Ruthless Wales blow Fiji away
Wales took their opportunities well in an impressive display of classy finishing, running in nine tries as they romped to a 66-0 victory over Fiji in their World Cup Pool D clash in Hamilton on Sunday.
The Welsh booked their spot in the quarterfinals in some style by running in four first-half tries to have the bonus point wrapped up at the half-time break as they made Fiji pay for their sloppiness.
The Fijians had their fair share of possession and territory but could not make it count as they coughed the ball up far too easily, giving Wales the opportunity to put on a try-scoring exhibition.
Despite the difficult conditions Wales showed good control and composure as they punished Fiji at every opportunity, putting their nightmare loss to the Pacific islanders in the 2007 World Cup in France firmly to bed.
Warren Gatland's men finish second in Pool D with 15 points from three wins and a narrow, one-point loss to defending champions South Africa, with confidence high and comparatively few injuries heading into next week's quarterfinals.
Flyhalf Rhys Priestland and veteran Stephen Jones delivered a perfect kicking performance of all nine conversions and a penalty as Wales made a mockery of the woes which have affected other teams.
"It's something we have worked very hard at for the last four years and it's a great feeling to get to the quarterfinals," said young Welsh skipper Sam Warburton.
"Credit to Fiji, they kept pushing and had a lot of territory, but our defence held firm. We played the game well and played in the right areas. We had a few handling errors, but 66 points, you can't complain about that," he added.
Fiji captain Netani Talei commented: "It's upsetting, but at the end of the day we respect the Welsh boys. They deserved the win. They were hungry for it."
Fiji made wholesale changes after their defeat to Samoa and it showed as slick Wales amassed a 31-0 half-time lead.
In afternoon drizzle at Waikato Stadium, Wales went ahead after six minutes when 22-year-old captain Warburton gobbled up an overthrown Fiji line-out and Jamie Roberts jinked through Fiji's midfield to score under the posts.
Apart from occasional forays down the left, Fiji were unthreatening and Wales opened them up with a swift interchange between Roberts and George North on their left to release Scott Williams, who swerved past the last defender to score.
Wales were rampant and another swift move down the right involving Roberts, hooker Huw Bennett and Tongan-born No.8 Toby Faletau - and a strong hint of forward pass - put 19-year-old North through for their third.
And they sealed the bonus point just before half-time when the impressive North received quick line-out ball and dummied his way through to set up Warburton for a diagonal run to the line.
More pinball passing put Roberts in for his second when North did a swift one-two with Priestland to set up the centre for an easy score.
Replacement hooker Lloyd Burns bagged his first international try and right wing Leigh Halfpenny was the grateful recipient when Fiji's Albert Vulivuli made a hash of gathering a kick behind the defence and gave him a free run to the line.
Substitute scrumhalf Lloyd Williams caught Fiji's defensive napping when he darted over for a poacher's try and replacement centre Jonathan Davies grabbed the ninth and final score in the dying seconds.
Man of the Match: Wales captain Sam Warburton was very impressive once more but young George North stole the show. He is a big and powerful wing who looks for work and the Fijians battled to keep him under control as he broke their defensive line time and again.
Moment of the Match: There were nine tries to choose from but the highlight was big loosehead prop Gethin Jenkin's kick ahead which sat up perfectly for Leigh Halfpenny who gladly cruised over for a try. Perhaps the most unlikely tactical kicker at the tournament, but it was perfectly weighted and made up for an attempted grubber earlier on which he missed completely.
Villain of the Match: There were none, the game was played in good spirit.
Tries: Roberts 2, S Williams, North, Warburton, Burns, Halfpenny, L Williams, J Davies
Cons: Priestland 5, S Jones 4
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 George North, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Leigh Halfpenny, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Huw Bennett, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Lloyd Burns, 17 Paul James, 18 Alun Wyn Jones, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Stephen Jones, 22 Jonathan Davies.
Fiji: 15 Iliesa Keresoni, 14 Albert Vulivuli, 13 Ravai Fatiaki, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Michael Tagicakibau, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Vitori Buatava, 8 Netani Talei (captain), 7 Sakiusa Matadigo, 6 Rupeni Nasiga, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Setefano Somoca, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Waisea Nailago.
Replacements: 16 Viliame Veikoso, 17 Campese Ma'afu, 18 Mala Ravulo, 19 Akapusi Qera, 20 Nemia Kenatale, 21 Seremaia Bai, 22 Vereniki Goneva.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Stuart Terheege (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)