EVERYONE thought it would be close... but Wales simply stormed into the quarter-finals of the World Cup with their record-breaking 40-6 win over Australia in Lyon on Sunday night.
It was the same venue where Chris Coleman’s Wales football side lost in the semi-finals of the 2016 Euros against Portugal, but there were no tears this time for fans as they were able to enjoy a near picture perfect performance from start to finish.
Gareth Anscombe kicked 23 points to equal Dan Biggar’s Welsh World Cup record – and he hit the upright twice with two other kicks – and Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and skipper Jac Morgan added tries.
It meant Warren Gatland’s unbeaten team became the first to qualify for the knock out stage as they made it seven straight pool wins at the 2019 and 2023 World Cups.
Old Monmothian Forester Wayne Barnes had the best seat in th3e house as match referee, as Wales also secured their biggest win over the Wallabies since fixtures began in 1908.
Delighted coach Warren Gatland said straight after the final whistle: “We were clinical, we controlled the game, and we didn’t really give them anything. This team gets better and better and, with some confidence and momentum, we’re in a pretty good place now. You can always get better, but I think we’ll enjoy tonight.
“We’ve got a break of about 13 days, so the boys have all got some time off to spend with their families, then we’ll regroup next week and start thinking about Georgia.”
Gatland also had special praise for Gareth Anscombe, who came off the bench early doors to replace the injured Dan Biggar and ended up scooping the Mastercard Player of the Match award for contributing 23 points.
Four years ago he wrecked his knee in the warm-up game for Japan against England at Twickenham and missed the tournament when he was at the peak of his powers.
He spent almost two years battling back to full fitness, and into the Welsh camp once again, and couldn’t have done any more at a difficult time for his teammates in Lyon
“He was a bit rusty against Portugal but we’ve picked him for his experience and he controlled the game well. We’ve got two experienced 10s and a young, up-and-coming 10, so we’re in a pretty good place,” added Gatland.
“It was pleasing to see him goal-kick that well and I thought he made some really good decisions.”
Anscombe said: “Dan Biggar means so much to this team, he’s a real spiritual leader. I knew I had to just come on and do my role and that was all I was focused on.
“The boys were really calm and we got off to a really good start. Our boys up front were outstanding, they dominated the set-piece and I was just able to keep rolling forward.
“I’m just absolutely delighted, and so relieved. We knew they were going to be desperate.
“We talked a lot this week about family and the people we care about. We talk about the red wall and to concede only six points against Australia is just remarkable.”
And Morgan added: “Words can’t really explain how proud I am for us to put in a performance like that. It’s been a tough couple of months, and we’ve worked really hard, so that was massive for us.
“Over the last couple of games, we’ve played really well in certain areas, but today our discipline was much better, which meant we weren’t put under as much pressure. The crowd was amazing, it’s fantastic to see all that red in the crowd.”