WALES 12 AUSTRALIA 14: Another sob story as Wales are left to ponder ‘what if?’
WALES are proving to be the Muppets of the rugby world after they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in another ‘if only’ sob story defeat that would have been almost funny had it not been so tragic.
Their skipper, Sam Warburton, had spoken in the week about how he was sick of losing close games to rugby’s big boys. Play it again, Sam. For old times’ sake.
If he is getting fed up with narrow defeats, just think about how the rest of us are feeling. At least he is getting the big bucks and not having to cough up 80 quid for a ticket to watch such dross.
To be brutally frank, in an awful match where they failed yet again to score a try, Wales got what they deserved on Saturday and what was due to them this autumn – nada.
To be unable to put away a clearly groggy Australia team virtually out on their feet after a long rugby season was bordering on the criminal.
Maybe trading standards should be contacted.
But four defeats from four is a fair reflection of how poor this team is with worrying questions now needing to be answered about where this coaching team under Warren Gatland is taking Wales.
Former Scotland boss Andy Robinson had a far better record against the southern hemisphere big three than this regime has, and look what happened to him.
Gatland’s record against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is pathetic. Wales dominate the northern hemisphere game and win Grand Slams because they excel at their mediocre level as kings of Europe.
But the cold wind of change is blowing through the Continent.
Wales’ embarrassing autumn was put into context by England’s 38-21 win over New Zealand on Saturday and Ireland’s 46-24 smashing of Argentina last month, as well as France destroying Australia 33-6.
Gatland’s men were humiliated 33-10 by the All Blacks and 26-12 by Los Pumas and fell short again at the final hurdle against the Wallabies.
If that isn’t a cause for deep concern, I don’t know what is, and if those three teams can take their form into the Six Nations Wales are going to be on the receiving end of some ferocious beatings.
The Welsh Rugby Union must also be praying that high flying Cardiff City aren’t promoted from the Championship.
With Swansea City riding high in the sexy Premier League and recording a superb 2-0 victory at Arsenal on the weekend, I know of people who are now turning their back on rugby to live the dream by following Wales’ resurgent football clubs.
Fans are fickle but they want to be entertained and follow winning sides. Times are tough and money’s too tight to mention. People need something to cheer them up and Welsh rugby’s certainly not the answer at the moment.
And Wales’ seventh defeat in a row could well be stretched even further with Ireland first up in the Six Nations.
Saturday’s 58,114 attendance at the Millennium Stadium was down a staggering 11,423 from the 69,537 who watched the corresponding fixture 12 months ago.
It’s sad for a primarily rugby man to say it, but football at the highest level has become a far more attractive package than the one sold by purveyors of the oval ball.
Another depressing truth is that most of the ludicrously named RaboDirect PRO 12 has become about as watchable as it is pronounceable.
And the Heineken Cup, once a competition to whet the appetite, has become a non-starter for Welsh rugby fans with three regions without a hope of even qualifying for the quarter-finals and the fourth one – our own at the Newport Gwent Dragons – not even involved in it and looking unlikely to be for a number of years.
Welsh rugby is in crisis. The WRU’s chief executive Roger Lewis needs to get us out of this mess, and fast.
A victory over the Wallabies on Saturday would have put a gloss on how awful Wales are and how poor the regions are.
Three tries in four games for the national side over the autumn speaks volumes.
I’m reminded of Peter Finch’s meltdown in the great movie Network.
Welsh rugby fans should stick their heads out of the window and yell: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Wales: L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, L Williams, R Priestland, M Phillips, G Jenkins, M Rees (K Owens 66), S Andrews, L Reed, L Charteris (R Jones 3, 40), A Shingler, S Warburton (capt), T Faletau (J Tipuric 66)
Scorers: Penalties – Leigh Halfpenny (4)
Australia: B Barnes, N Cummins (D Ioane 48), A Ashley-Cooper, B Tapuai (M Harris 59), D Mitchell, K Beale, N Phipps, B Robinson (J Slipper 61), T Nau (S Moore 40), B Alexander (S Kepu 67), K Douglas (M Hooper 52), N Sharpe, S Higginbotham (D Dennis 16), D Pocock, W Palu.
Scorers: Try – Kurtley Beale, Penalties – Penalties – K Beale (3)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)