Jac Morgan

Jac Morgan and Louis Rees-Zammit applaud the fans after defeating Australia. Pic: Getty Images

Warren Gatland Hails “Clinical” Wales But Vows Focus Will Not Switch After Wallabies Are Walloped

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By David Williams

Warren Gatland has promised to keep Wales players’ feet nailed to the ground in spite of soaring expectations after their hammering of Australia.

The Wales coach insists Wales will not start looking further down the track than necessary after they cruised into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a record 40-6 win.

Wales made it three successive victories in Pool C, leaving Eddie Jones’ team close to group-stage elimination.

Gatland’s men are guaranteed to top the group if they defeat Georgia next month, setting up a likely quarter-final clash against Argentina in Marseille.

But Gatland said: “We haven’t looked past anything yet, it has been one game at a time.

“Australia came into this game feeling confident about winning. We felt confident to produce a performance today. I thought we were clinical.

“Our focus will be on Georgia, a team we lost against in the autumn (last year).

“We need to rectify that and we need to make sure we don’t drop our standards. I think these players are well aware of that – they have worked incredibly hard.

“We have put a lot of work in the last four months as a team together. We are a momentum team, we build on confidence in terms of performances.

“Today was an outstanding performance in terms of what we wanted to achieve. We were blowing a bit at half-time, but I thought we went out and controlled the second half fantastically well.”

Wales overcame the early loss of injured fly-half Dan Biggar to boss Australia in every key department and coast home through tries from scrum-half Gareth Davies, centre Nick Tompkins and captain Jac Morgan, while Biggar, who kicked an early conversion, saw his replacement Gareth Anscombe boot 23 points.

It was Wales’ record win against Australia, overtaking a 25-point margin in 1975, and former England boss Jones will be left to face the music as the Wallabies lurch towards World Cup oblivion.

On Biggar, Gatland added: “Dan has stretched his pec. I haven’t spoken to the medics, but I spoke to Dan and they are saying it is probably a couple of weeks.

“We have got 13 days’ break before we take on Georgia, so that potentially rules him out of that match, just to recover. It’s not a significant injury, just a pec strain.”

Anscombe, who landed six penalties, a drop-goal and conversion after going on for Biggar in the 12th minute, said: “We talked a lot this week about family and the people we care about.

“We talk about the red wall, and to concede only six points against Australia is just remarkable.
“Dan Biggar means so much to this team, and I knew I had to just come on and do my role, and that was all I was focused on.

“The boys were really calm and we got off to a really good start. Our boys up-front were outstanding, they dominated the set-piece and I was just able to keep rolling forward.”

At the same Lyon venue at which Chris Coleman’s Wales football side had lost in the semi-finals of the 2016 Euros against Portugal, there were no tears this time for Welsh fans as they were able to enjoy a near picture perfect performance from start to finish.

Anscombe kicked 23 points to equal Biggar’s Welsh World Cup record – and he hit the upright twice with two other kicks – and Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and Morgan himself added tries.

It meant Gatland’s unbeaten team became the first to qualify for the knock out stage as they made it seven straight pool wins at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups. It was also the biggest win over the Wallabies since fixtures began in 1908.

Just as they had done in Tokyo four years ago when they last met the Wallabies at the World Cup, Wales got off to a dream start. On that occasion Biggar dropped a goal inside a minute and Hadleigh Parkes scored a try in the 12th minute as Wales went 10-0 ahead.

This time it took less than three minutes for Jac Morgan’s team to open their account and it was the skipper who made the running. From clean line-out ball off the top, the Welsh midfield feinted to play wide right, but instead Nick Tompkins popped the ball back inside to Morgan who had opted out of the line-out.

The back row man showed the speed of a back to make a clean break from half-way to the Aussie 22 and then found Gareth Davies on his inside. The Wales scrum half took the pass and sped to the line for a try that Dan Biggar converted.

If the Wallabies were rattled, they didn’t show it. Instead, they hit back with a 15 phase move that earned them a penalty in front of the posts in the eighth minute that Ben Donaldson kicked.

Biggar picked up a right shoulder injury in that passage of play and was forced to leave the game even earlier that when he departed in Tokyo four years earlier after only 27 minutes. That meant Gareth Anscombe had to take over at No 10.

A second Donaldson penalty cut the gap to a single point in the 13th minute before Anscombe was given the chance to showcase his goalkicking skills. He hit the post from 40 metres with his first attempt, but then hit the mark from 45 metres two minutes later.

The Australians kept on driving forward and testing the Welsh defence, but they made a crucial error in the 25th minute when they shunned a simple kick at goal from in front of the posts in the Wales 22 and instead kicked to the right corner.

The line out throw was a disaster, with nobody jumping, and Morgan picked off the lose ball at the back and belted the ball downfield to pick up a priceless 50-22. Wales won a lineout from the line-out and Anscombe kicked the goal to make it 16-6.

The half ended on a high for Morgan’s men with another Anscombe penalty and a sweet back line move from a scrum on half-way that ended with Louis Rees-Zammit just being held up on the line.

That meant Wales took a 10 point lead into the break – not quite as big as the 15 point advantage they held in their 29-25 triumph in Tokyo. The lead grew within two minutes of the re-start after Wales picked up their first scrum penalty of the match after forcing the Wallabies to concede a scrum from the kick-off.

Up stepped Anscombe and over went the kick that stretched the lead to 19-6, and then things just got better. Dominating proceedings. They went on the attack in the 22 and Anscombe dinked a chip over the top of the defensive line to allow the wonderful Nick Tompkins to race onto the ball and win the touchdown at the posts.

The Anscombe conversion was s simple task and then the replacement outside half kept punishing Wallaby mistakes as he kicked two more penalties to give Wales a 29-6 lead on the hour mark.

The skipper then delivered the coup de gras with the third try of the night as he rounded off a driving line-out that was built on a take at the tail of the line by Taine Basham. The only surprise was that dead-eye-dick Anscombe hit the post with a conversion that would have given him the individual points scoring record for a Wales player at the World Cup.

It didn’t matter, though, as the game was well in the bag.

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