Wallabies pip brave Wales to third place
Australia bounced back from their semi-final loss to New Zealand to defeat Wales 21-18 in the Bronze Final at Eden Park in Auckland.
But Friday's win was soured by a serious injury to Quade Cooper, who suffered a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament in the 22nd minute while attempting to step his way to the tryline.
The mercurial fly half screamed in agony and slumped to the ground, before being assisted from the field to generous applause from the 53,013 crowd that had previously booed his every move.
Cooper looked sharp from the opening whistle, setting up Berrick Barnes' opening try as the Wallabies, who also lost Kurtley Beale to a hamstring injury after nine minutes, built a 7-3 lead at the interval.
The Wallabies were forced to come from behind in the 49th minute after a fine solo effort from Shane Williams, but consecutive penalty goals to James O'Connor and a drop goal from man-of-the-match Barnes put Australia eight points clear with 12 minutes remaining.
Stephen Jones cut the deficit with a penalty goal before Wallabies No.8 Ben McCalman put the result beyond doubt with a try four minutes from the siren.
As they have done all tournament, Wales refused to surrender and had the final say when Leigh Halfpenny completed a long build-up in the 83rd minute to add respectability to the scoreline.
The win was a fitting celebration of Nathan Sharpe's 100th Test match and also ended Australia's 25-year drought at Eden Park
Sharpe led both teams out onto the ground, but the 33-year-old suffered a scare when he fell awkwardly in a lineout in just the fourth minute.
The Wallabies showed their intent when they turned down a kickable penalty goal in the eighth minute, but Adam Ashley-Cooper was unable to take an inside ball from Cooper with the line in sight.
The small number of Wallabies supporters at the ground finally had reason to cheer when Cooper sent Berrick Barnes over untouched with a sublime pass off an attacking scrum.
Wales answered with a penalty goal to James Hook on 20 minutes before Cooper's tournament ended in agony.
O'Connor and Leigh Halfpenny both missed penalty goals before half-time to send the Wallabies into the sheds with a 7-3 lead.
A Mike Phillips chip kick led to Wales' first try on 49 minutes.
Hook gathered the ball and threw an errant pass that drifted forward in front of Shane Williams.
Williams showed great footballing skills to kick the ball ahead twice and evade O'Connor in the last line for his 58th Test try.
But the Wallabies would not be denied.
- Australia completed 98% of the 146 tackles they attempted in this match
- Wales made an average gain of just 2 metres on their 146 carries in the match, Australia made 4.7 metres on their 83 carries
- Toby Faletau made 83 tackles at this RWC without missing a single one
- Nathan Sharpe is the fifth Wallaby and 21st player from any nation to win 100 caps
- Shane Williams is the 11th player to notch up 10 Rugby World Cup tries, and the first Welshman
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