Ioan Cunningham rued a golden opportunity missed after Wales’ narrow 25-19 defeat against Australia to round off WXV 1.

After a 70-7 loss against New Zealand last week, Cunningham pleaded for a bright start against the Wallaroos in order to finish a maiden WXV campaign with heads held high.

Things looked encouraging when Wales led 14-8 after Australian flanker Siokapesi Palu was sent off for a high tackle on Jasmine Joyce and Sera Naiqama was sent to the sin bin.

But Wales could not get a full grip on the clash, with the power of the Australian bench proving the difference at the end of a cagey affair.

“We’re extremely gutted with that one”, Cunningham said.

“We’ve thrown it away, especially when they were down to 13 players.

“You have to give Australia huge credit. The bench really raised the intensity in the middle of the second half.

"They carried hard at us, and that period probably decided it.

“We had a chance to win it at the end, but we weren’t accurate enough.

"We will reflect on this experience and the tough learnings and then build towards the Six Nations in the new year.”

Only a penalty from Australian fly-half Carys Dallinger separated the two sides at the break, following first-half tries from Maya Stewart and Carys Phillips.

Wales had one hand on the wheel and a 77th-minute Kelsey Jones try set up a tense finish.

But any hope of snatching victory was short-lived, as Australia kept Wales out Down Under.

It is back to the drawing board for Cunningham’s side, who claimed a solitary point in the first ever WXV.

Earlier in the week, the former Wales U20s coach said: "We know where we must improve and what our strengths are, and to play this level of opposition will only be good for us in the long term."

Captain Hannah Jones agreed that Wales will take the experience as a learning curve but insisted performances still showed that her side deserve to be up there with the very best.

She said: "I'm so proud of the girls. We've had a tough week this week and we gave it our all.

"A few decisions didn't go our way, but we put it all out there.

"We've definitely proved that we deserve to be here. There were a few clinical edges that need improving and our discipline but I'm sure this experience will make us stronger."