|Wales (16) 40|
|Tries: G Davies, Tompkins, Morgan Cons: Biggar, Anscombe Pens: Anscombe 6 Drop-goal: Anscombe|
|Australia (6) 6|
|Pens: Donaldson 2|
Wales became the first team to reach the 2023 World Cup quarter-finals as they celebrated a record win over Australia in Lyon.
Gareth Anscombe kicked 23 points and tries from Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and Jac Morgan sealed a last-eight place with a game remaining in Pool C.
Australia managed just two penalties from Ben Donaldson.
Eddie Jones’ side are on the brink of becoming the first Australia team to suffer pool stage elimination.
The woeful Wallabies were humbled by Wales, who are celebrating a fourth consecutive World Cup quarter-final qualification under Warren Gatland as head coach.
This display must rank as one of Wales’ finest performances under the New Zealander and the result beats their previous record win against Australia, a 28-3 triumph in 1975.
Captain Morgan was again outstanding, while number eight Taulupe Faletau showed his class.
The only negative for Wales was a worrying injury that forced talismanic fly-half Dan Biggar off in the first half, but his withdrawal allowed Anscombe to excel with six penalties, a conversion and a drop-goal.
A victory over Georgia on 7 October in Nantes will officially ensure Wales finish as group winners but only two match points will be required.
That would set up a probable quarter-final against Argentina, Japan or Samoa in Marseille the following weekend, with England clear favourites to win Pool D.
A Welsh revival
A few months ago, very few people would have backed Wales to achieve quarter-final qualification so easily and so quickly.
Yet the army of Welsh fans that dominated the Lyon streets and OL Stadium this weekend are starting to believe again.
Welsh rugby was in disarray when Gatland returned for a second stint at the helm after replacing Wayne Pivac in December 2022.
They managed only one win in the 2023 Six Nations, a tournament in which players threatened strike action over contractual issues before that was averted.
Gatland regrouped and put his faith in youth following some high-profile retirements including Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
Brutal training camps in Switzerland and Turkey in the summer helped the players form a formidable bond and Gatland predicted his side would shock people by doing something special in France.
They started with maximum bonus-point wins against Fiji and Portugal and completed the job of getting out of the pool with this devastating display against an average Australia side.
Australia in turmoil
The Wallabies have not officially been eliminated from the tournament but now need a series of results, including potentially Wales defeating Georgia and Georgia beating Fiji, to have a chance of progressing.
Welsh rugby has been like a soap opera for the last 12 months but all the pre-match drama and turmoil came within the Australia camp, with Jones clinging on to his job after this embarrassment.
Jones was booed when he appeared on the big screen throughout the game, with Wales’ wonderful showing compounding his misery.
There was an Australian outcry following a first defeat to Fiji in 69 years in Saint-Etienne last weekend, with former Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell criticising Jones and questioning why he had not taken the experienced Michael Hooper and Quade Cooper to France.
World Cup-winning centre Tim Horan called this potentially the biggest game for Australian rugby in the professional era. Australia have qualified for the knockout stages in all nine previous World Cups since the tournament started in 1987.
Since Jones returned to Australian rugby this year to replace Dave Rennie, Australia have lost seven out of eight games, with the only win coming in their World Cup opener against Georgia.
In the build-up to this fixture, Jones held a combative press conference where he defended his policy of building towards the 2027 World Cup and insisted he had “no doubt” Australia would beat Wales.
On the morning of the match, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Jones had held a secret Zoom interview last month about becoming the Japan coach next year, despite having signed a five-year deal with Australia.
Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh was addressing the reports publicly less than four hours before kick-off, so preparation was not ideal.
Wales spring into action
You wondered whether Australia would be hampered by the controversies and they were exposed by a textbook move off the training park for the opening Wales try.
Centre Tompkins fed captain Morgan with the flanker producing a superb inside pass to supporting scrum-half Davies, who emulated his World Cup try of four years ago against Australia.
The Wallabies responded with a series of attacks that resulted in a Donaldson penalty, while his opposite number Biggar suffered what looked like a pectoral injury and was replaced by Anscombe.
Australia celebrated a scrum penalty as Donaldson, starting at 10 instead of the dropped Carter Gordon, reduced the deficit to one point.
Anscombe hit the post with his first penalty attempt before slotting over a successful kick.
Australia turned down a kick at goal in front of the posts and lost the line-out which followed, with Morgan launching a huge 50:22 attacking kick to change the momentum. The ensuing pressure set up a penalty with Anscombe slotting over the simple kick.
A superb Josh Adams high-ball catch set up the chance for Anscombe to further extend the lead, while wing Louis Rees-Zammit was denied a try after being held up over the line.
Wales started superbly in the second half with Anscombe kicking another penalty before producing a deft chip for Tompkins to chase and score. Anscombe converted and then added a fifth penalty.
Australia had brought on Pone Fa’amausili at half-time for James Slipper, but the Wales scrum started to dominate and Anscombe’s boot continued to punish the Wallabies.
Morgan sealed the win with a try from a driving maul to take Wales to 40 points.
The smile from Gatland captured on the big screen at the end said everything about an epic evening in Lyon.
Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, Tompkins, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; G Thomas, Elias, Francis, Rowlands, Beard, Wainwright, Morgan (capt), Faletau.
Replacements: Dee, Domachowski, H Thomas, D Jenkins, Basham, T Williams, Anscombe, Dyer.
Australia: Kellaway; Nawaqanitawase, Petaia, Kerevi, Koroibete; Donaldson, McDermott; Bell, Porecki (capt), Slipper, Frost, Arnold, Leota, T Hooper, Valetini.
Replacements: Faessler, Schoupp, Fa’amausili, Philip, McReight, White, Gordon, Vunivalu.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Touch judges: Luke Pearce (England) & Christopher Ridley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)