Heroic losses, moral victories, unjust decisions, bad luck - call it what you will. The naked truth is that Wales had the opportunities to win each and every game in which they took part during this World Cup and failed to take them when it truly mattered. That is not the sign of a great team.
Today's match was a bit different to the agnosing defeats at the hands of South Africa and France because at no point did Wales look in control. Australia looked sharper with the ball and more aggressive without it. Warburton was in the stands, Roberts was smothered, Phillips was mostly snaffled and the scrum was weak even against a much maligned Australian front row. And for the second game in succession James Hook was preferred to Stephen Jones. Only Gatland and God know why. The three point margin flattered Wales who, for all their efforts in the tournament as a whole, ultimately flattered to deceive in RWC2011.
It's not that that Wales didn't knuckle down against Robbie Deans' men, in fact they competed very well at the breakdown even without their leader and lead jackler Sam Warburton, and were full of bluster and effort. As Michael Owen said in commentary, they just kept trying to go through Australia. Australia were having none of it. It was the hitherto ignored Berrick Barnes that did the damage, tackling above his weight, hitting the game line effectively for his try, handling superbly and pinning Wales back with some great punts, dribbles and grubbers. How things may have been different for the green and golds if Barnes had played in their other matches in place of the silky but fragile Quade Cooper. Sadly for Cooper his world cup ended as he suffered a serious cruciate ligament injury as he seemed to catch his studs in the turf.
What next for Wales? Well as fate would have it, Australia on December 3rd at the Millennium Stadium. By which time the Welsh players will have numerous Pro 12 and Heineken Cup matches under their belts and the Aussies will have had a short off-season. Wales will need Priestland and Warburton back to tidy up possession and run the show if they are to get revenge for today's defeat.
The Welsh first XV are young, and there is further talent coming through behind it. Can they overcome the mental fragility that has always tempered Welsh ambitions in the professional era? Time will tell, but on the evidence of this World Cup campaign, there's work to be done - let's hope it is kick started with a win on December 3rd.
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