Howley rocket inspires Welsh
September 26, 2011
Scott Williams streaks away to score his one of his three tries © Getty Images
Wales continued their march towards the World Cup knockout phase in record-breaking fashion at Stadium Taranaki - but only after a verbal roasting from assistant coach Rob Howley.
Former Wales captain Howley vented his feelings at half-time following a sluggish opening 40 minutes against Pool D minnows Namibia. And it had the desired effect as Wales transformed a 22-0 interval advantage into an 81-7 victory, smashing their previous best World Cup win of 72-18 against Japan four years ago.
Wales also ran in 12 tries - another tournament-best - while 19-year-old wing George North became the youngest player to claim a World Cup touchdown. A quarter-final place will be confirmed if Wales see off Fiji in Hamilton next Sunday, setting them up for a potential last-eight clash against Six Nations rivals Ireland on October 8.
"We knew we had to get a bonus point, and we started the first 20 minutes well, but we then got a bit complacent," Wales coach Warren Gatland said. "Rob (Howley) was quite ferocious at half-time, and we were a lot more effective in the second-half. It was pleasing the way we finished."
Wales fullback Lee Byrne, who claimed one of his team's dozen tries, added: "The first-half wasn't good enough at the end of the day, but we didn't press any panic button like maybe we would have done at certain times in the past.
"I thought it was really mature of us just to tick over and not to force it. We just let it happen. Coming in 22 points up, we probably expected to have had more than that. It gave us a bit of a wake up in the second-half, and we needed it.
"We were too complacent. After scoring a couple of early tries, we obviously thought it was going to be an easy game, but in fairness to Namibia they tackled hard and ran hard."
Centre Scott Williams claimed a hat-trick on his full Wales debut, while North scored twice and there were also tries for Byrne, Jonathan Davies, Aled Brew, Alun-Wyn Jones, Toby Faletau, Gethin Jenkins and Lloyd Williams. Fly-half Stephen Jones marked his record 101st Wales cap by booting 15 points, while Rhys Priestland chipped in with three late conversions as Namibia bowed out of the competition with four successive defeats and a mammoth 266 points conceded.
"Guys coming off the bench had a positive impact, and we have got to be pleased. We scored 12 tries and we looked pretty slick at times," Gatland said. "The challenge for the players was to give us a few selection headaches, and they certainly did that."
Gatland praised 20-year-old Scarlets centre Williams' "outstanding" performance, while he also singled out North's contribution after he showcased his trademark pace and power against an overworked Namibian defence.
"George has got a massive future," Gatland added. "He showed his class when he went on. He is very quick and he is going to score a lot of tries. He's real quality. He is 110kg and very quick, and he has great footwork as well. I think he has great potential.
"Maybe Jamie Roberts and George North in the midfield could be a good combination. There wouldn't be too many people wanting to tackle that."
Wales emerged relatively unscathed from their third group game, reporting no fresh injury concerns to join a casualty list that currently features fullback James Hook (shoulder), wing Shane Williams (quad strain) and flanker Dan Lydiate (ankle). Namibia, though, have major wounds to lick as they prepare for the journey home as the tournament's first eliminated team.
"We have to play more Test matches, that is the bottom line," said coach Johan Diergaardt, who confirmed skipper Jacques Burger went to hospital for an X-ray on his jaw following the game.
"Our performance in the second 20 minutes (when Wales did not score a point) showed what the players can do, but we have to do it for 80 minutes. We need more of our players playing professionally. We have made a great improvement since the 2007 World Cup, but other teams have also improved a lot as well."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September