Namibia 81-7 Wales, Rugby World Cup, September 26
Wales run Namibia ragged
Huw Baines at Stadium Taranaki
September 26, 2011
Aled Brew celebrates after scoring Wales' second try
© Getty Images
Wales recovered from a shaky start to hammer Namibia 81-7 in New Plymouth on Monday night, keeping alive their push for a place in the last eight of the Rugby World Cup.
Warren Gatland's side now face a final round meeting with Fiji, their conquerors in France four years ago, after moving level on points with Samoa behind Pool D leaders South Africa. The Springboks take up the Samoan challenge at North Harbour Stadium on Friday in what is set to be a bruising contest.
Scarlets fly-half Stephen Jones converted six of 12 tries as he overtook Gareth Thomas as Wales' most-capped player, with his regional team-mates Scott Williams and George North leading the try-scoring effort with a hat-trick and brace respectively as Wales cut loose in the latter stages.
Also on the scoresheet were Aled Brew, Gethin Jenkins, Jonathan Davies, Lloyd Williams, Lee Byrne and Alun Wyn Jones, and Gatland will take great solace in the fact that a number of players making their first contributions to the tournament - including Jones, Byrne and back-rower Ryan Jones - came through unscathed prior to any possible knock-out action.
Namibia were tasked with providing one last effort in what has been a difficult campaign, where their on-field trials have been counterbalanced by a hellish schedule that must be laid at the feet of the tournament organisers. Lock Heinz Koll scored their only try, with blindside flanker Tinus du Plessis picking up the Man of the Match gong after getting through 20 tackles.
Wales were 15 points to the good in as many minutes despite a patchy opening, where two excellent long-range tries sat in contrast to a smattering of penalties - two against Jenkins at the scrum - and a number of handling errors. The opener was scored by Williams, who was set clear along the touchline by a well-timed inside ball from Davies and a dab on the gas from Leigh Halfpenny, who impressed throughout.
The second followed in good time, with a Namibian handling error paving the way for Brew to open his account at the World Cup. The ball was hacked clear from the Welsh 22 and an aggressive chase allowed Bradley Davies to muscle through a tackle and offload for Brew to score with ease.
Jones added the extras from in front and made it 22-0 after 17 minutes with the conversion to Wales' third, scored by Faletau. The try owed plenty to the persistence of the irrepressible Sam Warburton, who sprung into action in the Namibian 22 and hunted down Chrysander Botha. From the resulting penalty Faletau did the rest, exposing some flimsy defence close to the posts for his second of the tournament.
The whistle of referee Steve Walsh was a constant companion for the remainder of the half and Wales were largely on the receiving end as Namibia dug in at the breakdown and scrum. Fly-half Theuns Kotze missed two shots at goal before the break for the African side, leaving them with little to cling to despite their domination of the territory stats.
Brew butchered a chance for his brace after the restart, inexplicably heading into traffic as the tryline gaped to his right, but Wales wrapped up the bonus point soon after as Williams pilfered his second. After a scrum against the head the Scarlets midfielder emerged from a huddle and dived over untouched, Jones adding the simple conversion on 47 minutes.
The ensuing action was a feast for the forwards as Jenkins and Koll exchanged solo tries. Wales' fifth try was Jenkins' first since his famous effort against Ireland in 2005 and the loose-head is unlikely to score many better. His 30-metre run in - following a tidy hand-off and step - was followed quickly by an excellent effort from Koll, who bamboozled Brew off an interception and brought the crowd to their feet with a finish in the corner.
Kotze added the conversion from the touchline to make it 36-7 after 53 minutes, with a flood of replacements following. North took over from Brew and extended the Welsh lead on the hour mark with an effort from close range, while Namibia's Raoul Larsen sat in the sin-bin.
The Scarlets winger then provided the impetus for another try, with a sparkling break from from his 22 cutting the Namibian line to tatters. Jones appeared in support to provide the scoring pass to Davies, who dummied his way over under the posts.
A confidence-boosting charge from Byrne opened the door for the second try of North's eventful cameo, with the Clermont Auvergne-bound fullback tearing across the field before his winger powered over off a well-judged pop pass. Williams completed his hat-trick four minutes later, rounding off a lively surge from Scarlets team-mate Ken Owens, who was making his Test bow after sneaking onto the plane following injuries to Matthew Rees and Richard Hibbard.
Wales completed the scoring in the dying moments thanks to replacement scrum-half Williams, Byrne and Jones. Williams' debut international try came from strong work by Andy Powell at the base of a scrum, while Byrne showcased good support to finish a dart by Halfpenny in the corner. Jones added a full stop at the death by pirouetting across to cap another strong personal display.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Baines is a freelance rugby journalist