Wales wins 81-7; Namibia 1st to exit World Cup
Updated: September 26, 2011, 06:46
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NEW PLYMOUTH, New Zealand(AP) Scott Williams scored a hat-trick of tries in an 81-7 win for Wales on Monday which ensured Namibia was the first team eliminated from the Rugby World Cup.
Playing his national record 101st test, flyhalf Stephen Jones opened the scoring with an early penalty, before Wales scored three quick tries to lead 22-0 after just 15 minutes. But thoughts of a rout started diminishing as the Welsh failed to add any more points for almost a half hour.
A halftime roasting from coach Warren Gatland fixed that.
"The team thought the match was finished after the first 15 minutes and I gave them a bollocking at halftime,'' Gatland said. It certainly worked. Wales lifted its tempo after the break, with replacement winger George North breaking tackles almost at will as he scored two of the nine second-half tries.
"We got the bonus point which is what we wanted. Namibia made it very tough for us, especially at the contact area,'' Wales captain Sam Warburton said. But "The game broke up in the second half. The boys showed their skills and we got 12 tries, which will be important for points difference at the end of the group.''
While most of the tries were scored through the backs, the most memorable came from the most unexpected sources.
Big prop Gethin Jenkins, who is built in the finest traditions of frontrowers the world over, charged over for a 35-metre try that was notable for its combination of speed, sidestep and brute strength to register for the fifth try for Wales.
Namibian locks Nico Esterhuyse and Heinz Koll combined almost immediately to reply with a long-range try sparked from an intercept in the 53rd which delighted the 14,710-strong Stadium Taranaki crowd.
Koll was put into the clear by Esterhuyse nearly 40 metres away from the Welsh line and lumbered over wide out after confusing the Welsh defense. The sideline conversion by flyhalf Theuns Kotze sailed over between the posts to reduce the gap only slightly to 36-7.
The Welsh responded with seven tries in the last 20 minutes, including Williams' third in an individual performance that earned praise from Gatland.
He was overlooked for the man-of-the-match honors, though, with that award going rather bizarrely to Namibia flanker Tinus Du Plessis. Du Plessis certainly tackled well, but the explanation for the award could well be that it was a sympathy vote for a gallant Namibian team.
The predominantly amateur Namibia team finished with four heavy defeats in 17 days, including an 87-0 loss to defending champion South Africa last week.
Wales, which opened with a one-point loss to South Africa, edged into second spot in Pool D with wins over Samoa and Namibia and a match remaining against Fiji.
Jones finished with six conversions and a penalty goal, surpassing 900 career test points, before he was replaced by Rhys Priestland.
Although the ground was packed with Welsh supporters, the Namibians were given a warm farewell by the crowd as they did a lap of honor around the field to bring their 2011 Rugby World Cup to an end.
"They just blew us away and we couldn't stop them,'' Namibia captain Jacques Burger said of the late Welsh onslaught. "We played against a really good side and played a game four days ago against the Springboks, so it was tough.
"But we're not making excuses. We weren't good enough today. it's the end of the World Cup for us.''
Wales now goes to Hamilton - Gatland's home town - and needs to beat Fiji to ensure a spot in the quarterfinals.
Wales 81 (Scott Williams 3, George North 2, Aled Brew, Toby Faletau, Gethin Jenkins, Jonathan Davies, Lloyd Williams, Lee Byrne, Alun-Wyn Jones tries; Stephen Jones 6 conversions, penalty, Rhys Priestland 3 conversions), Namibia 7 (Heinz Koll try; Theuns Kotze conversion). HT: 22-0.