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Australia begin Schmidt era with victory against Wales

Australia players celebrate

Australia (13) 25

Tries: Tupou, Daugunu, T Wright Cons: Lolesio, T Lynagh Pens: Lolesio 2

Wales (10) 16

Tries: Penalty try Pens: B Thomas 3

Australia defeated Wales in Sydney to give new coach Joe Schmidt an opening victory in his first match in charge.

Tries from Taniela Tupou, Filipo Daugunu and Tom Wright set up the victory with Wales managing a penalty try and nine points from new fly-half Ben Thomas.

Warren Gatland's side suffered their eighth successive international defeat which is Wales' worst losing sequence since a run of losses in 2012 and 2013.

The latest loss means Wales drop to their lowest position in World Rugby's rankings, slipping to 11th and falling outside the top 10 for the first time.

It was a 14th loss in 20 matches for Gatland in his second stint in charge after returning as head coach at the end of 2022.

It was also a 12th successive defeat against the Wallabies in Australia in an away losing streak that stretches back to 1969.

Number eight Aaron Wainwright was Wales' most impressive performer but limped off in the final minute and there were also injury concerns about Gareth Thomas and Liam Williams.

Gatland will point to a second-half try that was disallowed for obstruction but the tourists offered little in attack and were hampered by a malfunctioning line-out.

Australia will now look to wrap up the two-Test series in Melbourne next Saturday.

Wallabies return to action

This was Australia's first game in almost nine months since they slumped to a World Cup low at the 2023 tournament in France, making a pool stage exit for the first time before head coach Eddie Jones' reign ended just 10 months into a five-year contract.

Schmidt took over and had spent less than two weeks with the side and appointed a new captain in flanker Liam Wright.

He included seven new caps in his 23-man squad including starts for centre Josh Flook and lock Jeremy Williams.

There were only three starting survivors in each side from Wales' World Cup record 40-6 win in Lyon in September 2023.

This included Wainwright who led the team out in Sydney on his 50th cap after recently retired former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper had delivered the match ball.

A rousing rendition of the Welsh anthem left new cap Josh Hathaway in tears but any emotions disappeared as the 20-year-old Gloucester wing was involved in the opening move of the match.

That yielded a penalty which was slotted over confidently by fly-half Thomas.

The 25-year-old last played for Wales in 2021 and is normally a centre with Cardiff but has become Gatland's sixth different starting number 10 since the New Zealander began his second stint as head coach ahead of the 2023 Six Nations.

Australia were bringing back their own exciting option at 10 in Noah Lolesio and he levelled the scores.

Sydney-born prop Archie Griffin was making his first Wales start against James Slipper, who became the most capped prop in history with his 135th cap, beating Gethin Jenkins' record.

Griffin impressed in the loose by making more than 20 tackles throughout the match but it was Australia's number three Taniela Tupou who forced the first scrum penalty with Lolesio kicking his second penalty.

Wales were indisciplined in the opening quarter with French referee Pierre Brousset warning captain Dewi Lake.

That went unheeded as Tupou burrowed over for the opening try and Wales prop Thomas was shown a yellow card for another offence, while Lolesio's conversion opened up a 10-point lead.

The visitors were denied a try for Rio Dyer after a knock-on in the build-up by Owen Watkin but soon Australia conceded a penalty try for collapsing a maul with Fraser McReight shown a yellow card.

Thomas returned to the field but immediately gave away a scrum penalty under pressure from Tupou.

Wright stuff

Wales trailed by three points at half-time with Gatland's side having been content with that deficit after Australian having the upper hand in most facets.

A bright second-half start by Wales allowed Thomas to level the scores, but the tourists lost prop Thomas with a leg injury as he was replaced by Kemsley Mathias.

The defiant Welsh defence continued to hold out Australia's attack with lock Christ Tshiunza forcing a penalty on his own line.

Their line-out issues continued though and a wayward throw set up the attacking platform for Wallabies to allow wing Daugunu to slide over, despite a valiant Mason Grady tackle.

The rampaging Wainwright looked like he was going to create Wales' second try but was denied by a brilliant tap tackle from Jake Gordon.

Replacement flanker James Botham appeared to have scored with his first touch after being driven over from short-range but it was ruled out for obstruction after the television match official (TMO) intervened.

Wales produced a backline reshuffle with centre Nick Tompkins coming on for Williams with Grady switching to wing and Hathaway moving to full-back, while lock Cory Hill made his first Test appearance for three years.

A Griffin turnover penalty allowed Thomas to slot over his third kick and this reduced the deficit to two points.

The game's defining moment came when full-back Wright easily glided outside Tompkins and inside Grady for a spectacular solo effort.

Tom Lynagh, son of Wallabies legend Michael, converted to commemorate his debut from the replacements bench and complete the scoring.

Line-ups

Australia: Wright; Kellaway, Flook, Paisami, Daugunu; Lolesio, J Gordon: Slipper, Faessler, Tupou, J Williams, Salakaia-Loto, Wright (capt), McReight, Valetini.

Replacements: Pollard, Kailea, Alaalatoa, Blyth, Cale, McDermott, T Lynagh, Pietsch.

Sin-bin: G Thomas 20

Wales: L Williams; Hathaway, Watkin, Grady, Dyer; B Thomas, Bevan; G Thomas, Lake (capt), Griffin, Tshiunza, D Jenkins, Plumtree, Reffell, Wainwright.

Replacements: E Lloyd, Mathias, H O'Connor, Hill, Botham, Hardy, Costelow, Tompkins.

Sin-bin: McReight 25

Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)

Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), James Doleman (New Zealand)

TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa).