Wales hold off Australia to edge Rugby World Cup thriller

Wales' Justin Tipuric in action with Australia's Michael Hooper. (Reuters)
Updated 29 September 2019

Wales hold off Australia to edge Rugby World Cup thriller

  • The Welsh were 23-8 ahead at half-time but they had to withstand a furious second-half onslaught
  • Australia captain Michael Hooper said the game 'came down to the wire'

TOKYO: Six Nations champions Wales took a massive step toward topping Pool D with a thrilling 29-25 victory over valiant Australia in the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
The Welsh were 23-8 ahead at half-time but they had to withstand a furious second-half onslaught when Australia fought back to within a point late in the game.
Wales, 43-14 winners over Georgia in their opener, will now be confident of finishing their pool unbeaten, with their next opponents Fiji in Oita on October 9 before taking on Uruguay in Kumamoto four days later.
“Relief at the moment,” said Wales coach Warren Gatland, when asked what he was feeling after the match. “Tough second half but the boys pulled through.
“It was a tough Test match. Very pleased with the first half. We didn’t have a lot of ball in the second half and Australia kept coming at us and putting us under a huge amount of pressure. But we were able to hold on thankfully.”
Australia captain Michael Hooper said the game “came down to the wire.”
“Some big calls there. Some went our way, some didn’t,” said Hooper.
“We’ve got to pick ourselves back up. We’ll review it. Probably right now recovery’s key. We’ve got a six day turnaround. This sort of format, competition, you’ve got to move on pretty quick.”
An electric game full of enterprising, interlinking play from both sides on a balmy late afternoon in the Japanese capital made for a marvellous spectacle of running rugby.
The 47,885-strong crowd had barely taken their seats after the anthems when Wales were on the scoreboard.
The ubiquitous Aaron Wainwright turned over esteemed Wallaby jackler Michael Hooper from the kick-off, Gareth Davies finding Dan Biggar in the box for a straightforward drop-goal with just 37 seconds on the clock.
Biggar went wide on his first penalty attempt minutes later as Wales continued to attack with fluidity, George North being brought down with the line begging.
The largely red and yellow crowd at Tokyo Stadium traded respective ballads, ‘Hymns and Arias’ for ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with mutual applause for both renditions. A hearty round of collective boos, however, rang out when an image of England coach Eddie Jones was shown on the big screen.
Biggar spurned a second shot at goal as Wales looked to build on their momentum.
The ball was quickly recycled from the attacking line-out, Biggar putting in an inch-perfect crosskick that Hadleigh Parkes gathered, the Kiwi-born center outleaping Marika Koroibete and spinning past Dane Haylett-Petty to dot down in the corner.
The Welsh fly-half hit the extras but saw a second, long-range drop-goal go wide.
Hooper escaped punishment for a late, high hit on Biggar, French referee Romain Poite deciding a penalty was sufficient.
Wales lost their throw-in from the kick, handing Australia the chance to fire back down the pitch, a Parkes tackle on opposite number Samu Kerevi preventing a sure try.
The Wallaby forward arrived en masse, and with the Welsh defense scrambling, Bernard Foley cross-kicked perfectly to veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper, the winger stepping inside Josh Adams with aplomb to scramble over for a deserved try.
Foley scuffed the conversion, but with both sides more than willing to throw the ball around, it didn’t seem to matter.
Biggar bundled Serevi into touch after the strapping Fiji-born center had two-stepped around Jonathan Davies, but the fly-half paid for that defensive showing by being subbed off with a head injury, replaced by Rhys Patchell.
Foley and Patchell traded penalties before Gareth Davies pounced to intercept a deep pass from a stuttering Will Genia to sprint home from 60 meters.
Patchell converted to make it 23-8 at half-time and dropped a goal four minutes into the second period as Wales looked to turn the screw.
Australia were far from done, however, David Pocock providing the perfect offload for Dane Haylett-Petty to score the Wallabies’ second try, Matt Toomua converting.
The Welsh defense, built around No 8 Josh Navidi and skipper Alun Wyn Jones, winning a Wales-record 130th cap, could only hold firm for so long as Australia proceeded to camp out in their 22m area with a series of set-pieces, Hooper eventually being driven for an invaluable try Toomua converted.
Games between the two sides are traditionally tight and so it again proved, Toomua hitting a 69th-minute penalty to reduce Wales’ lead to just one point.
Patchell responded in kind, Tomos Williams kept an Australian kick to touch in play and Wales saw out a tense final five minutes to set themselves up as likely Pool D winners.


Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

Updated 40 min 3 sec ago

Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

  • The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion tackles Dakar
  • Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place

JEDDAH: Fernando Alonso continued his preparations for his Dakar Rally debut in Saudi Arabia by taking third place in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally and secure his inaugural rally podium finish in the process this week.
The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso takes the wheel for Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, the Middle East’s first-ever edition of Dakar Rally, which is hosted by the kingdom from 5 to 17 January.
“It was an ideal preparation for Dakar as we discovered new terrain that we will come across again at Dakar,” Alonso said.
“It is a great feeling to finish third and get the first rally podium in my life. The fact that it happened here in Saudi Arabia at this time gives us a lot of confidence going into Dakar,” Alonso added.
Starting in AlUla and extending over 765km before the finale in Neom, AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally was contested across four stages over five days, and the former Formula 1 champion said it was an “excellent training” for him on a similar terrain and in close weather conditions to what would be expected at Dakar.
Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally, while compatriot Yasir Seaidan finished second, with Alonso rounding off the podium places.
Alonso, who made his desert rally debut in Morocco last month, was co-driven by five-time Dakar bike winner Marc Coma, and the Spanish duo will be together again at Dakar Saudi Arabia as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
The 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 champion got his campaign at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally underway to a good start on Day 1 before taking the pace up a notch on the second and third days to set his team up for a podium finish on the last day. “We continue with our plan and preparations, step by step and adapting as fast as we can,” Alonso said of his plans ahead of Dakar.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will consist of 12 stages, allowing pilots coming from across six continents to discover Saudi Arabia’s rich past, live its modernized present, and meet its future as they race through the Kingdom.
The pilots will kick off Rally Dakar from Jeddah, the bride of the Red Sea, through to Neom, a fully sustainable city of the future, then pass by the historical sites of Riyadh to face the Empty Quarter, a huge desert of unbroken sand, to end in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination.
A criminal investigation was been launched after an armed man intercepted a vehicle taking part in the rally.