(New Zealand Herald )


For the first 80 years in the rugby rivalry between Australia and Wales, the tests were close and uncompromising.

Since the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup, the Wallabies have dominated, winning 22 of 25 with one draw.

They have won the last 10, going back almost seven years, but the average margin in the last nine is only 4.4 points.

This will be their sixth meeting in the Rugby World Cup, making it the equal-most common encounter in tournament history beside New Zealand-France, and Australia-England. Australia has won the last four.

Here’s five of their best matches in recent times:

WALES 24, AUSTRALIA 22, Cardiff, 2005
A Lote Tuqiri try gives Australia a narrow halftime lead, and Nathan Sharpe’s try in the first minute of the second half makes it 14-6. Wales rallies with a penalty try from an attempted pushover scrum, a Shane Williams beauty that started from deep in the Welsh half, and two more Stephen Jones penalties to lead 24-17 with about 10 minutes to go in a breathless match. With five to go, Tuqiri sets up Chris Latham, but Mat Rogers misses the conversion and Wales leads by only two. Wales absorbs a furious last Wallabies assault, and beat Australia for the first time since the 1987 World Cup third-place match.

AUSTRALIA 29, WALES 23, Sydney, 2007
Wales storms to 17-0 with tries by Jamie Robinson and captain Gareth Thomas, on his national record 93rd cap. Australia exploits lineout problems with tries from Wycliff Paul, Nathan Sharpe, and Matt Giteau to go up 22-20. James Hook’s late dropped goal appears to win it for Wales, but the Wallabies make one last attack. The fulltime hooter goes. The Wallabies still have the ball, Hook just misses an interception, and replacement No. 8 Stephen Hoiles is given a huge overlap to score in the right corner. The following weekend, Wales loses the second test 31-0 and still hasn’t won in Australia since 1969.

WALES 21, AUSTRALIA 18, Cardiff, 2008
Australia is in trouble from the third minute, when captain Stirling Mortlock limps off after a collision with Jamie Roberts, who doesn’t last much longer. The Welsh backs are in sweet form, with wingers Lee Byrne and world player of the year Shane Williams scoring tries. But they need all of Stephen Jones’ 11 points off the boot, because the Wallabies never give up. Digby Ioane scores a last-gasp consolation try, but the Wallabies miss out on their first unbeaten tour of Europe in 12 years. This was Wales’ last win over the Wallabies.

AUSTRALIA 25, WALES 23, Melbourne, 2012
This was the second test of a three-match tour. Australia won the first by eight points. Here, the lead changed nine times, including eight times in a thrilling second half. Wales fail to capitalize on Cooper Vuna’s yellow card, and lead only 23-22 with 13 minutes left. first five-eighths Berrick Barnes misses a penalty and is replaced by Mike Harris, then Australia knocks on, but Wales concede momentum with two consecutive penalties, giving Harris a last-minute shot 28 meters out, 5 meters in from the left sideline. He nails it with the last act of the game. Australia would win the third test by one point in Sydney for a sweep.

AUSTRALIA 14, WALES 12, Cardiff, 2012
Kurtley Beale and Leigh Halfpenny trade penalties so Wales lead a tension-filled match 12-9 going into the last quarter. Into the 80th minute, from a ruck inside their half, the Wallabies spin it right, replacment center Mike Harris receives a cut-out pass to get around the Welsh defence, replacement flanker Dave Dennis backs him and, before he clutters into last defender Halfpenny, feeds Beale for a free run in from the 22 for the match-winning try with 26 seconds left. Halfpenny is taken off on a stretcher, and Wales’ seventh consecutive loss drops it out of the top-eight rankings. Two days later, Wales is drawn into the 2015 World Cup pool with Australia and England.