Wallabies stand tall as Michael Hooper joins all-time naughty list

Michael Hooper Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Michael Cheika lauded the battling spirit of his Wallabies side after they secured a 29-21 win over Wales in Cardiff.

Three first-half tries put Australia in full control of the match at halftime but the second period was largely dominated by Wales, with the tourists hanging on desperately after Michael Hooper was sin-binned on 67 minutes. Tatafu Polota-Nau, Adam Coleman and Hooper crossed the whitewash in the first half with rookie Wales winger Steff Evans replying for the hosts.

Leigh Halfpenny kept his side in touching distance with a penalty after the restart and, roared on by a passionate home crowd of over 65,000 at the Principality Stadium, Wales threw everything at the Wallabies. But the turning point of the match was a 62nd opportunistic try from Kurtley Beale, who stole the ball from the grasp of Evans and raced 65 metres for a try under the posts to knock the wind out of the home side's sails.

"I thought our finishers really excelled, there was a lot of close-range stuff where we could have said 'let's take a breath and let in a try'," Cheika said. "They threw everything at us and if you look at Wales over the last 12 months the majority of the points they have scored have been in the last 20 minutes of games.

"The try we scored to get the break was from defence. We had the strip and then Beale ran the distance. When it doesn't go for you in attack ... your defence has to stand up there and be your insurance. I was happy with the 'D' and I thought we showed great character."

Hooper watched on helplessly from the sidelines as Wales laid siege to the Australia line only be repelled over and over again. Welsh veteran skipper Alun Wyn Jones looked to have burrowed his way over but a huge tackle from the combined forces of Sean McMahon and rookie replacement lock Matt Phillip forced the knock-on.

Ironically, Wales did finally break the Australian resistance after Hooper's return with a late consolation try from Hallam Amos.

Hooper now boasts the dubious honour of becoming joint most sin-binned player in history alongside South Africa's Bryan Habana, Italy's Marco Bortolami and Jamie Cudmore of Canada after the seventh yellow card in 77 internationals.

"It was a very long 10 minutes," Hooper said. "It's becoming a bit of a thing for us against this Welsh team...a couple of times where our team has just hung in with a lot of character.

"A really satisfying win, the insurance of defence really does show the character of the team. It'll be a different week altogether this one coming up...a lot less travel but we'll savour this win, a sweet win."