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What an agonising way to lose a match and a series. Wales were leading 23-22, the clock was approaching 80 minutes, and Wales had possession of the ball. Wales kicked possession away, and conceded a penalty, which Australia kicked upfield to win a lineout. From the lineout Australia set up a rolling maul, and Wales were penalised for bringing it down. Australia were awarded another penalty, and they kicked it to win the game 25-23. On such fine margins, Test matches are won and lost.

Wales have not won a test match on tour in the Southern Hemisphere since 1969, and in this game we came so close. The post match post-mortem suggests Wales should have won the game. Unlike the 1st test of a week ago, when Wales had a poor first half, this Saturday Wales couldn’t have started better – we scored a converted try with only 4 minutes gone. Wales were still leading just before half time, but then Australia scored a try in the dying minutes of the 1st half, to go into half-time ahead by 13-7.

The 2nd half was dominated by alternating penalty kicks between Australia and Wales, but Wales did score a 2nd try to go 23-22 ahead. The possibility of levelling the 3-match series, and of winning in Australia for the first time since 1969, seemed very likely. But, as any sports fan knows, Australia never give up, and Wales should really have played a smarter game in the last few minutes. I am not sure how a side, which showed such maturity and composure during their Grand Slam campaign this past winter, could be so naive as to give away possession with a 1-point lead and hardly any time left on the clock. But, give it away we did, and the inevitable happened; Wales conceded a penalty and Australia broke Welsh hearts.

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How much Wales’ performances in these last 2 tests has been affected by not having our head coach, Warren Gatland, we will never know. I am sure Rob Howley makes a very able interim head coach, and Wales had better get used to Gatland’s absence – he has been chosen to coach the Lions tour of Australia next summer, so will be on extended leave from his position as head coach of Wales until that tour is over.

With the 3rd and final test next Saturday in Sydney, Wales still have a chance to get that elusive Southern Hemisphere victory. It will be interesting to see how Wales react to this heartbreaking defeat, and also whether Australia go for the 3-0 series victory, or rest players for the upcoming Tri-Nations competition. Can Wales at least avoid an embarrassing white-wash?

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