Share and Follow
Moments after the massacre was over, they played Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler in the stadium and there was one line which really resonated: ‘Every now and then I fall apart’.
It was as if the Welsh singer was summing up Australia’s capitulation. It was a total surrender. Wales became the first team to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals and they left Eddie Jones and his broken Wallabies perched on the edge of an abyss. By the end, they were an utter rabble and their fans had given up on them – leaving the stands in droves long before the final whistle.
Warren Gatland’s rejuvenated team are going places at this tournament, while their routed rivals are almost certainly going home very soon, amid bitter recriminations, after a dismal second defeat of this campaign. Wales are now three from three and will face Georgia in Nantes on October 7 with a prime chance to finish top of Pool C.
The old coaching adversaries shook hands before kick-off, then Gatland watched his side humiliate the unravelling Australians by a record margin. Their efforts will intensify the storm around Jones, which raged on Sunday and will continue to rage in the days and weeks ahead. His tenure has yielded one win from eight Tests.
If Japan want him, perhaps his stunned employers should let him leave.
Gareth Anscombe (right) helped Wales beat Australia and secure a place in the next round
Gareth Davies scored the first try of the game as Wales flew out of the blocks with clear intent
The win was Wales’ biggest-ever over Australia and the Wallabies’ heaviest at a World Cup
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Wales – Tries: Davies 3, Tompkins 48, Morgan 7. Pens: Anscombe 21, 29, 39, 43, 52. Cons: Biggar 4, Anscombe 49. Drop goal: Anscombe 70.
Australia – Pens: Donaldson 9, 14.
WALES: L Williams 7; Rees-Zammit 7 (Dyer 71, 6), North 7, Tompkins 8, Adams 8.5; Biggar 5 (Anscombe 12, 9), Davies 7.5 (T Williams 60, 7); G Thomas 6.5 (Domachowski 67, 6.5), Elias 7 (Dee 67, 6.5), Francis 7 (H Thomas 67, 6.5), Rowlands 8.5 (Jenkins 71, 6), Beard 7.5, Wainwright 7.5 (Basham 71, 6), Morgan (capt) 9, Faletau 8.5.
AUSTRALIA: Kellaway 4.5 (Vunivalu 60, 5); Nawaqanitawase 4, Petaia 5, Kerevi 4.5, Koroibete 4; Donaldson 5 (Gordon 53, 5), McDermott 6 (White 68, 5.5); Bell 6.5 (Schoupp 68, 6), Porecki (capt) 4.5 (Faessler 60, 5), Slipper 4 (Fa’amausili 40, 5), Frost 6, Arnold 5.5 (Philip 66, 6), Leota 5 (McReight 50, 5), T Hooper 5.5, Valetini 5.5.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).
Star man: Jac Morgan (Wales).
Dan Biggar was forced off in the 12th minute but Gareth Anscombe replaced him and took charge – going on to score 23 points and conjure a second-half try for Nick Tompkins which effectively ended this contest with more than half-an-hour to go. Wales had a dominant maul and, eventually, a dominant scrum too. They were inspired by the all-round class of captain Jac Morgan, the thunderous Taulupe Faletau and Will Rowlands, and the sniping tenacity of Gareth Davies.
The second coming of Gatland is now showing signs of becoming a fast-forward version of the first. A path is opening up for a surge to the semi-finals, with Argentina the likely, beatable opponents in the last eight. In 2011, in the Kiwi’s first tenure, Wales reached a semi and so nearly the final. That feat was repeated in 2019 and now, remarkably, it could be repeated in 2023.
What a transformation since the start of the year. In the Six Nations, after Gatland was brought back in to replace his sacked compatriot, Wayne Pivac, there was no immediate ‘bounce’. Instead, there were four defeats and a fifth-place finish, not to mention a contractual dispute which nearly led to a players’ strike. Wales captain Ken Owens admitted that Welsh rugby was a ‘laughing stock’.
The upheaval continued as Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric announced shock Test retirements on the same May day; creating the sense of a deepening emergency. The situation looked bleak and Gatland knew it. He admitted that if he had realised the scale of the crisis in all areas of Welsh rugby, he may not have agreed to come back. ‘If I had known,’ he said, ‘I would have gone somewhere else probably.’
Yet, since then, he has overseen a remarkable reboot. Once Wales were in camp together, he was in his element; able to work on their fitness and spirit and game-plan, unhindered by external factors. There was a tangible mood shift.
Eddie Jones (left) was booed in the ground when he appeared on the big screen after reported talks with Japan. Meanwhile, Warren Gatland (right) was cheered
Wales No10 Dan Biggar went off early in the first half with a shoulder injury, but his presence wasn’t missed
Wales came to France declaring they could ‘shock’ people.
They have lived up to their statements of intent, hanging on for a bonus-point win against Fiji – a feat put into context by the Pacific islanders’ subsequent victory over Australia – and claiming another bonus at the death against valiant Portugal. Now this.
The Wallabies were already in a state of near-disarray, a week after the 22-15 defeat at the hands of Fiji in St Etienne unleashed a torrent of damnation Down Under.
They were having to cope without two giants of their pack, captain Will Skelton and Taniela ‘Tongan Thor’ Tupou – and then came the match-day circus about Jones’s talks with Japan.
Against this difficult backdrop for the Australians, it was no surprise to see Wales take a third-minute lead, with a slick try. From a lineout on the left, Nick Tompkins’ well-timed pass sent Morgan blasting through a gap. The Welsh captain drew the last defender before releasing Davies for a sprint to the line. Biggar converted to make it 7-0.
Nick Tompkins also scored for Wales after Anscombe had kicked him clear through late on
There was a swift riposte from the Wallabies, as Ben Donaldson struck two penalties for Jones’s side – the second after Biggar had been forced off in obvious pain.
But it proved to be a false dawn. Anscombe missed his first shot at goal, but recovered to land three successive penalties, as Wales’ driving maul – not to mention a stunning 50-22 kick by Morgan – gave them territorial control.
It was 16-6 at the break and, after half-time, it became a procession. Anscombe landed another penalty then chipped over an on-rushing defence for Tompkins to touch down in the 48th minute. Game over. But Wales kept coming. Another penalty in the 52nd minute. Another in the 60th.
Australia’s scrum and morale lay in ruins. So too, perhaps, does Jones’s short, shambolic regime. Anscombe landed a drop goal. Morgan touched down from a lineout drive. It was carnage.
One side didn’t want it to end, the other looked like they were already halfway to the airport. They will be there very soon, for the long and miserable flight home.