Wales will secure their place at next year’s World Cup with a win over Italy in Monza in a fortnight’s time, after a comprehensive nine-try triumph over Serbia in Llanelli.
The drive of forwards Rhodri Lloyd and Phil Joseph combined the guile of half backs, two-try Ollie Olds and Courtney Davies, allied to the speed at the back from man of the match Elliot Kear and young St Helens wing tyro Regan Grace saw John Kear’s men home.
“I’m really pleased with what the players have turned up today,” said Kear.
“I’ve been delighted with how they’ve prepared for the game; the two mini camps that we’ve had in North Wales were exceptionally good.
“Today, they’ve turned up with a very good team performance. We felt that, if our contact was good and we controlled the ruck area, we could restrict them.”
Kear, who guided the Welsh to a trophy in 2015 added:
“It’s continued from last year; we conceded four tries in three games in the European Championships and we’ve again held our line in-tact. I’m very proud of that.”
Serbia were hampered by injuries that restricted their rotations, prop David Andjelić – who just denied a try early on when held up short – and Stefan Nedeljković who suffered a hamstring tear, causing disruption.
Wales looked to have scored early when Lloyd White sent in Widnes team mate Gil Dudson on the pair’s return to the international ranks but the pass was ruled forward as heavy rain began to fall.
But when the hosts did get the ball out wide, winger Rhys Williams quickly added to his record try haul for his country.
Two in seven minutes broke the deadlock, Lloyd supplying the pass for the first and an overlap seeing the London Broncos winger cross for his 18th touchdown in 22 internationals, White converting the second from the touchline.
Jordan Grant on debut was the visitor’s best, constantly making ground up the middle, but the Serbians were susceptible to the high kick and struggled to spread the ball wide of the ruck.
Young flyer Grace did well to avoid a high tackle to go over in the corner and, just before the break, lively Olds slipped past his marker to dart across, White’s goal making it 20-0 at the break.
As conditions worsened, Williams sent in Davies, who converted his own try and Wales dominated after Serbia had winger Pero Madzarevic sent to the sin bin for a trip on ever-dangerous Kear as he broke clear.
Andrew Gay caught the visiting defence napping when he went over from dummy half in the corner after a flowing move had been halted, before a wide pass was shipped on by Kear and Grace was uncatchable over 65 metres as he sprinted up the touchline, Davies again with the extras.
Olds took advantage of Serbia again letting his high kick bounce, following up for his second try and Dudson plunged over by the post for Wales’ last touchdown from White’s pass, the hooker bringing up the half century with his fourth goal.
Serbia coach Ljubomir Bukvic commented,
“This was the toughest game we have played and congratulations to Wales. We were good for about 25 minutes and that is not enough against such a quality team.
“We didn’t play like we had planned in our training sessions, we failed to score on an early play and lost our attacking structure.
“It was a first match for this group of players and we will spend more time together, learn and continue our preparations for playing Italy in Belgrade next week.”