• Rugby

Wales into Rugby World Cup Quarters, Puts Australia Closer to Inglorious Exit. Scots Overrun Tonga

AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
Wales’ Nick Tompkins celebrates after scoring a try against Australia during a Rugby World Cup Pool C match at the Parc OL stadium in Lyon, France, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

LYON, France (AP) — Wales became the first to qualify for the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals on Sunday while virtually shutting the door on Australia’s hopes and putting the Wallabies in danger of their worst-ever showing.

The Welsh won by a record 40-6, executing a low-risk, disciplined gameplan and crucifying the many Australian mistakes in Lyon.

The Wallabies, winners in 1991 and 1999, have never missed the quarterfinals but losing consecutive pool games for the first time in 36 years left their fate in the hands of their Pacific neighbor Fiji, which upended them last week.

Australia should win its last Pool C game against Portugal next weekend but it won’t matter if Fiji accounts for its remaining pool fixtures against Georgia and Portugal. If so, the Fijians will follow Wales into the quarters and confirm Australia’s worst fears.

Penalties by the error-prone Wallabies gave replacement flyhalf Gareth Anscombe goal-shooting practice for Wales. He slotted six of seven penalty attempts — the one miss hit the post — and converted a try he set up for center Nick Tompkins.

With high stakes on the line, Wales rose to the occasion with its biggest win against Australia in their 115-year history. It was the Wallabies’ heaviest World Cup defeat and Eddie Jones’ return as coach is working out to be an unmitigated disaster with seven losses from eight games.

“I don’t have much to say. I’m embarrassed for the Aussie people,” Wallabies captain David Porecki said. “We were hoping to put a show on. It just wasn’t good enough.”

AP Photo/Christophe Ena
Australia’s head coach Eddie Jones holds a rugby ball during the warm-up before the Rugby World Cup Pool C match between Wales and Australia at the OL Stadium in Lyon, France, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.

SCOTLAND 45, TONGA 17

Scotland reminded it is still in contention for a quarterfinal place with a bonus-point 45-17 win over Tonga to advance its hopes in a pool shaded by the seismic Ireland-South Africa showdown, and presumptions that those two will be the ones going through.

Scotland ticked off the first of three big tasks on its to-do list if it is to make a late surge into the knockouts with its seven tries against the Tongans in Nice.

The Scots need another bonus-point win over Romania next — a likely result against the minnow — to set up a do-or-die against Six Nations rival and top-ranked Ireland in the last round of Pool B games.

“It’s a six-day turnaround to Romania now and we know we’ve got to improve on this performance to get a bonus-point win,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said. “Then, we’ve got a shootout against Ireland if that’s the case.”

Scotland hadn’t been seen since its opening-weekend loss to South Africa, but seemed to have put its two weeks off to good use as its backs came out running against Tonga, with playmaker Finn Russell pulling the strings in a masterly display at No. 10.

Five of Scotland’s tries came from its sharp-looking backline, with wing Duhan van der Merwe scoring one in the first half and set up another in the second.

Tonga No. 8 Vaea Fifita got a red card for charging into Russell’s head at a late breakdown, a hit that was put on review and upgraded from yellow after the final whistle.

AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
Scotland’s Darcy Graham scores a try during the Rugby World Cup Pool B match between Scotland and Tonga at the Stade de Nice, in Nice, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023.