Smart kicking: the key to Wales victory

The fastest drop goal in Rugby World Cup history and kicking designed to open up Wallabies' defence steered Wales home.

TOKYO, 29 Sep - As rugby defences become tighter, clever kicking has become crucial to creating scoring opportunities.

Ireland started against Japan by employing cross-field and chip-kicks to score two early tries. Georgian hooker Jaba Bregvadze even got in on the act on Sunday by chipping over the Uruguayan defence to create a try for team-mate Giorgi Kvesaladze.

Wales provided the best examples of the art in dominating the first 12 minutes against Australia and building an early lead that they would never relinquish.

Wales began the pool D match against Australia by winning a turnover in the opposition 22 from the kick-off. Many teams would have gone for an early try, but the Welsh team immediately took points as Dan Biggar, pictured, slotted the drop goal in the clip above after 35 seconds.

The first score of the game began a period of Wales domination that arguably should have produced more points than it did. First, a break off turnover ball led to a penalty shot that Biggar missed from near the left touchline. Then a Gareth Davies intercept was followed by Josh Adams kicking into the Australia 22 and the ball being regathered there by Hadleigh Parkes (see clip above). The chance was lost though, as David Pocock won the turnover.

A fourth opportunity for Wales in the opening 12 minutes produced the early try they were looking for. A penalty around halfway was kicked into touch inside the Australia 22. Initially, Wales did not look as like they were making much headway. But Biggar spotted an opportunity on the right and a perfectly weighted cross-field kick put Hadleigh Parkes in for the score (see clip above). Biggar kicked the conversion and Wales had a 10-point lead. Clever kicking of all types had created that lead and few teams lose from 10 points up.

Australia's recovery also came from a kick as shown above. Their first major possession in Wales territory had sucked in defenders and Bernard Foley spotted space out wide. His cross-field kick found Adam Ashley-Cooper, who had more to do than Parkes had for his try. Ashley-Cooper successfully avoided the scrambling Wales defenders to score and become his team's oldest Rugby World Cup try-scorer.

Wales extended their lead to 18 points four minutes into the second half, leaving the Wallabies needing to break the competition-record comeback of 15 to win. They managed to get to within a point with 12 minutes left but, ultimately, they fell short.

Early Welsh dominance and that 10-point lead, which probably should have been more, contributed heavily to giving Wales their famous victory. And smart kicking from Biggar and others played a very big part in that. 

RNS sdg/mj/bo