Australia advance to Rugby World Cup quarterfinals after ugly win against Wales – Stuff

At Northland Events Centre, Whangārei: Australia 13 (Iliseva Batibasaga try; Lori Cramer con, 2 pen) Wales 7 (Sioned Harries try; Elinor Snowsill con). HT: 10-7.
Australia are through to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals after an ugly 13-7 win over Wales in Whangārei on Saturday.
On the evidence of this dour contest, neither will trouble the stronger teams in the last eight. No points were scored in the second half until Lori Cramer’s penalty goal for the Wallaroos in the 78th minute.
Wales are still likely to contest the quarterfinals – and face the Black Ferns – but will have to wait on other results to confirm their spot.
Australia survived the last 10 minutes with a player less after Kaitlan Leaney’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle and deserved their win despite making awfully hard work of it.
Physically, they were evenly matched and tried kicking long to gain the territorial advantage, albeit without much success.
Both had edged Scotland in Pool A and lost heavily to the Black Ferns. They clashed knowing a loss would likely mean a quarterfinal rematch with the reigning world champion Kiwis.
Australia were better at creating space but were equally wasteful in finishing opportunities to put Wales away.
The final pass for several try-scoring chances didn’t stick and Wales defended their own line desperately.
Wales didn’t flex their muscle, as was expected, with their scrum and were shunted back by Australia.
The Wallaroos pounced on a Welsh error from kick-off and drove forward to assert an early dominance.
That was rewarded by halfback Iliseva Batibasaga’s try when she caught the Welsh defence napping at a ruck.
However, a tense, scrappy first half was littered with handling errors. Neither side were confident moving the ball wide and Wales opted to kick to head into Australia’s territory and use their maul which upset the Black Ferns last Sunday.
No 8 Sioned Harries crashed over to drag Wales back into the game after their pack forced the Wallaroos to crumble.
Australia were then unluckily denied another try when the English referee Sara Cox inadvertently blocked Batibasaga’s pass with a massive overlap out wide, stopping their momentum dead.
They were unable to convert their considerable pressure into more points to add to their frustrations, but Cramer did convert a penalty goal on the stroke of half-time for a 10-7 lead.
The big moment
Replacement Wallaroos lock Leaney was sinbinned in the 70th minute for a high shot and was lucky to avoid red for flying her shoulder into Alex Callender’s head.
Australia lost two players last week against Scotland to red cards and were guilty again of tackling high.
Wales, however, weren’t good enough to take advantage but did claim a losing bonus point.
Harries was outstanding for Wales. Wallaroos winger Bienne Terita provided some rare quality moments with her excellent running game and their No 8 Grace Hamilton was a driving force.
Match rating: 3/10
Tensions were high, but the attacking quality of both sides was limited. The match was difficult to watch because of multiple, frustrating mistakes.
The big picture
Sunday’s final pool matches will ultimately decide who they might play in next weekend’s quarterfinals.
Wales will probably face the Black Ferns again in the last eight in Whangārei and Australia’s opponent isn’t clear yet after confirming a second-placed finish in Pool A.
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