A last-minute try to Wallabies flyhalf Kurtley Beale has secured a dramatic victory for Australia in an historic last Test for veteran lock and captain Nathan Sharpe in his side’s final game of the Spring tour.
With less than a minute to play and Wales up 12-9 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the Qantas Wallabies shifted the ball wide on a counter attack which found replacement flanker Dave Dennis bursting down the sideline before passing to Beale for the winning try in the corner.
The game was charged with emotion from the outset, with the Australians looking to send their captain out with a fitting victory, while Six Nations champions Wales hoped to end a six-game losing streak.
A see-sawing first half saw Australia dominate in the early stages with the majority of possession, only for Wales to enjoy a resurgence late in the opening stanza.
Qantas Wallabies outside centre Adam Ashley-Cooper found space early, breaking through the Welsh defensive line in the eighth minute only to have a pass to flying winger Drew Mitchell pulled back for a forward pass.
Wales had their own chance at crossing over four minutes later when Rhys Priestland chanced his hand five metres from his own line, releasing winger Alex Cuthbert who ran 60 metres before being dragged into touch by Australian fullback Berrick Barnes.
Australia opened the scoring through flyhalf Kurtley Beale in the 16th minute with a penalty goal following a Welsh infringement at the breakdown.
Wales fired back shortly after, with Leigh Halfpenny evening the scores at 3-3 after Australia entered the ruck from the side.
Halfpenny was solid again, taking his side into a 6-3 lead after Australia left their feet at the ruck.
Wycliff Palu saved a certain try by the Welsh in the 25th minute when he chased down a chip kick by Halfpenny, grounding it in the Australian in goal under heavy pressure from Welsh chasers.
Beale tied the game at 6-6, punishing the Welsh for being offside in the 26th minute and regained the lead at 9-6 for his side 10 minutes later with a penalty goal following yet another Welsh ruck infringement.
The Welsh enjoyed much more possession in the latter stages of the half, with Halfpenny offered a late opportunity to tie the game only to suffer his first missed penalty goal attempt of the half.
The Qantas Wallabies entered the break with a 9-6 lead.
A tense second half ensued with both teams vying for territory.
While Australia were able to capitalise on a weakened Welsh set piece, with Nathan Sharpe stealing much of the opposition lineout ball, it was Wales on the rise as Halfpenny slowly ticked over the scoreboard.
Halfpenny successfully slotted penalty goals in the 56th and 61st minutes to take his team to a 12-9 lead which they held until the final minute.
The 78th minute saw the Australians hold up a Welsh maul attempt from a lineout to be awarded a crucial scrum.
The Australian pack secured the five-metre scrum on their own line, before the backs sent the ball through the hands for Mitchell to run 40 metres downfield. The Australians continued to phase downfield and a break by Barnes brought the crowd to its feet, but the ball was turned over in the ensuing ruck.
Wales sent a clearing kick into the Australians half but the kick did not find touch and Australia counter attacked again, leading the Beale’s match-winning try.
The Qantas Wallabies end 2012 on a high, with the Spring Tour wrapping up with a successful three wins from four matches.