland was watching the Australia loss from the Principality Stadium sidelines in his television commentary role.

He has been tipped for a return in an interim role if a vacancy arises but, for now, he has insisted he has not been contacted by the WRU.

Pivac took over from his fellow New Zealander following the 2019 World Cup, a year in which Wales had won the Grand Slam, been ranked number one in the world and finished fourth in the global tournament in Japan.

During Pivac’s 34-match, three-year tenure, Wales have won 13 games, lost 20 and drawn one.

There were two poor years in 2020 and 2022, with a 2021 Six Nations title sandwiched in between.

His achievement of becoming the first Wales coach to record a Test victory over the Springboks in South Africa in July 2022 has been tempered by those home losses against Italy and Georgia.

The autumn series had started with an eight-try defeat by New Zealand before Wales responded with a battling win over Argentina.

That was followed by the Georgia defeat, with the Australia loss further demonstrating the consistency issues Pivac’s side have had throughout his reign.

Mark Nawaqanitawase scores
Mark Nawaqanitawase was key to Australia’s comeback win

Experience does not tell for Wales

The Australia match was played outside World Rugby’s international window, meaning both sides were missing personnel.

Pivac had largely turned to experience with Gareth Anscombe, Dyer, Alun Wyn Jones, Faletau and new cap Joe Hawkins starting.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny was picked to start but pulled out just before kick-off with a back spasm, with Adams slotting in at 15.

World-record cap holder Jones, 37, was recalled after being used as a replacement against New Zealand and left out for Argentina and Georgia.

Faletau was playing his 100th international, with his 95th Wales cap complemented by five British and Irish Lions Test appearances.

At the other end of the scale, Ospreys centre Hawkins, 20, replaced the injured Owen Watkin and provided a creative influence on his debut.

Australia were depleted by injuries and unavailability as they faced their 14th Test since July and fifth in consecutive weeks.

Established names such as Michael Hooper, Quade Cooper, Marika Koroibete, Samu Kerevi, Bernard Foley, Will Skelton, Nic White, Andrew Kellaway, Taniela Tupou were absent, yet they still found a way to win.

Never rains but it pours

The Principality Stadium roof was not totally closed because of a technical fault which left a gap of three metres, allowing the driving rain in.

On the field, Wales made an inauspicious start with Adam Beard dropping the kick-off and Gareth Thomas giving a scrum penalty away which Ben Donaldson slotted over.

Wales responded with a well-worked try created by offloads from Tomos Williams and lock Jones to release flanker Morgan, who powered over for a third try in two games.

Wales scrum-half Williams was forced off with a head injury and replaced by Kieran Hardy.

Hawkins enjoyed an encouraging opening quarter but also conceded a penalty for a high tackle which Donaldson kicked.

Some more powerful carrying work from Morgan enabled Anscombe to extend the lead with a penalty.

Faletau provided an expert finish on the right wing following a flowing move with Anscombe providing a classy conversion and slotting over a second penalty.

Taulupe Faletau
Taulupe Faletau marked his 100th international appearance with a first-half try – but Australia’s fightback spoiled his day

Discipline troubles hit Wallabies

Adams produced heroics in defence, with a turnover and try-saving tackle on Australia flanker Jed Holloway.

But the Wallabies’ pressure told with hooker Fainga’a scoring following a rolling maul.

Wing Dyer almost scored after being released before being hauled down just short of the line, but Australia scrum-half Jake Gordon was shown a yellow card for a cynical offside offence.

Wales could not capitalise on a period of scrummaging superiority and naivety saw Hardy held up over the Australia line just before half-time.

Australia captain James Slipper did not come back onto the field in the second half after picking up a head injury and his replacement Tom Robertson was sent to the sin-bin for his team’s persistent penalties in the scrum.

The visitors were reduced to 13 men and Morgan was again at the heart of the attacking maul as he was emphatically driven over for his second try.

Clinical Wales then rammed home their dominance with a well-worked try for Dyer.

Australia bounce back

Anscombe converted before being forced off with a serious shoulder injury, to be replaced by Rhys Priestland.

The Wallabies responded with a try for impressive wing Nawaqanitawase, who outflanked Alex Cuthbert.

Captain Tipuric was shown a yellow card for a cynical trip on replacement Pete Samu and Nawaqanitawase capitalised with a well-worked set-piece try.

Elias was then shown a yellow card as he conceded a penalty try for pulling down a maul, meaning Wales were reduced to 13 men.

Pivac chose to take off 267 caps’ worth of experience, with Jones and Faletau leaving the field when Tipuric was already in the sin-bin.

Australia took advantage of their numerical advantage with the match-winning try for replacement Lachlan Lonergan.

The next time these two face each other will be in the World Cup pool next September, but the two teams – and coaching staff – could look very different by then.

Wales: Adams; Cuthbert, North, Hawkins, Dyer; Anscombe, T Williams, G Thomas, Owens, D Lewis, Beard, Alun Wyn Jones, Morgan, Tipuric (capt), Faletau.

Replacements: Elias, R Jones, Francis, Carter, Macleod, Hardy, Priestland, Costelow.

Australia: Wright; Petaia, Ikitau, Hodge, Nawaqanitawase; Donaldson, Gordon; Slipper (capt), Fainga’a, Alaalatoa, Frost, Neville, Holloway, McReight, Gleeson.

Replacements: Lonergan, Robertson, Talakai, Hanigan, Samu, McDermott, Lolesio, Campbell.

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)

Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (RFU), Chris Busby (IRFU)

TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU).

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