2000 Rugby League World Cup Semi-Final
19 November 2000 • KO 18:00
46 v 22
Alfred McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield
Referee : Russell Smith
The Welsh squad are playing on borrowed time. Denied a Superleague franchise following the euphoria of the last world cup in 1995 their squad has dwindled in size and potency to such an extent that they were forced to draft aging ex-league stars Devereux and Moriarty into their squad from Welsh Rugby Union two weeks ago.
Borrowed time perhaps. But the Welsh Dragon imbues this team with a sense of pride which is all their own. Despite going behind the Dragons came back spitting fire to take the lead 12-8 after a quarter of this game. It was a lead they extended to 20-8 after a half-hour. A lead as unlikely and amazing as it was deserved and prayed for. A lead they protected and nurtured throughout the games first hour.
The complacent and lethargic Australian team suffered every inch of the way. Their much-vaunted pack battered and bruised by the Welsh six. The speedy, classy, elusive and evasive backs starved of ball and deprived of space were frustrated at every stride.
And then on 54 minutes, the spell was broken. Fletcher collected a suspiciously forward looking inside pass from Kimmorley to spin out of a Moriarty tackle on 5 metres before reaching over to claim a try. Lockyer converted to make it 20-22.
Just two minutes later, Lockyer scored from a mirror image of the move, collecting Kimmorley's inside pass to cross to the right of the posts and restore Australia's lead at 24-22.
Fittler barged over from close range on 59 minutes to extend that lead to 28-22 and the tide was well and truly changing. Even Lockyer's failure to convert could not damage the Australian swagger now.
Lockyer soon made amends by kicking an easy penalty to extend the lead to 30-22.
When Lockyer gathered his second try, following up a great break by Kearns from half way and collecting the inside pass in the left centre channel 15 metres out, it was all over. The conversion took the score to 36-22 on 66 minutes
Then Gower barrelled over on 70 minutes to make it 40-22 to Australia.
Right on time the Australian's finished in style with a superb display of keeping the ball alive. Kennedy finished it off under the posts and Lockyer converted to give the score a lop-sided 46-22 look that the Welsh didn't deserve.
And so it ended, as it had started, in that old, familiar, fashion.
But how we had enjoyed that bit in between.
Australia grabbed the first score after four minutes when Brett Kimmorley set off on an angled run across the Welsh posts from the 10 metre line. A simply dummy stood-up Moriarty, Kimmorley's strength tore him from the big man's grasp and he crossed to the left of the posts to make it 4-0.
Quick hands from Gower and Gidley put Sailor over in the right corner on 11 minutes. Girdler again pulled his conversion attempt wide, but Australia were on their way at 8-0.
Good inter-passing between Harris, Watson and Farrell inside the Australian 20 metres created half a gap for the eager scrum-half, Watson, who showed exceptional strength and determination to drive over under the posts from 8 metres despite the close attentions of two Australian defenders. Harris's conversion made it 8-6 to the Welsh.
Incredibly the Welsh went in front after 17 minutes when Tassell picked up a misplaces Harris pass 15 metres out in the left centre channel to race through a huge gap in the Australian line and dive over for a try borne of Welsh pride. Harris's conversion made it 12-8 to Wales.
The Welsh were in dreamland on 22 minutes when Briers chased a towering Harris bomb and snatched the ball from the outstretched arms of Lockyer. Briers scampered the 10 metres to the line to score under the posts and Harris converted to make it 18-8.
Briers then snatched a brilliant drop goal from 30 metres on 26 minutes to edge Wales in front by 19-8.
The Welsh were playing mistake free football. With Cunningham, Harris and Briers running them ragged in midfield.
Briers added a second drop goal on 27 minutes to make it 20-8.
The Australian's were reeling. With the two tries and the drop goals from Briers the Welsh had had the ball for eight minutes. When the Australian's finally got the ball back they drove it straight up the middle and skipper Fittler strode over from 10 metres to touch down just to the left of the posts. This time Girdler converted the score to bring Australia back in it at 20-14 and settle the Antipodean nerves.
The ball failed to stick to Sullivan's fingertips as he went for a daring interception on 38 minutes and Australia continued their sustained pressure on the Welsh line. As the clock ticked down the tackles mounted-up, six tackles, 12 tackles 18 tackles. The desperate Welsh defence held them out. A magnificent tackle from Highton halted Sailor inches short of the line on 40-minutes. A decision confirmed by the video referee after an agonising wait.
The brave Welsh walked off at half time leading by 20-14 having lifted the tournament out of the doldrums and into the realms of sporting theatre.
Team Lists and Scoring Information
|6||Brad Fittler (c)||2||8|
|1||Iestyn Harris (c)||4||8|
|4||0 - 4||Brett Kimmorley||Australia||Try|
|11||0 - 8||Wendell Sailor||Australia||Try|
|14||4 - 8||Ian Watson||Wales||Try|
|15||6 - 8||Iestyn Harris||Wales||Conversion|
|18||10 - 8||Kris Tassell||Wales||Try|
|19||12 - 8||Iestyn Harris||Wales||Conversion|
|23||16 - 8||Lee Briers||Wales||Try|
|24||18 - 8||Iestyn Harris||Wales||Conversion|
|26||19 - 8||Lee Briers||Wales||Drop Goal|
|27||20 - 8||Lee Briers||Wales||Drop Goal|
|29||20 - 12||Brad Fittler||Australia||Try|
|30||20 - 14||Ryan Girdler||Australia||Conversion|
|45||22 - 14||Iestyn Harris||Wales||Penalty|
|54||22 - 18||Bryan Fletcher||Australia||Try|
|55||22 - 20||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Conversion|
|57||22 - 24||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Try|
|60||22 - 28||Brad Fittler||Australia||Try|
|62||22 - 30||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Penalty|
|66||22 - 34||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Try|
|67||22 - 36||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Conversion|
|70||22 - 40||Craig Gower||Australia||Try|
|79||22 - 44||Ben Kennedy||Australia||Try|
|80||22 - 46||Darren Lockyer||Australia||Conversion|