Wales had not triumphed over Australia since the 1987 third place play-off in the initial competition; this would be the first Rugby World Cup in which the hosts did not make it to the final.
Australia ground out a hard-earned victory in wet and slippery conditions on a poor quality pitch in front of a capacity 72,000 crowd. Maintaining possession was difficult and, despite the Australians scoring three tries, the greasy conditions meant that kicking was preferred to handling. The refereeing from New Zealander Colin Hawke handed an advantage to the Wallabies, though ultimately they were the better side on the pitch.
Scrum half George Gregan obtained the first try of the match for Australia six minutes into the match, abetted by Hawke, the referee. Failing to see that Stephen Larkham had kicked the ball into his own men, the infringement went possibly unnoticed but definitely unpunished. This allowed Gregan to set up and touch down for the try; fullback Matthew Burke converted and so stretched the Australian lead to 0-7.
Fly-half Jenkins reduced the deficit to four points by notching up Wales’s first penalty of the match. Just a few minutes later Burke added a score in kind to put the Wallabies back in front by a converted try. On the 19th minute mark Jenkins scored his second of the match and just before the half hour mark he added his third, and final, penalty of the game. Wales headed into the interval trailing the Wallabies by a single point, 9-10.
With only a point separating the two sides there was a possibility that Wales could sneak a win from the Antipodeans. However, Wales were playing almost at their limit and with Australia always looking dangerous this chance was slim. They started ferociously on the resumption of the game, constantly driving into Welsh territory. However, it did take the Wallabies until the 64th minute to further build on their total. Ben Tune chased after a Larkham kick to dive over the try line. Burke secured the additional two points to take the Australian lead to 9-17.
Wales were unlucky to concede the third try from Australia, scored deep into injury time on the 85th minute. The referee again missed an infringement that gifted the Wallabies a try. Tim Horan knocked the ball forward in a move that set up Gregan for his second try of the match. As Burke converted for the third time the scoreline was 9-24, and remained that way as the final whistle sounded.
Australia had progressed to the semi-final stage of the competition for the third time. Although they were the better side the Wallabies were flattered by their fifteen point winning margin. Wales were still to emulate their best result in the tournament, though the extent to which the national team had progressed under coach Graham Henry was obvious. Wales gave a disciplined and purposeful performance, a far cry from the nervousness and ineptitude of the previous demonstrations against Argentina and Samoa. Although the improvement due to Henry was considerable, Wales were not good enough to beat an Australian side that would eventually secure their second Rugby World Cup title.