Berrick Barnes stepped flawlessy into the boots of injured Quade Cooper leading the Wallabies to a 21-18 victory over Wales at Eden Park.
The Wallabies lost top line playmakers Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale within 20 minutes - Beale having re-injured his already damaged hamstring and Cooper's knee gruesomely collapsing while attempting to sidestep - but appeared to miss neither with Waratahs utility Barnes capably marshalling the Wallabies backline.
The match finished the closest bronze final since the same teams contested the 1987 version and Wales edged the match by a single point.
Cooper, in the few minutes he was on the field showed rugby fans what they had been missing in preceding weeks with a slick ball to put Berrick Barnes into a yawning gap in front of the posts to open the scoring after 11 minutes.
O'Connor's try conversion was met with a penalty from Welsh fly-half James Hook nine minutes later.
Both sides played to form and the occasion relentlessly keeping possession and throwing the ball wide in expansive running back line movements.
Mistakes curtailed scoring in the latter part of the first half with the Wallabies maintaining the four point margin at the break.
A glut of Welsh possession finally took it's toll when Shane Williams managed the unlikeliest toe onto a terrible pass that the veteran wing managed to regather and score eight minutes into the second half. Wales hit the lead for the first time but Hook's missed conversion from the sideline kept the lead to one point.
O'Connor made the Welsh pay twice in quick succession for ruck penalties to restore the antipodeans lead.
Barnes traded a high and wobbly drop goal with a Welsh penalty as Australia entered the final minutes with a slender lead intact.
Adam Ashley-Cooper missed a golden opportunity to seal the win when he dropped the ball with the tryline in falling distance. Ashley-Cooper himself started an expansive backline move after a long ball to O'Connor had the winger in acres of space.
No. 8 Ben McCalman sealed the match for Australia minutes later scoring his second international try following a break at the base of the ruck.
Wales threw multiple phases of possession as the Australian tackle count mounted - the pressure paying off when the Wallabies broke wide and Leigh Halfpenny ran in a consolation try.
Australia 21 (Tries: Barnes, McCalman Pen: O'Connor 2 Con: O'Connor DG: Barnes) Wales 18 (Tries: Williams, Halfpenny Pen: Hook 2 Con: Jones)