Australia secured the bronze medal with a thoroughly deserved 21-18 victory over Wales at Eden Park.
Australia were on top in the opening quarter of the match as they looked rampant with Quade Cooper dictating the play for the men in gold. Kurtley Beale was forced off the field inside ten minutes with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the semi-finals.
Cooper's kick on ten minutes put Wales under pressure but Shane Williams did well to recover and clear the ball into touch but the winger was clattered for his efforts by a pair of Australian forwards.
Australia scored the first try of the game after 12 minutes through Berrick Barnes. The Australians fed the ball from the scrum quickly and Cooper passed the ball to Barnes who found the gap in the Wales defence to score the try. James O'Connor added the extras from beneath the posts.
Wales finally got into the game after going 7-0 down to Robbie Deans' side. George North drove towards the Australia 22 metre line after the Welsh won the turnover. The ball was fed to the opposite wing but Jonathan Davies' pass was only able to find the touch judge.
Warren Gatland's men were improving and they forced David Pocock into knocking the ball on to give Wales a 5 metre scrum. From the resulting scrum, Australia conceded a penalty to give James Hook the simple task of slotting the ball over the posts from close range to make the score 7-3.
On 20 minutes, the impressive Cooper was handed the ball and in an attempt to fool the Welsh defence, his dancing run ended with his right leg being planted into the ground forcing the fly-half, who looked in absolute agony, into the ground. A devastating sight for all concerned in the rugby world, Cooper had to be replaced by Anthony Faingaa after suffering knee ligament damage.
Neither side were able to take control of the match at this point as the penalty count escalated with the game heading towards the half-hour mark. James O'Connor had the chance to take Australia's lead back to seven points after 28 minutes after Paul James conceded a penalty, but the 21 year olds effort struck the post meaning Australia's lead remained at four points.
Wales also had a chance to add to their points tally minutes before half-time with a long range penalty kick. Unfortunately for the men in red, Halfpenny's kick went wide of the posts as Australia took a 7-3 lead into the break.
James Hook was presented with a golden opportunity to claw Wales back to within a point of Australia four minutes into the second period after James Slipper was penalised for not rolling away from the tackle zone. However, from right under the posts, James Hook somehow managed to miss with his effort, much to the delight of the Aussie fans.
Nathan Sharpe left the Eden Park field to rapturous applause after 46 minutes when he was replaced by Rob Simmons, but it was Wales that were celebrating soon after. Mike Phillips' kick was gathered by James Hook and the Perpignan back found Shane Williams who displayed his footballing credentials to get over the try-line and give Wales the lead for the first time in the game. Hook's last contribution of the encounter was to miss the conversion attempt and the 26 year old was duly replaced by Stephen Jones.
Robbie Deans' men hit back immediately with a penalty from James O'Connor on 52 minutes to put Australia back in front with less than 30 minutes to go.
O'Connor was on hand once again to convert another penalty after referee Wayne Barnes punished Paul James for failing to release the ball, meaning the Wallabies were 13-8 in front as the game entered the final quarter.
Wales did everything in their power to bring themselves back into the game, but they were constantly met by the golden brick wall that was Australia's defensive line.
The Wallabies had the chance to take their lead beyond seven points when Leigh Halfpenny was penalised for failing to release the ball in the tackle zone after some great pressure from David Pocock. O'Connor's kick from just inside the Wales half fell short of the posts, but immediately afterwards the men in gold did have their eight point cushion thanks to Berrick Barnes' superb drop-goal.
Wales continued to apply pressure on their opponents and they were handed a lifeline after 70 minutes when Stephen Jones stepped up to slot home a penalty to bring Wales back within five points of the Australians with ten minutes left to play.
Australia had the chance to end the contest with five minutes left to play when James O'Connor exploited the empty right wing with a powering run. O'Connor fed the ball to Adam Ashley Cooper who looked destined to score, but the centre was thwarted by the phenomenal George North who hauled down the Waratahs back to prevent the try.
Australia did manage to kill the game off in the 77th minute as Ben McCalman touched down after some good work by James Slipper. McCalman's try put the Wallabies ten points in front as the game headed into the final minutes.
With Wales in possession, the game clock turned red meaning the bronze medal belonged to Australia. Wales showed great spirit till the very end and they were rewarded for their efforts three minutes into over-time as Leigh Halfpenny finally found space to score the five points for the Welsh. Stephen Jones converted the try in what was Wales' last action of a truly sensational World Cup tournament.
Man of the Match: Berrick Barnes
Tries: Berrick Barnes (1), Ben McCalman (1)
Conversions: James O'Connor (1)
Penalties: James O'Connor (2)
Drop-Goals: Berrick Barnes (1)
Tries: Shane Williams (1), Leigh Halfpenny (1)
Conversions: Stephen Jones (1)
Penalties: James Hook (1), Stephen Jones (1)