Cardiff — Australia came from 34-13 down to beat Wales 39-34 in an extraordinary Autumn Nations Series Test at The Principality Stadium on Saturday which will pile the pressure on home coach Wayne Pivac.
Two tries by Australia’s 22-year-old wing and man of the match Mark Nawaqanitawase sparked the comeback which ended a three-match losing run on the tour including a historic defeat to Italy.
The heartbreaking loss for the hosts could be a body blow to Pivac who ends the year with just three wins in 12 matches including a first ever defeat by Georgia last weekend.
“We talked after last week, we wanted more physicality and we wanted to go out there and express ourselves,” Pivac told Amazon Prime.
“I thought for large parts we did that, we just weren’t able to bring it home.”
For Nawaqanitawase there had never been a moment they felt they were down and out.
“Us boys had a lot of belief,” he said.
“Obviously there were a few things in the first half like discipline and a few of our carries that let us down.
“But we showed enough character and courage to come back in the second half.”
It was the hosts who settled their nerves as they raced into a 17-6 lead inside 23 minutes with two well worked tries.
Alun Wyn Jones showed there is Test life left in the old legs as the 37-year-old lock produced a delightful offload to Jac Morgan, who ran over to touch down — Gareth Anscombe converted for 7-3.
The Welsh extended their lead as a smooth passing move found veteran flanker Taulupe Faletau out on the right wing and he managed to get the ball down before he went into touch to mark his 100th Test for both Wales and the British and Irish Lions.
Anscombe converted brilliantly from the touchline and then added another penalty for the hosts to lead 20-6 shortly before the half hour mark.
Nawaqanitawase it was who offered the Wallabies hope.
The easy to spot wing with a mop of curls popped up in the centre and broke through the Welsh defence but the move faltered with a knock on.
Nevertheless this newfound confidence got its reward when Folau Fainga’a was forced over and Ben Donaldson converted to pull the visitors to within a converted try of levelling the game.
However, they were back rocking on their heels soon afterwards when Matthew Carley flashed a yellow card at a disbelieving Jake Gordon for a deliberate knock on.
The second period began in dreadful fashion for the Wallabies.
Replacement prop Tom Robertson had barely time to warm his hands before he was warming the sin bin bench — Carley running out of patience with persistent offences by the Wallabies at the scrum.
The hosts took full advantage as Morgan scored his second try and Anscombe with a minimum of fuss added the extras for 27-13.
Robertson was still off the pitch — Gordon had returned — when Anscombe set up Rio Dyer to go over in the left hand corner.
The peerless Anscombe converted for 34-13.
The Wallabies looked down and out but Nawaqanitawase sparked the remarkable fightback as he went over in the corner.
The Wallabies should have had another with 14 minutes remaining as Pete Samu intercepted Rhys Priestland’s pass in midfield and had an open field in front of him.
Welsh captain Justin Tipuric, though, stuck out a leg out to bring him down.
Carley sent him to the sin bin — Tipuric casting a nervous eye up to the scoreboard as he ran off.
Well he might be nervous as the visitors scored a try immediately Nawaqanitawase scoring his second — Lolesio converted for 34-25.
The Wallabies pulled to within two points with just over six minutes remaining as replacement hooker joined Tipuric in the sin bin and Carley awarded a converted penalty try for 34-32.
Their joy was unconfined when with Nawaqanitawase again to the fore in the attack Lachlan Lonergan went over and Lolesio added the conversion to complete the comeback.