Wales bag late bonus-point win over Portugal
MATCH REPORT: Wales managed to keep their winning World Cup run intact, recording a hard-fought 28-8 victory over Portugal at the Stade de Nice on Saturday.
The Welsh outscored Portugal four tries to one for the bonus-point win.
While the performance was not pretty, the win sets Wales up nicely for their September 24 showdown with Australia in Lyon before wrapping up group play against Georgia in Nantes on October 7.
Wing Louis Rees-Zammit scored early and hooker Dewi Lake scored right on half-time to give Wales a 14-3 lead, but flank Nicolas Martins was only denied a try in response by Taulupe Faletau’s recovery tackle.
Flank Jac Morgan, a late replacement for Tommy Reffell, added a third but Portugal refused to give up and Martins deservedly claimed their first try on their return to the tournament 16 years after a clever line-out move.
Faletau powered over with a last-gasp try to secure a bonus point for Wales.
After Samuel Marques missed an early penalty, it was Rees-Zammit who set the Stade de Nice alight, touching down with a trademark opportunistic try to open the score.
Jac Morgan did well to drift wide and half-draw the last defender before feeding the wing who grubbered the ball past Rodrigo Marta down the line, and then gathered to dot down.
Ever the showman, Rees-Zammit jumped to his feet and mimicked Portugal football star Ronaldo’s ‘Siuuu’ goal-scoring celebration.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) September 16, 2023
Halfpenny converted as the game went from end to end, Tomos Williams and Christ Tshiunza both producing tackles that stemmed the Portuguese wave.
Veteran Taulupe Faletau confirmed why Wales coach Warren Gatland rates him so highly, the No.8 corner-flagging brilliantly to haul down Nicolas Martins after a smart step and searing break by full-back Nuno Sousa Guedes.
Halfpenny was then also on hand to nullify an attack, again with the line a-begging, before Portugal at least got on the scoreboard through a Marques penalty.
Centre Johnny Williams, who spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for needlessly playing the ball on the floor, spilt the ball as he crashed over the Portugal line thanks to a great combined tackle from props Anthony Alves and Francisco Fernandes.
But captain Dewi Lake made amends from the resulting penalty, driving over for Wales’ second try, also converted by Halfpenny to make it 14-3 at half-time.
Marques missed a penalty early in the second half before Wales turned the screw through their power-based forward game, Morgan burrowing over for the third Welsh try.
Halfpenny made no mistake from the kicking tee and suddenly Portugal, whose sole World Cup appearance also came in France, in 2007, were well on the back foot.
Rio Dyer came up with a great tackle to bundle Raffaele Storti into touch as the replacement threatened in the Welsh 22m area.
Marques spurned a shot at the posts to go for a deep touch and, against the run of play, it paid off as Martins crossed for an unconverted try from a smart front peel move off the line-out.
Gatland had complained bitterly about Wales’ “dumb decisions” around game management in the last quarter against Fiji, allowing the South Sea Islanders to come right back into the game.
But there was no last-minute drama in Nice despite a Gareth Davies try being ruled out for obstruction.
It looked like the Welsh might miss out on a bonus point that could prove to be crucial in a pool that also includes Australia and Georgia, two teams that beat Wales in the November internationals.
But Faletau barrelled over from a five-metre scrum for a fourth try to pile the pressure on the Australia versus Fiji match in St Etienne on Sunday.
Man of the match: The award goes to Taulupe Faletau. The No.8 produced a solid performance, made big tackles and strong runs. His late try handed Wales the bonus-point win which will be crucial to the team’s campaign.
Tries: Rees-Zammit, Lake, Morgan, Faletau
Cons: Halfpenny 3, Costelow
Yellow card: Johnny Williams (Wales, 25 – playing the ball on the ground).
Red card: Vincent Pinto (Portugal, 76 – cynical and dangerous foul)
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny; 14 Louis Rees Zammit, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Rio Dyer; 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams; 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Dan Lydiate; 5 Dafydd Jenkins,48 Christ Tshiunza; 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Dewi Lake (captain), 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Josh Adams.
Portugal: 15 Nuno Sousa Guedes, 14 Vincent Pinto, 13 Jose Lima, 12 Tomas Appleton (captain), 11 Rodrigo Marta, 10 Jeronimo Portela, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 Rafael Simoes, 7 Nicolas Martins, 6 Joao Granate, 5 Steevy Cerqueira, 4 José Madeira, 3 Anthony Alves, 2 Mike Tadjer, 1 Francisco Fernandes
Replacements: 16 Raffaele Storti, 17 Joris Moura, 18 Pedro Lucas, 19 David Wallis, 20 Martim Belo, 21 Diogo Hasse Ferreira, 22 Lionel Campergue, 23 David Costa
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Andrea Piardi (France)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
*Additional source: AFP