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Rugby Union: DRAGONS STUNNED BY LAST GASP TRY; Australia 29 Wales 23.

WALES captain Gareth Thomas hailed his under-strength side's belief after they slipped to an agonising last-gasp defeat.

Missing 18 of their leading players, Wales raced into a 17-0 lead in the first half.

But the Aussies stormed back and with a try scored after the final hooter they retained their unbeaten home record against the visitors dating back to 1969.

Thomas, who set a new National caps record of 93, said: "It's always a harsh way to lose when it's the last play of the match. It was a great game of rugby and Australia stuck it together for the full 80 minutes. Just one lapse let them win the game."

Wales required just 75 seconds to take the lead as first Chris Czekaj then James Hook took advantage of Aussie handling errors to send Thomas crashing over.

And on 16 minutes Jamie Robinson intercepted Julian Huxley's pass to race clear from 70 metres. Hook converted both tries and then added a penalty. Wycliff Palu began the Wallabies' fightback with a 24th-minute try. Ten minutes later Nathan Sharpe barged his way to the line.

Hook extended Wales's lead 11 minutes after the break with a penalty, but by the 63rd minute the Wallabies were in front as Mortlock converted Giteau's try then kicked a penalty.

Wales dug deep and looked as if they had won it when Hook slotted a 72nd-minute drop goal. But their hopes of a historic victory were dashed at the death when Stephen Hoiles crossed for the killer blow.

Lee was involved in the build-up to the opening try - dragged down just short after a superb break.

On the next tackle, Hull skipper Lee Radford shrugged off opposite number Gareth Hock to score.

Horne made the next try, kicking for centre Craig Hall to touch down. And when Lee brought Willie Manu on to a short ball, the second rower blasted through.

Barrett stepped forward to drag his side back into the game.

After a penalty had taken the home team downfield, the stand-off forced his way over from close range.

From the kick-off, Palea'asina produced a 50-metre charge to put Wigan on the attack again.

And after Barrett's dangerous kick had forced Sid Domic to knock-on near his own line, the Warriors' No6 grabbed his second from the scrum.

He was involved again as Wigan took the lead less than three minutes after the restart - though half back partner Leuluai was the chief architect with two clever kicks to set up Richards.

Richards was over again moments later, with Leuluai's long pass picking out the winger for his second.

Then Mick Higham got in the act from close range, before a Barrett drop goal and Ashton's breakaway rounded matters off.

Wigan coach Brian Noble said: "Palea'asina and Barrett gave us a huge lift just before half-time when a few people were probably running to the bookies to back Hull at 16-2.

"I was confident we could get back in the game - but not score so many unanswered points."

WIGAN: Ashton; Calderwood, Bailey, Vaealiki, Richards; Barrett, Leuluai; Fielden, Millard, Paleaiasina, Hock, Fletcher, 0yLoughlin. Subs: Higham, Prescott, Hansen, O'Carroll.

HULL FC: Briscoe; Sing, Hall, Yeaman, Raynor; R Horne, Lee; Dowes, Swain, Carvel l, Radford, Manu, Tickle. Subs: Tony, Domic, Wheeldon, Maiava. Ref: P Bentham ( Warrington).
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 27, 2007
Words:548
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