Wales kept alive its chances of advancing to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals by beating Samoa 17-10 as England and France secured their second straight wins at the tournament.
Winger Shane Williams scored a try with 13 minutes left in Hamilton, New Zealand, yesterday to secure Wales’s first victory over Samoa at rugby’s four-yearly showpiece following upset losses in 1991 and 1999.
Wales rebounded from last week’s 17-16 loss to defending world champion South Africa to move into third place in Pool D with matches against Namibia and Fiji, the two lowest-ranked teams in the five-team group, to come.
“Forget about the performance, we just knew we had to win,” Wales coach Warren Gatland told reporters. “I’m so proud of the boys: under a bit of pressure, they just dug deep.”
The top two teams in each of the four pools advance to the quarterfinals. France secured a bonus-point victory with the last play of the game against Canada in Napier last night to join Pool A leader New Zealand on 10 points before they meet Sept. 24 in Auckland. England leads Scotland on points difference in Pool B following its 41-10 win over Georgia.
Ireland tops Pool C ahead of Australia after beating the Wallabies 15-6 two days ago in the biggest upset so far of the tournament, which resumes tomorrow when Italy plays Russia.
At Waikato Stadium, Williams picked up a loose pass and darted over for his national-record eighth World Cup try to put Wales seven points ahead after it had trailed 10-6 at the break. James Hook and Rhys Priestland each kicked two penalties, while Samoa got a converted first-half try from prop Anthony Perenise and a penalty.
‘Into My Hands’
“The ball fell into my hands,” Williams said in comments distributed by tournament organizers. “I was just there to finish off.”
Samoa, which trails South Africa by three points in the Pool D standings, had a first-half try from Maurie Faasavalu ruled out by referee Alain Rolland for a double movement.
“You lose some, you win some,” said Samoa captain Mahonri Schwalger, whose team faces the Springboks on Sept. 30. “I’ve got belief in my team. We’ll make the quarterfinals if we win the next two games. So it’s not over for us.”
In Dunedin, Georgia held an England team ranked 12 places higher by the International Rugby Board to two first-half tries before the 2003 world champion touched down four times after the break to pull away. Both teams had 50 percent of the possession, though Georgia spent more time in the opposition half and allowed six fewer penalties than the 14 from the English.
“We were sloppy at times,” England manager Martin Johnson said in a news conference. “Some guys were a little bit rusty. We made things a bit more difficult than they were. If we’re happy with those standards then we’ll go home early, so we’ve got to be tough with ourselves.”
Inside center Shontayne Hape and winger Chris Ashton each scored two tries for England. Delon Armitage and Manu Tuilagi also crossed the line, while Toby Flood added four conversions and a penalty as England sealed a second straight win after beating Argentina 13-9 on Sept. 10.
No. 8 Dimitri Basilaia barged over for Georgia’s only try just before half time, which Merab Kvirikashvili converted to make it 17-10 at the break. Kvirikashvili missed five penalties.
“We have a lot to improve on but you can only win each game in front of you and that’s what we’ve done,” England captain Lewis Moody said in a televised interview.
Clerc’s Hat Trick
In Napier, France led Canada 25-19 before scoring three converted tries in the last 15 minutes to win 46-19. Full-back Damien Traille went over before winger Vincent Clerc added a late double to his fourth-minute try. Clerc’s hat trick lifted his career tally of World Cup tries to nine, a French record.
Morgan Parra booted four conversions and five penalties for France, while Francois Trinh-Duc added a drop goal. Ryan Smith scored Canada’s only try, with James Pritchard and Ander Monro kicking the other points.
France’s win lifted it into second place in the group behind the top-ranked All Blacks, while Canada stayed in third place with four points.
“At the end it was easier, but it was a really tough game,” France assistant coach Didier Retiere said in a televised interview. “We’ve got a big job on next week.”