Wales strolls into RWC quarters with rout of Fiji
Updated: October 02, 2011, 08:22
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HAMILTON, New Zealand(AP) Wales cruised into the World Cup quarterfinals by halftime and completed an easy 66-0 win over a disappointing Fiji at Waikato Stadium on Sunday.
In showery conditions more suited to the Red Dragons, the Welsh needed only a point to finish runner-up in Pool D, and earned it with a bonus-point fourth try right before the interval.
"It's something we've worked very hard for for the last four years and it's a great feeling we've got to the quarters now,'' said outstanding Wales captain Sam Warburton. "We said we wanted to be ruthless from minute one to 80 and we put in a good performance throughout.''
Their quarterfinal opponent next Saturday in Wellington will be Ireland, which beat Italy 36-6 to secure top spot in Pool C.
Wales scored nine tries, all of them converted, but two of them included forward passes missed by English referee Wayne Barnes.
The Welsh didn't need the assistance, as Fiji finished with a whimper in a World Cup campaign which began full of promise.
"It's upsetting but at the end of the day we didn't come out firing,'' Fiji stand-in captain Netani Talei said. "You've got to respect the Welsh, they deserved the win. They were hungry for it.''
Fiji had haunted Wales since the last World Cup, where it won an epic contest to make the quarterfinals. The Fijians then earned a draw in Cardiff less than a year ago.
But Wales well and truly buried those ghosts in Hamilton, despite the fact it was never put under any real pressure from the Fijians, who kept kicking away possession and whose confidence hasn't been the same since a 49-3 loss to defending champion South Africa two weeks ago.
Not in any mind for charity, Wales handed Fiji its worst World Cup defeat. Centers Jamie Roberts and Scott Williams shared three tries and the others went to wingers George North and Leigh Halfpenny, Warburton, and replacements Lloyd Burns, Lloyd Williams and Jonathan Davies. Flyhalf Rhys Priestland nailed all six of his goalkicks, and substitute flyhalf Stephen Jones was perfect with his four attempts.
"We've worked really hard in the offseason so we just said we're too fit, we're too big, we're too powerful and hopefully too smart, and we wanted to be ruthless tonight,'' coach Warren Gatland said. "I was really proud.''
Nicky Little, Fiji's caps and points record-holder, shot wide right with his one penalty attempt in the first half, missing a chance to become the fourth man to score in four World Cups.
While all of Wales' tries entertained, the match was not a spectacle. Knock-ons, running repairs to players, 24 penalties and 19 handling errors in the wet made for a stop-start match that struggled for any momentum before a crowd of 28,476.
The best tries were in the first half.
Lee Byrne's quick flick-on gave North a meter-wide overlap in front of the grandstand. He danced along the sideline, curved inside and offloaded between two defenders to send in Scott Williams in the 17th minute. Priestland's penalty made it 17-0 in the 32nd and the result was as good as certain.
Barnes missed two forward passes in the buildup to Wales' third try to North, but the teenage winger also featured in the try which clinched a quarterfinal spot.
With the first half almost up, North ran onto a lineout tap from Warburton, sped behind the Fiji defense and offloaded in a pair of tackles to Warburton, who streaked in. That made it 31-0.
"At halftime,'' Gatland said, "we spoke about what good teams do with that score, that they don't take their foot off the pedal. We did that in the second half in conditions that were quite difficult to play in. When you get in front like that, the guys could have quite easily slackened off and conceded tries but they worked right to the 80th minute.''
Wales could even afford to play a man short for the last six minutes, when Warburton came off as a precaution with the reserves all used up.
"Fiji made 10 changes,'' Gatland added, "so we want to make sure we don't get too carried away with the performance and the result.''
Wales 66 (Jamie Roberts 2, Scott Williams, George North, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Burns, Leigh Halfpenny, Lloyd Williams, Jonathan Davies tries; Rhys Priestland 5 conversions, penalty, Stephen Jones 4 conversions), Fiji 0. HT: 31-0.