Wales hit form in cruise to semi-final

Papua New Guinea humbled in quarter-finals while Ireland go down fighting
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The Independent Online

Wales matched their achievement of 1995 by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, earning the dubious privilege of meeting Australia next Sunday by accounting for a disappointing Papua New Guinea.

Wales matched their achievement of 1995 by reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup, earning the dubious privilege of meeting Australia next Sunday by accounting for a disappointing Papua New Guinea.

A Welsh side which has become steadily more makeshift as the tournament has worn on did not even have to play particularly well in a rather flat game to reach a stage many thought would be beyond them. They will not need telling that they must make a massive step upwards to give the World champions anything resembling a game.

After their heroics in winning their group, Papua New Guinea could not get started in the first half. After an early exchange of penalties and an opening quarter that amounted to little more than a long-range kicking dual between Iestyn Harris and Adrian Lam, Wales took command with surprising ease.

Lam, the PNG captain, was the original culprit, trying to pass out of the tackle and presenting the ball to Jason Critchley, who out-paced two defenders to score. Five minutes later, a combination of their bad handling and the surging runs of Kieron Cunningham built up the pressure on the Kumuls and Wales took advantage when Anthony Farrell and Harris gave Lee Briers his chance on the left-wing. Briers sold a dummy to sneak over in the corner and Wales could hardly believe how easy it all was.

After the appearance of Paul Moriarty, returning to rugby league after a four-year gap, Wales went further in front before half-time. Their main men, Cunningham and Harris, moved the ball wide, Briers and Critchley carried it on and the substitute Wes Davies finished it off, this time in the right corner.

PNG were not helped by Harris kicking all three goals, but they were unrecognisable from the team that beat France and Tonga so impressively in their group matches.

With the words of their coach Bob Bennett no doubt ringing in their ears, they began the second half in more determined mood. Within two minutes of the restart, they went close to a try, Paul Atcheson's tackle forcing John Wilshere into touch by the corner flag.

They hinted at better things again when Stanley Gene sent Alex Krewanty through a gap only for the Kumul substitute to lose the ball before the line.

PNG had left themselves with too much to do and their frustration showed in the high tackle with which Gene welcomed the second of Wales' golden oldies, John Devereux, into the game. Harris' penalty took him past a hundred points for his country.

Far too late, the Kumuls began to believe in themselves, Duncan Naawi's back flicked pass giving Wilshere the chance to score and convert their first try with 11 minutes to play.

It created little alarm for Wales. "I'm very proud of the efforts the boys have put in over the last four or five weeks," said their coach Clive Griffiths. "To get to the semi-finals after all our problems is very gratifying. Australia will be quaking in their boots - that's a joke, by the way."

WALES: Atcheson (St Helens); Sterling (Leeds), Tassell (Salford), Critchley (Leicester), Sullivan (St Helens); Harris (Leeds), Briers (Warrington); Farrell (Leeds), Cunningham (St Helens), Morgan (Canberra), Jenkins (Hull), Highton (Salford), Busby (Warrington). Substitutes used: Davies (Wigan), Morley (Sheffield), Devereux (Bridgend), Moriarty (Swansea).

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Buko (Wagga Wagga); Wilshere (Brisbane Easts), Aila (Brisbane Souths), Songoro (Mackay Souths), Bai (Melbourne); Gene (Hull), Lam (Sydney), Karl (Enga); Mom (Brisbane Easts), Mondo (Yanco), Naawi (Redcliffe), Mamando (North Queensland), O'Reilly (Oldham). Substitutes used: Paiwo (Kellyville), Krewanty (Sydney Bulls), Norman (Burdekin), Aizure (Goroka).

Referee: D Pakieto (New Zealand).

WORLD CUP RESULTS AND FIXTURES

QUARTER-FINALS

Yesterday

Wales (20) 22 Papua NG (2) 8 (at Wheldon Road, Castleford)

Wales: Tries Critchley, Davies, Briers; Goals Harris 5. Papua New Guinea: Try Wilshere; Goals Wilshere 2.

New Zealand L France L (at Auto Quest Stadium, Widnes)

Saturday

Australia (24) 66 Samoa (4) 10 (at Vicarage Road, Watford)

Australia: Tries Girdler, Fittler, Fletcher 3, Sailor, Johns 2, Hill 2, MacDougall 2; Goals Rogers 9. Samoa: Tries Solomona, Leauma; Goal: Laloata. (5,000)

England (12) 26 Ireland (10) 16 (at Headingley, Leeds)

England: Tries Senior, Peacock, Smith, Walker; Goals Farrell 5. Ireland: Tries Martyn, Withers 2; Goals: Prescott 2. (15,405)

SEMI-FINALS Saturday 18 November: England v Winner Quarter-final 4 (3.0*) (at Reebok Stadium, Bolton). Sunday 19 November: Australia v Wales (6.45ÿ) (at McAlpine Stadium, Huddersfield).

FINAL Saturday 25 November (3.0*ÿ) (at Old Trafford, Manchester).

*Live on BBC. ÿLive on Sky

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