Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Welsh Hand out a Shock

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Welsh Hand out a Shock

Article excerpt

The phoney war is over. Let battle commence. While the eight teams left to contest the Webb Ellis Trophy could have been predicted before the tournament began, a group stage notable for its absence of shocks has nevertheless left all the giants wobbling.

New Zealand had watched all their main rivals struggle as they powered on in relentless pursuit of the major prize - England against Samoa, France against Fiji and Australia against Ireland.

It took until the very last match of the pool stages for any opponent to give the All Blacks a game but at Telstra Stadium, Wales not only achieved that aim, they reached a points total only two sides have bettered against their opponents in nearly 120 years of Tests. Heartbreakingly, they still could not win.

During a purple patch around half-time, Steve Hansen's boys hauled back an imposing Kiwi lead, shot into a four-point advantage and brought back memories of the halcyon days of Phil Bennett, Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams.

They may not have had the stamina to see the job through but the damage Wales inflicted will have been noted by every potential All Black opponent.

If an under-strength Welsh team can rip apart the tournament favourites, what price the Springboks doing the same in Melbourne next Saturday, or Australia in the semis the following week, or England in the decider on November 22.

With their forceful drives and skipping runs, Jonathan Thomas and Shane Williams stripped the All Blacks bare. The aura which surrounded them has been lost. They are beatable and everybody knows it.

"We wanted to make them work for every point," said Welsh skipper Colin Charvis.

"Once we got in front we were happy playing our own style. We just wanted the chance to express ourselves when we had the ball."

After watching his side suffer a 50-point mauling in their previous encounter in Hamilton earlier this year, Hansen learned a simple lesson. …

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