Wales batter Fiji to ease into last eight
Relentless Wales racked up their biggest World Cup winning margin by running in nine tries in a 66-0 thrashing of a disjointed Fiji at the Waikato Stadium on Sunday to confidently march into the quarterfinals.
The point they required to finish second in Pool D behind holders South Africa was sealed by halftime with a four-try bonus point but the Welsh continued to press in the second half to send a warning to their likely last eight opponents Ireland.
"Ruthless," was Wales coach Warren Gatland's verdict.
"We spoke at halftime about what good teams would do in that position and we kept our foot on the pedal.
"One of the most pleasing things was that it would have been easy to slacken off and give up a few tries but we kept going until the 80th minute."
It was the Welsh's third win of Pool D after beating Samoa and Namibia with winger George North producing a strong display as they came through a very tough group despite losing narrowly to the Springboks.
"He's a young talent," Wales assistant coach Rob Howley said of the 19-year-old. "He's got the ability to beat players and you saw a taste of George this afternoon."
Wales had only needed a point against Fiji, who had made 10 changes to their side in fielding a number of fringe players, to reach the last eight and they showed little mercy on a wet night in Hamilton.
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Welsh inside centre Jamie Roberts produced another strong display and was the first to take advantage of some flimsy Fijian defending to step inside and hand off a tackler to cross for the opening try in the sixth minute.
It was to be one of 25 missed tackles by the Fijians.
Flyhalf Rhys Priestland slotted the conversion, the first of 11 points from the boot, before most-capped Wales international Stephen Jones came on in the second half and added eight more.
Winger North then sent centre Scott Williams through for the second try in the 17th minute after a neat pass before he crossed himself on the half hour despite what looked like a forward pass in the build-up.
Fiji beat Wales 38-34 in the pool stage of the 2007 World Cup to reach the quarterfinals at the expense of their Six Nations rivals but that result looked a distant memory as the errors continued.
The Fijians were ragged in earlier Pool D defeats by Samoa and South Africa and were painfully slow to get to the breakdown on Sunday as Wales pilfered nine times at rucks and mauls.
Their set-piece fared no better with their scrum either penalised or sent backwards routinely and the lineout misfiring four times to leave them demoralised.
North was happy to take advantage and another linebreak and neat pass sent Warburton over for the bonus point try just before the halftime whistle as Wales went in 31-0 ahead.
The Pacific Islanders, who had needed to win by 85 points to reach the last eight, started the second half brightly but the Welsh were once again celebrating a try as heavy rain began to fall.
The impressive North broke through once again and, after an exchange of passes with Priestland, Roberts jogged under the posts for his second try.
Replacement hooker Lloyd Burns bulldozed his way over for another score before Fijian back Albert James Vulivuli slipped and injured himself attempting to pick up the ball in his 22, allowing Welsh winger Leigh Halfpenny to run in another try.
Replacements Lloyd Williams and Jonathan Davies completed the try scoring with late efforts to hand Fiji their heaviest World Cup defeat.
"It is a result that we are certainly not proud of," Fiji coach Samu Domoni said in a pitchside interview.
"The high mistake rate in the game was reflected in the scoreline, and we're very disappointed. We pushed a lot of passes and an error rate of more than 30 is not acceptable."
Wales - Tries: Jamie Roberts (2), Scott Williams, George North, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Burns, Leigh Halfpenny, Lloyd Williams, Jonathan Davies. Conversions: Rhys Priestland (5), Stephen Jones (4). Penalty: Priestland.
Fiji - None