LYON, France (AP) — Wales became the first Rugby World Cup team to qualify for the quarterfinals on Sunday while virtually shutting the door on Australia’s hopes.
The far more experienced Welsh won by a record 40-6 by expertly executing a low-risk, disciplined gameplan and crucifying Australian mistakes.
Wales rope-a-doped the Wallabies.
“We were clinical, controlled the game, we didn’t really give them anything,” Wales coach Warren Gatland said. “This team gets better and better and, with some confidence and momentum, we’re in a pretty good place now.”
The Wallabies have never missed the quarterfinals but losing consecutive pool games for the first time in 36 years left their fate in the hands of their tiny Pacific neighbor Fiji, which upended them last week.
Australia should win its last Pool C game against Portugal next weekend but it won’t matter if Fiji accounts for its remaining games against Georgia and Portugal. If so, the Fijians will follow Wales into the quarters and the shutout will confirm Australia’s worst fears.
“I’m embarrassed for the Aussie people,” captain Dave Porecki said. “We were hoping to put a show on. It just wasn’t good enough. This one hurts.”
Penalties by the error-prone Wallabies gave replacement flyhalf Gareth Anscombe goal-shooting practice. He slotted six of seven penalty attempts — the one miss hit the post — and converted a try he set up for inside center Nick Tompkins.
With high stakes on the line, Wales rose to the occasion at OL Stadium with its biggest win against Australia in their 115-year history, and handed the Wallabies their heaviest World Cup defeat.
Anscombe came on in the 12th minute after linchpin Dan Biggar apparently injured a pectoral muscle in a tackle, and Wales didn’t miss a beat.
The performance was a personal triumph for Anscombe. He was Wales’ first-choice flyhalf in 2019 but a knee injury forced him to miss that year’s Rugby World Cup and two seasons. A shoulder injury against Australia last November sidelined him for five months.
He repaid the faith of coach Warren Gatland by putting a literal boot into the Wallabies. His 23-point haul, including a drop goal, equaled Biggar in 2015 against England for most points by a Welshman in a World Cup game.
“Dan Biggar means so much to this team, he’s a real spiritual leader,” Anscombe said. “I knew I had to just come on and do my role and that was all I was focused on. Our boys up front were outstanding, they dominated the set-piece, and I was just able to keep rolling forward.”
Wales scored three tries, conceding none, and kept Australia scoreless after the 14th minute.
Captain Jac Morgan, sporting cotton plugs up both bleeding nostrils, set up the first try and scored the last in another brilliant performance.
In just the third minute, Wales called a short lineout and Morgan hung behind the backs. From a quick tapdown, Tompkins’ inside pass met Morgan in a huge gap and scrumhalf Gareth Davies was in support to finish his eighth try across three Rugby World Cups.
Biggar converted and was replaced by Anscombe while Australia was dominating. The Wallabies patiently built pressure in phases but couldn’t finish them off. Halves Tate McDermott and Ben Donaldson made breaks but couldn’t make the last passes.
Donaldson kicked two penalties to close to 7-6 and received another kickable penalty for the lead. But Australia opted for touch and an attacking lineout but nobody was lifted for the catch and Wales took the gift and cleared.
Australia never recovered, and conceded soft penalties for Anscombe to tick over the scoreboard.
By halftime, Wales led 16-6 and 103 tackles had contained Australia. In the second half, Wales had to make only 38 more tackles. Wales won 27 of 28 set-pieces and the Wallabies’ confidence ebbed away.
A scrum penalty three minutes into the new half brought the kicking tee back on for Anscombe and Wales didn’t look back.
Morgan scored the third try in the 78th from a lineout maul, then held up Suliasi Vunivalu over the line to prevent Australia even from a consolation score.
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