8:11pm Sunday 17th June 2012
By Chris Kirwan
FORGET talk of learning the lessons from a painful defeat, it was failure to repeat a drill they’ve been through countless time in the classroom that cost Wales dear.
Seven days after seeing their hopes go up in smoke because of their mistakes entering the last quarter in Brisbane, the tourists blew their chance to set up a series decider with errors in the last two minutes in Melbourne.
It doesn’t matter if Wales ‘deserved’ the win in the second Test, it doesn't matter if once again the officiating left something to be desired because it was Australia, without their skipper and several star backs, that were celebrating at the final whistle.
The Wallabies knew that they had get out of jail and head coach Robbie Deans knew that he was fortunate to be spared a week of headlines about his job being on the line in Sydney.
All because Wales blew yet another golden opportunity – not only had the lead with the clock on 78:41 but they had possession.
At such times ‘doing a Munster’ is something that every team, whether it's the All Blacks or Old Tyleryan at the bottom of Swalec Division Seven, knows what to do.
Put on your ‘Wales Grand Slam 2012’ DVD and you will see how a 16-9 lead was expertly preserved against France. This group of players is well are of what is needed and they did it three months ago.
But against Australia the ball was booted the ball long when it should never have touched the hands of anyone other than scrum-half Rhys Webb and his forwards.
It’s easy to blame fly-half Rhys Priestland for the kick down the throat of Adam Ashley-Cooper but only he had two men outside him when thrown a ball that should have been the given to a forward on the charge. The real disappointment is that nobody took charge of the situation.
From there they left the door slightly ajar and that’s all the Wallabies need – penalty won, kicked to Wales territory, driven on, maul collapsed, Mike Harris coolly wins it.
The replacement fly-half’s right boot has ensured that the only thing riding on the third Test is the chance to end a hoodoo.
Just like Wales ended their Twickenham woes in 2007 they can at least ensure that 1969 doesn't get brought up next time they head Down Under.
It's not quite a dead rubber but it will feel like it because Rob Howley's squad went to Australia looking to win the series.
They were still some way short of their best in Melbourne but should have got over the line thanks to a much-improved defensive display and a magnificent performance from full-back Leigh Halfpenny.
Assured under the high ball and unerring from the kicking tee, it should have been the Cardiff Blues man that was the toast of Wales on Saturday afternoon.
The Wallabies had led 13-7 at the break after exploiting a woeful Welsh lineout to dominate possession.
Wales struck early through wing George North, who powered over from close range to finish off an excellent early pummelling of the Aussies line, but it was then the Berrick Barnes show.
He knocked over a pair of penalties and then scythed through a gaping gap between skipper Sam Warburton and Ashley Beck to put Rob Horne over.
A howler from first Test hero Will Genia allowed Wales to get their noses in front early in the second half when Beck hacked a misplaced pass on and midfield partner Jonathan Davies calmly finished.
It then became a see-saw encounter as Halfpenny and Barnes traded three penalties apiece, though Wales wasted an opportunity to avoid the nervy finale through their failure to exploit a one-man advantage.
The score while Cooper Vuna was off the field for taking Halfpenny out in the air was 3-3 and enabled history to repeat itself.
In 2007 a dodgy clearance kick by Gareth Cooper allowed Stephen Hoiles to dive over with the last play and sneak victory.
This time it was New Zealand-born Harris that was the last-gasp hero and nobody summed it better than Wales tighthead Adam Jones in his post-match interview: “We ballsed it up”.
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