Three first half tries have handed Wales its first win of the Australian tour, controlling a spirited University of Canberra Brumbies outfit 25-15 at Canberra Stadium, Tuesday night.
The home side came within four points of Wales, but couldn’t capitalise on its late, favourable momentum to snatch a win.
It was the first time a Welsh side has won in Canberra having been defeated in 1978 and again in 1996.
The exhibition clash was the perfect opportunity for the team’s fringe players to justify their place in the squad with a different line-up named by coach Jake White.
Dylan Sigg, Tom Cox, Kimami Sitauti, Cam Crawford, Beau Mokotupu, JP Pradaud and Siliva Siliva all made their provincial debuts for the Brumbies while it was Ben Hand’s first outing as skipper.
With regulars Ben Mowen, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Pat McCabe, Nic White and Michael Hooper all missing from the match due to international commitments, the University of Canberra Brumbies went into the game as underdogs.
White was pleased with the effort his young side had shown, despite falling behind on the scoreboard.
“The second half was much better, the first half was a bit disappointing but so long as our players learn lessons from the mistakes that we made in that first forty then we are making progress,” White said.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for us. I’m thankful for Wales giving us a crack at them. They have a strong defensive line and have played together for some time. I don’t think our guys are used to looking up and seeing 14 players in front of them every time.
“There’s a lot to be positive about, particularly in the second half, but at the end of the day you play rugby because you want to win.”
The Brumbies took time to settle into the match, working on fresh combinations for the majority of the first half. It was fly-half Zack Holmes who got the scoreboard ticking over with a successful penalty goal from 45 metres to give the University of Canberra Brumbies an early 3-0 lead
But that advantage was quickly swallowed by the Welsh, with experienced fly-half James Hook crashing over for his first five pointer of the Castrol EDGE Welsh Tour.
The attacking capabilities that have made Wales one of the world’s most dangerous outfits were on display soon after when Hook sent Liam Williams racing away, only to be denied by some committed Brumbies cover defence.
Despite several attacking opportunities, the University of Canberra Brumbies couldn’t cross the Welsh try-line during the opening exchanges, with Holmes boot the only avenue to points before half time.
Late tries to flanker Justin Tipuric and veteran Alun Wyn Jones gave the Welsh an attractive lead going into the break, 19-6.
Tipuric’s effort typified the Welsh performance, jumping on the smallest of chances when they arose to nudge ahead on the scoreboard.
The University of Canberra Brumbies rang in several changes in the second half, tightening their defensive structures to deny the Welsh another try.
More penalties to Holmes and Hook kept the points flowing. A quality break from Cox and Colby Faingaa had Brumbies fans on the edge of their seats, just four points behind and on the attack.
But two late penalties to Hook, who hit five from six for the night, settled the margin at 10 and handed Wales the first win of their Australian tour.
WALES 25 (James Hook, Justini Tipuric, Alun Wyn Jones tries; James Hook 2 penalties, 2 conversions) bt UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA BRUMBIES 15 (Zack Holmes 5 penalties) at Canberra Stadium Tuesday. Referee: Ian Smith. Crowd: 7248.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ruaidhri Murphy
2. Anthony Hegarty (replaced by Siliva Siliva)
3. Scott Sio (replaced by JP Pradaud)
4. Leon Power (replaced by Dylan Sigg)
5. Ben Hand (c)
6. Peter Kimlin
7. Colby Faingaa
8. Ita Vaea (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
9. Ian Prior (replaced by Beau Mokoputu)
10. Zack Holmes
11. Kimami Sitauti
12. Andrew Smith
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Cam Crawford
15. Robbie Coleman (replaced by Tom Cox)
16. Siliva Siliva
17. JP Pradaud
18. Dylan Sigg
19. Fotu Auelua
20. Beau Mokoputu
21. Tom Cox
22. Jesse Mogg