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By ARU Media Unit
The Qantas Wallabies last night capped off their 2011 season with a 24-18 win over Wales in Cardiff to retain the James Bevan trophy and finish the year second on the IRB World rankings.
The Welsh showed passion and determination in what was their iconic winger’s, Shane Williams, last match and went ahead early through a penalty goal in the 7th minute.
Berrick Barnes gave the Australians a chance to get on the scoreboard in the 31st minute when he hit a cross field kick to Lachie Turner who despite grounding the ball was adjudged to have been taken into touch by Wales’ man of the moment, Williams.
The Welsh then stepped up their attack in the shadows of half time but the Qantas Wallabies defended well to ensure the Welsh wouldn’t cross their line in the first half, however another penalty goal in the 33rd minute saw Wales extend their lead to 6-0.
In the final play of the first 40-minutes the Qantas Wallabies were rewarded a penalty, which James O’Connor made no mistake with to see the Australians head to the sheds down 6-3 at half time.
The Qantas Wallabies came out firing in the second half, however it wasn’t until the 50th minute, and after Welsh fullback, Leigh Halfpenny, was shown yellow that the Australians crossed through Will Genia for their first try.
Genia, running from the base of the ruck for the first time in the match, crossed for the Australians first five-pointer to put them ahead and when O’Connor added the additional two points they led 10-6.
O’Connor then had the chance to stretch the Qantas Wallabies lead to seven when he lined up a penalty goal directly in front, however his shot came off the upright and was picked up by the Australians who, after a number of phases, crossed for their second try of the match through Lachie Turner.
After being denied a try in the first half Turner received a bullet like cut out pass from fly-half O’Connor to cross in the corner in the 58th minute and after O’Connor converted the Qantas Wallabies led 17-6.
The Qantas Wallabies were in again in the 62nd minute after substitute Radike Samo laid off a great ball to Barnes who extended the Australians lead to 16-points, which was added to by two-points just minutes later when O’Connor converted to make it 24-6 after 64 minutes.
The Welsh hit back minutes later, much to the delight of the 65,000 strong Millennium Stadium crowd, through five-eighth Rhys Priestland who crossed for his first Test try to pull the Australians lead back to 13-points and give the home side a sniff with more than 10 minutes to go.
With their tails up the Welsh continued to push, however the Qantas Wallabies held strong until the final play of the match when the stadium erupted as the man they came to farewell, Williams, crossed in a fairy-tale finish to his stellar career.
The 34-year old Williams who played 87 times for the Welsh dragon squeezed through a gap after the siren brining everyone in Millennium Stadium to their feet.
Daniel Biggar then converted the Williams try to finish the game 6-points behind the Qantas Wallabies who retained the James Bevan trophy and finished the 2011 season with a solid win.
The Australians will now return to Australia over the coming week and enjoy some much deserved time off before returning to their Super Rugby franchises early in the new year in preparation for the 2012 Super Rugby Season.