Fijian-NSW Waratahs lock-forward Sera Naiqama copped a yellow card in 14-women Wallaroos 25-19 dramatic win over Wales in an instant WXV1 classic at Mount Smart Stadium last night.
Australia got off to a flying start through Maya Stewart, who made a strong return from a head knock on injury and scored the opening try but Carys Dallinger failed to convert.
In the 27th minute, back-to-back penalties eventually cost Australia as Wales backed their rolling maul and responded with a try.
Keira Bevan’s successful conversion put the Welsh ahead 7-5 but the lead was short lived as a restart error gifted the Wallaroos an attacking scrum 22m out
Dallinger slotted the penalty within range for Australia to regain the lead 8-7.
Consecutive penalties late in the opening half saw the Wallaroos again piggybacked towards the chalk with Kaitlan Leaney diving over from the ensuing maul.
However, referee Hollie Davidson was on the spot, rightly calling the try back for obstruction to deny Australia’s second five-pointer as they led 8-7a t half time.
Shortly upon the commencement of the second stanza, Australia was reduced to 14 players when Siokapesi Palu was handed a red card in the 42nd minute for a high shot on Welsh fullback Jasmine Joyce.
The Wallaroos’ woes compounded five minutes later being reduced to 13 players when Naiqama was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a Welsh attacking maul, resulting in a penalty try.
The Wallaroos looked to their bench with Lori Cramer and Ashley Marsters sent onto the field as replacements and their presence paid early dividends.
Marsters’ surging carries and Cramer’s slick hands steered Australia upfield to a five meter lineout before a thundering run from last week’s star – Eva Karpani – reignited the contest after 51 minutes.
Karpani stormed over three Welsh defenders from the ruck base to close the margin to just one at 14-13.
Although Dallinger’s conversion attempt missed, she was instrumental in Cramer’s 67th minute try, sending a perfect cross-field kick contested by Stewart in-goal before Cramer cleaned up the scraps.
Dallinger stepped up to the plate to coolly convert from the right touchline, putting Australia ahead 20-14.
The Wallaroos looked home in the 72nd minute after extending their lead through Ivania Wong, who crossed untouched after slick hands from Georgie Friedrichs and Cecilia Smith.
The Welsh managed to score a consolation try through Kelsey before Jones in the 77th minute.