FULL TIME: Australia have secured a dramatic 25-19 win over Wales in an instant WXV1 classic at Mount Smart Stadium.
Wales had a final opportunity to steal the win late after Kelsey Jones' 76th minute try put them within striking distance and looked to drive a rolling maul over with the game's final act.
However, a defiant gold wall of Wallaroos jerseys swamped the Welsh pack and held fast, referee Hollie Davidson calling the ball "unplayable" and ending the game after a breakout scuffle.
Second half tries to Lori Cramer and Ivania Wong were instrumental in Australia's bonus-point victory despite the Wallaroos playing almost 38 minutes with 14 women following a red card to Siokapesi Palu shortly after halftime.
Palu was handed a red card in the 42nd minute for a high shot on Welsh fullback Jasmin Joyce and the Wallaroos' woes compounded five minutes later when Sera Naiqama was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a Welsh attacking maul, resulting in a penalty try.
Down to 13 players, the Wallaroos looked to their bench with Lori Cramer and Ashley Marsters sent into the fray
Their presence paid early dividends. Marsters' surging carries and Cramer's slick hands steered Australia upfield to a 5m lineout before a thundering run from last week's hero - Eva Karpani - reignited the contest after 51 minutes.
Karpani stormed over stormed three Welsh defenders from the ruck base to close the margin to just one at 14-13.
Carys Dallinger's sideline conversion attempt missed but the Reds flyhalf 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 then 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, before Jones' late reply and the fearsome Welsh maul set up a grandstand finish.
The result sees Australia bank back-to-back wins for the first time in 2023 and leaves them second on the WXV1 ladder behind unbeaten England, who face New Zealand tomorrow.
Earlier, Australia got off to a flying start through Stewart but could only post an 8-7 advantage at oranges.
Scything runs from Ivania Wong, Siokapesi Palu and Georgie Friedrichs set the tone before Carys Dallinger broke the game open, breaking two tackles inside the Welsh 22 and linking with Arabella McKenzie, who fed Stewart over the chalk out wide to open Australia's account in the 16th minute.
However Wales' trademark ruck pressure frustrated the Wallaroos, who squandered multiple chances midway through the half.
Back-to-back penalties eventually cost Australia with Wales backing their rolling maul and scoring through Carys Phillips in the 27th minute.
Keira Bevan's successful conversion put the Welsh ahead 7-5 but the lead was shortlived as a restart error gifted the Wallaroos an attacking scrum 22m out.
Ill discipline at the ruck then gifted Dallinger a penalty attempt within range, which was duly converted for Australia to regain the lead 8-7.
Consecutive penalties late in the half saw the Wallaroos again piggybacked towards the chalk with Kaitlan Leaney diving over from the ensuing maul.
However referee Davidson was on the spot, rightly calling the try back for obstruction to deny Australia's second five-pointer.