Good outcome for Wallabies on uninspired night

DAVID LONG
Last updated 23:05 21/10/2011
Wales v Australia
PETER MEECHAM/Fairfax Media
BONZA: Australia second-five and man of the match Berrick Barnes races in to score the opening try in the playoff for Bronze against Wales.

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OPINION: Some relief at last for Australia.

No longer will they be subjected to the endless questions about their Eden Park hoodoo every time the play in Auckland. That probably means more in the long run than finishing third.

It was important for the whole World Cup that this bronze final was an entertaining game.

It has been a thrilling tournament and far better than the dross that was served up four years ago in France.

Also, as Sunday's final has all the making of being a one-sided blow out, this was the test to get excited about from a neutrals' point of view.

In the end, we got a good game, but not a great one.

Judging by the teams named by the respective coaches, Warren Gatland was taking this game far more seriously than Robbie Deans.

Gatland picked his best side, while Deans made six changes to the forward pack that lost to the All Blacks, indicating that this game was one he wanted to be over as quickly as possible.

However, the inclusion of Berrick Barnes at second-five made this arguably the best backline the Wallabies have fielded for the World Cup.

The difference Barnes made to the Australian side compared to Pat McCabe was immense. It meant they had two good kicking options and Barnes is far more threatening at breaking the line and creating play.

For Wales, this game was also about proving a point. They were robbed of a chance to be in the final because of the rash decision by referee Alain Rolland to red card Sam Warburton against France.

It will always be speculated what would have happened if Wales had kept 15 players on the field and made it to the final. On the evidence from this game, it's unlikely they would have been able to stop the All Blacks.

Finishing third would have been a huge boost for Wales, for Australia it was a nice win but counts for hardly anything. They're a team that judges success on winning World Cups, not bronze finals.

The loss of Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper to injuries early on did take a lot of gloss of the spectacle but it did thankfully stop that pathetic booing from the crowd every time Wallabies No 10 Cooper touched the ball.

There was a sloppiness in the Welsh execution that hadn't been there in other games and it continually resulted in them losing possession in prominent positions.

Wales have been let down by first-fives James Hook and Stephen Jones in their past two games, with neither experienced player playing anywhere near the level they needed to.

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But surprisingly Wales did dominate the breakdown, surprising because David Pocock was up against Toby Faletau, a makeshift No 7, who's far more comfortable at the back of the scrum.

But the Tongan-born Faletau did play well, as did Ryan Jones at No 8, with the former Wales captain in superb form, creating two crucial turnovers in the first half.

It was a nice touch for Leigh Halfpenny to score a try in the final act of the game and it typified how Wales had approached this World Cup.

They may head home fourth, but they can hold their heads high.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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