Wales run riot in New Plymouth
Wales, playing with freedom and against a hopelessly outclassed Namibian side, ran up a record 81-7 victory in their World Cup Pool D match at Stadium Taranaki, in New Plymouth, on Monday.
It was Wales' biggest win in a World Cup, beating the 72-18 victory over Japan in Cardiff in 2007.
There was something warped about this game that spoilt the magnificence of much of the Welsh play and much of the bravery of some of the Namibians. Of Wales's 12 tries, six were scored when Namibia had 14 men on the field. First they lost Raoul Larson to the sin bin for repeated scrumming offences, the first by him but the fourth by his team, and then when Wacca Kazombiaze was taken off on the mobile stretcher and they had no more replacements.
Add to that that they were playing their fourth match in 16 days, this one just four days after South Africa had hammered them Wales, with far greater resources, were playing their their third. It is the price the 'lesser' teams play. Welcome to the World Cup, play four matches and push off home.
A sign of the gulf between the two teams was that each side had a player who broke his country's record for number of caps - Stephen Jones to 101, Hugo Horn to 35. Of Horn's 35 caps, 10 were at World Cups. There just are not the same opportunities for the 'lesser' lands.
Not that the Namibians complained. Ask them if they would do it again and they would shout Yes. It was for them all a great experience and they are not unrealistic people or unafraid of daunting tasks. Men from the big, empty land are realistic and undaunted. And not that the disparity was Wales's fault.
The Namibians were simply not good enough, apart from their line-outs, but Wales enjoyed 64% of possession, partly because the Namibian halves kicked so much and partly because of their handling. Long, heaved passes did them no favours.
Wales, on the other hand, ran and ran with many passes, heads up, the goalline always in their sights wherever they were on the field. They started like a house on fire with 22 points in the first 17 minutes, but that was their lot in the first half as Namibian confidence lifted and they started to make tackles. In the game as a whole, the Namibians were required to make 180 tackles to Wales's 33. The Biltongboere missed 42, Wales two.
At the end of the first half the referee spoke to the two captains about the scrumming, saying: "Scrums are taking ownership of the game." In that first half there had been 10 scrums which had produced six penalties - three against Jané du Toit of Namibia who plays for the second team of a Cape Town club and two against Gethin Jenkins of Wales and one against Craig Mitchell of Wales. That the referee sent the fourth Namibian offender to the sin bin was understandable. Larsen plays for the same club as 35-year-old Du Toit but in the first team.
Stephen Jones kicked off, Namibia knocked on and Du Toit was penalised at the first scrum. Stephen Jones goaled. 3-0 inside two minutes.
Theuns Kotze kicked and Stephen Jones started a counterattack, passing infield to Aled Brew going left. Brew gave to Leigh Halfpenny who broke strongly past Jacques Burger and gave on the outside to strong Scott Williams who scored the first try. 8-0 after 8 minutes and the crowd were singing Hymns & Arias.
Namibia dropped two passes and the Welsh did phases. Bradley Davies forced a half gap and gave a short pass to Brew who scored. 15-0 after 14 minutes.
Eugene Jantjies kicked and Ryan Jones charged it down for young Toby Faletau to score. 22-0 after 17 minutes but the dam did not yet break as the Namibians fought back.
Early in the second half the Namibians got to within five metres of the Welsh line but lost the ball and the next thing they were defending their own line, getting a five metre scrum. Namibia won the scrum but Jantjies lost interest and Tavis Knoyle snatched the ball up and Wales were on the attack with Namibians in close attendance. Somehow Scott Williams broke away and dived over for his second try. 29-0 after 46 minutes and a try bonus point for Wales.
Then came two of the best tries of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, both scored by tight forwards.
Wales took a quick throw-in going left. They gave to prop Gethin Jenkins who cut back, sold a dummy, accelerated and bulldozed through three defenders to score a 38-metre try. A prop did that. 36-0 after 38 minutes.
The next try went one better. Just inside his own half lanky lock Nico Esterhuyse intercepted. Tackled he popped the ball to his locking mate Heinz Koll. The big man dummied inside and then set off for the Welsh goalline, 42 metres away. He raced ahead, straining every muscle he had and dived over in the right corner. 36-7 after 52 minutes.
Then the Namibians were penalised for collapsing the scrum and Larsen was sent to the sin bin. While he was wrapped in a blanket on the sideline, Wales scored three tries.
Wales immediately opted for the scrum but the Namibians defended resolutely till Burger was penalised at a tackle. The Welsh tapped and huge George North burst through close to a tackle area to score. 43-7 with a long 20 minutes for the Namibians to defend.
From the kick-off North went on a long run down the midfield. Wales went right and chunky Jonathan Davies was too strong and too fast as he went over under the posts. 50-7 after 62 minutes.
Byrne produced the next long run down the midfield and North got his second try. Rhys Priestland had taken Stephen Jones's place and converted. 57-7 with 66 minutes to go.
Larsen came back but many passes and many missed tackles gave Scott Williams his hat-trick. 64-7.
Namibia had emptied its bench when Kazombiaze went off on a stretcher. That left the side with seven forwards. Wales, with understandable but not lovely ruthlessness, opted for scrums, held the ball and shoved. One went down and the Namibians were penalised. Wales set another scrum, held and shoved till Andy Powell broke off and gave to Lloyd Williams, son of Brynmor who played for Wales and the B&I Lions, scored in the left corner. 69-7 with five minutes to play.
Five minutes and two tries, one by Byrne in the right corner and one close to the posts by Alun Wyn Jones to end proceedings.
Man of the Match: The official Man of the Match, and ours as well, is the Namibian flank Tinus du Plessis who tackled and foraged so effectively and so heroically.
Moment of the Match: Heinz Koll's try.
Villain of the Match: Nobody - nobody on the field that is.
Tries: S Williams 3, Brew, Faletau, Jenkins, North 2, Davies, L Williams, Byrne, A-W Jones
Cons: S Jones 6, Priestland 3
Pen: S Jones
Yellow card(s): Raoul Larson (Namibia, 59 - repeated infringements at the scrum)
Wales: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Stephen Jones, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Ryan Jones, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Lloyd Burns, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Luke Charteris, 19 Andy Powell, 20 Lloyd Williams, 21 Rhys Priestland, 22 George North.
Namibia: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Danie van Wyk, 13 Piet van Zyl, 12 Darryl de La Harpe, 11 Danie Dames, 10 Theuns Kotze, 9 Eugene Jantjies, 8 Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7 Jacques Burger (captain), 6 Tinus du Plessis, 5 Nico Esterhuyse, 4 Heinz Koll, 3 Jané du Toit, 2 Hugo Horn, 1 Johnnie Redelinghuys.
Replacements: 16 Bertus O'Callaghan, 17 Raoul Larson, 18 Wacca Kazombiaze, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Ryan de la Harpe, 21 TC Losper, 22 David Philander.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Carlo Damasco (Italy)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)