Wales became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup as they produced a record-breaking performance to hammer Austalia 40-6 in Lyon on Sunday.
Scotland also remained in contention for the quarter-finals with a 45-17 bonus point win over Tonga, although they will likely need to beat Ireland in their final Pool B match to progress.
Warren Gatland’s Wales side, who had laboured to victory in their previous matches against Fiji and Portugal, looked to be in trouble when they lost infuential fly-half Dan Biggar after just 12 minutes.
However, tries from Gareth Davies, Nick Tompkins and skipper Jac Morgan, and an exemplary kicking display from replacement fly-half Gareth Anscombe, who mustered 23 points in total, saw Wales into the last eight.
It was the most points they have ever scored against the Wallabies and the 34-point gap eclipsed their 28–3 win in Cardiff back in 1975.
“We’ve played well in the last two games but there were a few things we could improve on and today the discipline was better and we were great,” said Morgan.
“I’m very proud of the boys, we’re prepared to go to the well for each other and everyone’s prepared so well.”
With Australia’s hopes of qualifying now depending on Fiji losing to Georgia or Portugal, the pressure will mount on coach Eddie Jones.
It was his side’s seventh defeat in eight Tests since he took over the reins for the second time in January.
Australia’s only victory since then was over Tier II Georgia.
“I would like to apologise to all Australia supporters,” said Jones. “Our performances was not up to the standards required. I take full responsibility for it. It is very disappointing.”
Wales got off to a dream start with a line-out move straight off the training ground as Morgan hit a beautiful line onto Tompkins’s inside pass to break through the defensive line and tee up Davies to score by the posts.
Two Ben Donaldson penalties brought it back to 7-6 and with Biggar leaving the field with a shoulder problem, suffered tackling Richie Arnold, the Australians appeared to be in a good position.
Anscombe, though, proved a more than able replacement for Biggar, despite missing his first kick at the sticks, punishing a series of Australian infringements.
Three penalties took it to 16-6 at the break after which Wales ran away with it, Anscombe adding another three penalties, a drop goal and converting Tompkins’ try in the 49th minute, which he had set up with a delightful chip over the Australian defence.
Australian heads had dropped by the time Morgan had the last say with a try off a driving maul.
– Seven-try Scotland –
The Scots, who lost 18-3 to defending champions South Africa in their opening game, went into their match in Nice knowing they needed all five points to stay in contention in Pool B.
That was achieved by half-time as George Turner, Duhan van der Merwe, Kyle Steyn, and Rory Darge all crossed the paint to give Scotland a 24-10 lead at the break.
George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Darcy Graham added further tries in the second half to round off the victory.
Solomone Kata gave the Tongans some hope in the first half with a fine try and 150-kilogramme prop Ben Tameifuna barrelled over early in the second half but they never got close enough to worry the Scots.
The one downside for Gregor Townsend’s side was skipper Jamie Ritchie being forced from the field for a head injury assessment after a tackle by Afusipa Taumoepeau that saw the Tongan winger lucky to escape with just a yellow card.
Ritchie failed the assessment and having already gone over the threshold of five previous concussions now faces 12 days on the sidelines in line with the return-to-play protocol.
He will miss the next game against Romania but should be back for the match against Ireland.
“It’s very disappointing that our captain, one of our key players, was hit in the head and was removed from the game,” Townsend said. “(It) should be a red card in my opinion.”
If Scotland bag another five points against Romania in Lille on September 30, they will face a potential winner-takes-all clash against pool leaders Ireland in the two sides’ final pool game on October 7 in Paris.