Warren Gatland's men smashed the Wallabies 40-6 to book their spot in the last eight in France
Gareth Anscombe kicked Wales into the World Cup quarter-finals with a record victory over Australia in Lyon, all-but booting the Wallabies out at the pool stage for the first time in their history.
The many wearing red inside the OL Stadium were in dreamland after a virtually flawless display made light work of Australia and saw Warren Gatland’s side become the first team to officially guarantee their place in the knockout phase.
Gareth Davies’ try inside four minutes set the tone and despite losing talismanic fly-half Dan Biggar to injury after 12 minutes, the pressure never relented. Anscombe answered any doubters over his lack of rugby in emphatic style. The replacement racking up a 23-point haul as Wales kept their foot, literally, on the jugular throughout in Lyon.
Anscombe showed his full box of kicking tricks, a deft chip over the top providing an assist for Nick Tompkins’ try, capping another fine individual performance from the Wales centre. He also took a leaf out of George Ford’s book, putting another nail in Australia’s coffin with a well-taken drop-goal; their renaissance continues.
Fittingly it was Jac Morgan who had the final word, applying the finishing touch to a rampaging maul that Australia never looked like stopping with the game and tournament almost certainly beyond them. It was the icing on the cake of a ferocious and bloodied display from Wales’ captain. Who at 23, is already a remarkable player.
Wales into quarter-finals in style
Two penalties for Ben Donaldson were all a much-maligned Australia had to show for their efforts. They were scoreless for the last 66 minutes. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Eddie Jones interviewed for the Japan job before the World Cup, but after this horror show the Brave Blossoms may not want him. They must now beat Portugal with a bonus point and hope that Fiji somehow contrive to not pick up the five points they need against Georgia and Portugal.
The historians were kept busy by Wales’ ruthlessness and Australia’s ineptitude. Wales smashed their record for most points scored against the Wallabies, the previous best was 34. Their previous biggest winning margin over Australia was 25 way back in 1975. Not anymore.
Ironically, for a team on their sixth captain in eight games, Jones’s men were devoid of leaders. The former England coach had confidently predicted his side would win this World Cup, instead it will be an early flight home with the country’s biggest Rugby World Cup defeat in his back pocket.
He has also presided over their first ever consecutive pool defeats. It does not make pretty reading. It is worth mentioning that his team have been one of the worst injury-hit sides at this tournament. Exciting youngster Max Jorgensen broke his leg without playing a game while captain Will Skelton and thunderous tighthead Taniela Tupou was also sidelined for tonight’s clash.
But that still does not explain such a lacklustre display. Jones jettisoned the experienced troops and now must hope his young bucks are not too scarred from this chastening experience to bounce back for their home World Cup in four years’ time.
For Wales it is most likely a quarter-final against Argentina in Marseille as they are now firm favourites to top the group. Not bad for a team who looked so far off the pace in the Six Nations and almost went on a full-blown strike amid contract disputes.
Both teams sacked their coaches within a month of each other around the turn of the year. But while Warren Gatland has worked his magic, Jones’s histrionics have failed in spectacular style on the biggest stage of all.
It remains to be seen who will be charged with picking up the pieces.