Ruthless Wales progress after Fiji rout

Wales 66 Fiji 0
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The Independent Online

Wales cruised into the World Cup quarter-finals after flooring Fiji in emphatic fashion at a rainswept Waikato Stadium.

In doing so, they avenged their 2007 World Cup elimination defeat against the South Sea Islanders in Nantes and booked a probable last-eight appointment with Six Nations rivals Ireland next Saturday.

Wales only needed a point from the game to secure their passage into the knockout phase as Pool D runners-up behind world champions South Africa.

And a ruthless first-half display meant they clinched it before the break through tries from centres Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams, wing George North and skipper Sam Warburton.

Roberts, substitute hooker Lloyd Burns, wing Leigh Halfpenny, scrum-half Lloyd Williams and replacement centre Jonathan Davies added touchdowns after the break, while fly-half Rhys Priestland booted 13 points and his replacement Stephen Jones kicked the extras for four tries.

It meant Wales eased past their previous best winning margin of 44 points against Fiji nine years ago.

And they also appeared to get through the game relatively injury-free, although Roberts seemed to be concerned about his shoulder when he went off 16 minutes from time and prop Gethin Jenkins departed with a slight limp.

Fiji, having seen their World Cup campaign unravel through comprehensive defeats against South Africa and Samoa, could not cope with Wales' organisation and ruthless finishing ability.

And Wales will move into the knockout phase having amassed 23 tries from four starts, quietly confident they can continue building towards what could be their best World Cup since the inaugural tournament 24 years ago.

Wales made a lively opening, and their endeavour was rewarded when they took a sixth-minute lead.

Warburton won clean ball off the back of a lineout and, after possession was moved quickly, Roberts powered through a brittle Fijian defence for a try that Priestland converted.

Fiji fought back to gain a degree of territorial control, profiting from some unfamiliar missed Wales tackles, but fly-half Nicky Little missed an easy penalty chance that would have opened their account.

And Wales made them pay, creating an exquisite try when Priestland and Roberts combined before North found Williams, whose blistering sidestep took him clear for a fourth try in two World Cup starts.

Priestland added the extras and Wales were in command, 14-0 clear approaching the end of the first quarter.

Priestland then booted a penalty to extend Wales' advantage, but with persistent drizzle falling, both sides were guilty of handling errors that meant the game lacked fluency.

Wales added a third try eight minutes before the break, even though there was a touch of good fortune about it.

Referee Wayne Barnes missed a forward pass in the build-up from hooker Huw Bennett to number eight Toby Faletau, and play continued, allowing North an easy run-in.

Priestland booted his third conversion, and there was no way back for Fiji at 24 points behind, but their misery was compounded on the stroke of half-time after North powered into space to send Warburton over for Wales' bonus-point try that Priestland improved.

Wales' first-half bonus point meant they had secured their quarter-final place with 40 minutes remaining of the final game in Pool D.

But they had not finished with Fiji yet, and their fifth try arrived after 50 minutes following a rampaging break by North that resulted in Roberts claiming his second touchdown.

Wales coach Warren Gatland then started to ring the changes, sending on back-row forward Andy Powell and Lloyd Williams approaching the end of a third quarter that saw Fiji pushing for consolation points.

But Wales kept their defensive line intact, and a sixth try arrived when they drove a lineout relentlessly towards Fiji's line and Burns touched down.

Stephen Jones, on for Priestland, booted the conversion and Wales led 45-0.

Fiji had no answer to Wales' greater organisation and attacking rhythm, although it was a mistake by wing Albert Vulivuli that led to a seventh try.

He failed to gather Jenkins' speculative kick, slipping on the surface, and wing Leigh Halfpenny gratefully accepted the gift.

Jones converted as Wales eased past the half-century mark, and then Lloyd Williams darted over unopposed from a scrum before centre Davies completed the rout.