Wales (14) 28
Tries: Rees-Zammit, Lake, Morgan, Faletau Cons: Halfpenny (3), Costelow
Portugal (3) 8
First-half tries from Louis Rees-Zammit, captain Dewi Lake and second-half scores from Jac Morgan and a last-gasp stoppage-time Toby Faleteu try earned an unconvincing bonus point win for Warren Gatland’s side against Frenchman Patrice Lagisquet’s unfancied minnows.
Head-coach Gatland had chosen to overhaul his side for the fixture, resting 13 of the starters of the previous weekend’s Pool C 32-26 nail-biting victory against Fiji with only Rees-Zammit and Faleteu remaining in the line-up.
After a slow start, it would be Gloucester wing Rees-Zammit who gave the Welsh an early lead by collecting his own kick to run into the corner, after neat play in midfield by Morgan and Tomos Williams had seen the play swiftly switched from left to right.
Even at that stage though, the team known as ‘the Wolves’ would have plenty of bite, not letting Warren Gatland’s side have it all their own way, looking to counter attack with purpose in the same mantra as Fiji had found such success with just six days ago.
Much like in previous night’s, Portugal’s on-pitch arrival to World Cup 2023 would cause taking points. Similar to lesser-fancied Uruguay two days ago, the minnows would show heart against their much-fancied rivals. Bar from captain Lake’s first-half stoppage-time try after a quick tap and go from a Wales penalty, the first period would be uneventful, careless and full of ill-discipline from Gatland’s side. Centre Johnny Williams summing up the frustrations by seeing a spell in the sin bin for a cynical infringement for illegally blocking a pass midway through the half.
The second period would show more of the same tendencies as Portugal would show fight and character to frustrate. The Welsh at times showed moments of quality but it would be all too little to pose the prior expected threat and would need to dig deep to extend their lead. Man of the match Morgan, not even in the initial 15 and an early replacement for injured centre Tommy Reffell making the breakthrough powering over after good work from replacement Francis in the mall.
The Portuguese would not give up and got their reward midway through the second-half. Back-row Nicholas Martins scoring in the corner neatly after possession had been won from a lineup close to the Welsh line to scenes of rapturous elation from the Portuguese bench.
Portuguese joy soon became swiftly replaced and overshadowed by the dismissal of Vincent Pinto as the mood soured following a high foot on Josh Adams which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a martial arts movie.
With the extra man Wales would push and thought they had made the all-important breakthrough with five minutes remaining. Replacement scrum-half Gareth Davies diving over the try line after a burst of pace from Rees-Zammit had created space for the experienced Scarlet to gather a smart offload. The try, after a delay, however, would be disallowed for obstruction against Francis by TMO.
Time would be running out with the clock well into the red, but Wales would find one more chance to execute an attack. Number eight Faleteu appearing at the back of the scrum picking up the loose ball before weaving his way through the Portuguese defense to score what could be a priceless try for his country, to mass relief on the Welsh bench.
For Wales, it would seal a crucial bonus point win. It wouldn’t be pretty but would be job done for Warren Gatland before his side’s pivotal next fixture against Australia in a week’s time.
Wales XV: Halfpenny (Adams 70), Rees-Zammit, Grady, J Williams, Dyer, Anscombe (Costelow 65), T Williams (G Davies 65), Smith (Domachowski 51), Lake (captain) (Elias 51), D Lewis (Francis 51), Tshiunza, Jenkins (Beard 51), Lydiate (Basham 54), Morgan, Faletau.
Portugal XV: Guedes (Moura 69), Pinto, Lima (Storti 57), Appleton (captain), Marta, Portela, Marques (Lucas 74), Simoes, Martins, Granate (Wallis 66), Cerqueira, Belo (Freitas 57), Alves (Ferreira 55), Tadjer (Campergue 70), Fernandes (Costa 60).
(Lead image: Welsh Rugby Union)
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