Latham's leading role in theatre of the absurd

Australia 142 Namibia 0
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The Independent Online

First, just a few of the World Cup records that were broken here yesterday. Australia beat Namibia by a record 142 points, scored a record 22 tries, had a record 11 different try-scorers and took a record 53 minutes to reach the century mark. Now for what Ireland learnt about their next week's opponents. Absolutely nothing.

Because this was the Rugby World Cup at its most absurd: one team who did not know how to tackle, playing another who did not know how to take their foot off the gas. Many more mismatches of this magnitude and even the sports junkie that is the Australian public will start to tire.

Not that Eddie Jones, the Australia coach, was about to admit that such one-sided nonsense was against the spirit of the World Cup. "It probably hasn't done the game any good in the short term," he said. "But to get development of the game you have to expose teams."

Mission accomplished. Because from the second minute, when Chris Latham went over for his first of five tries (whichis an Australian record) to the 80th minute, when John Roe went over for his solitary try (oh, the shame of it), Namibia were so comprehensively exposed that a nudist colony would have blushed.

Red faces, however, are about the only thing not in the Wallaby second-string's vast repertoire, especially when there are places to be won for the real games awaiting. Latham did his cause no harm, along with Lote Tuqiri, the league convert who scored three tries to underline the rapid progress he is making in his new code. Mat Rogers will be more than happy with his 16 conversions and 42 points and Matt Giteau proved himself more than capable of filling in the No 10 role should anything untoward happen to Stephen Larkham.

In fact, everyone in gold and green yesterday saw their stock rise - even if only a little - because to suggest otherwise after such a procession would be daft. It was only the poor Namibians who had any cause to suppose that they are not quite as proficient as they thought they might be. "They were too big, too quick, too fast - it was boys against men," said the Namibia coach, Dave Waterston. "It just shows the gap between top sides and those of the lower echelon - but to be brutal, the Australians approached it like a training run."

And they will hardly have a more satisfying workout, even if they did not manage to overhaul the All Blacks' record points haul of 145 against Japan in 1995. At least the minnows that day managed to score 17 of their own. There was no chance of that yesterday as Australia turned the screw to suffocating levels.

If one passage of excellence must be singled out - and when you are scoring at the rate of a try every four minutes, it is hard to have a bad spell - then the first 20 minutes were awesome, if only for the passing and handling skills. Indeed, the first try was probably the best of the lot, when Latham somehow picked up Tuqiri's beautifully flicked backhand pass to go over in the corner.

Cue the avalanche. Namibia would restart, Australia would run it back and then Namibia would restart again. As one of the Australian commentators said: "The Namibian No 10 will have to put his right foot in ice tonight after all these kick-offs."

The only thing on ice for the Aussies, meanwhile, was the champagne as they look forward to Melbourne next Saturday, and beyond. Jones's one wish for today's Ireland-Argentina encounter was simple. "I just hope tomorrow's a real smash-'em-up derby," he said. It was not a day to be charitable in Australia.

Australia 142 Namibia 0

Tries: Latham 5, Lyons, Mortlock, Tuqiri 3, penalty try, Rogers 2, Paul, Giteau 3, Grey, Turinui 2, Burke, Roe Cons: Rogers 16

Half-time: 69-0 Attendance: 33,597

Australia: C Latham; L Tuqiri, S Mortlock (M Burke, 51), N Grey (M Turinui, 51), M Rogers; M Giteau, C Whitaker (capt); M Dunning, J Paul, B Darwin, J Harrison, N Sharpe (D Giffin, 41), G Smith (M Cockbain, 41), D Lyons (J Roe, 41), D Croft.

Namibia: R Pedro (S Furter, 73); D Mouton (S van der Merwe, 30), D P Grobler (P Isaacs, 75), E Wessels, J Booysen (M Africa, 12); M Schreuder, H Husselman (capt; N Swanepoel, 49); K Lensing, C van Tonder, N du Toit (A Blaauw, 17), H Senekal, E Isaacs, S van Rooi, J van Lill, H Lintvelt.

Referee: J Jutge (France).