A desperately poor game somehow delivered the most thrilling of finales, but Wales were left to rue a moment of history snatched from their grasp in the most cruel way.
As the hooter sounded around the Telstra Stadium to signal the end of normal time, Wales were heading for their first win over the Wallabies in Australia since 1969 and justification for the selections made by Gareth Jenkins that have caused such uproar Down Under. Yet just when they needed to show the kind of composure that delivered a Grand Slam two years ago, they lost their heads.
The game was over the next time the ball went out of play but the Wallabies, as they had threatened to do for most of the game, put together a sustained attack that saw Wales run out of defenders and the replacement back-rower Stephen Hoiles dive over in the corner.
Jenkins said: "We're bitterly disappointed to lose so late on but you have to give credit to Australia for producing a wonderful try just when they needed it. It was a close game and whoever lost was going to be hurt. Unfortunately it is us. We just have to use this frustration for next week."
Wales will need to make major improvements to their game, most notably at the line-out and at re-starts, before they meet a Wallabies side who cannot possibly make so many basic errors in Brisbane next Saturday. Wales's shortcomings meant that the horrors of the recent Six Nations disaster returned as they spent most of the game tackling shadows, unable to lay a hand on the ball for more than a few seconds.
Yet despite winning just 16 per cent of possession in the first half an hour, they were somehow 17-0 to the good, following breakaway tries for Gareth Thomas and Jamie Robinson, both gifted by Wallaby mistakes. …