Wales were made to work incredibly hard by Portugal but they managed to secure their second triumph in Pool C after claiming a 28-8 win in Nice.
The Portuguese were impressive throughout and caused their opponents numerous problems, but the greater quality eventually told.
Louis Rees-Zammit, Dewi Lake, Jac Morgan, and Taulupe Faletau’s tries proved to be enough as Warren Gatland’s men claimed a crucial bonus-point.
Os Lobos, making their first Rugby World Cup appearance since 2007, were excellent and were rewarded through Nicolas Martins’ try, but they could not quite go over for a second time to set up an exciting finale.
Portugal’s exciting back division stretched Wales’ defence in all directions, although wing Vincent Pinto blotted the copybook when he was red-carded late in the game following a bunker review after his boot caught Josh Adams in the face.
Wales suffered an injury blow shortly before kick-off when flanker Tommy Reffell withdrew from the starting line-up and was replaced by Morgan.
Portugal, playing their first World Cup game for 16 years, were captained by centre Tomas Appleton and under the coaching direction of former France international wing Patrice Lagisquet.
Samuel Marques missed a golden chance to put his team in front when he sent a short-range penalty wide, and Wales went ahead through a ninth-minute try that saw an impressive finish from Rees-Zammit, who then performed a Cristiano Ronaldo-style celebration.
Leigh Halfpenny converted, but Portugal showed plenty of adventure in attack, and Faletau pulled off a try-saving tackle that preserved Wales’ 7-0 lead after 17 minutes.
It was an impressive effort by the underdogs as their eagerness to move possession wide and at pace tested Wales’ defence.
Wales made errors when they got within sight of Portugal’s line, and an element of frustration was underlined when Johnny Williams received a yellow card following a technical infringement.
It was an outstanding first-half display by Portugal, who were beaten 102-11 on their only previous meeting with Wales in a World Cup qualifier 29 years ago.
Wales just could not get going, compounding their situation through poor work in the contact area, and Marques kicked a penalty three minutes before the break.
Williams then had a try disallowed after he failed to ground the ball, only for Lake to power over from close range, with Halfpenny’s conversion making it 14-3 at the interval.
Wales began the second period by losing two attacking lineouts in quick succession inside Portugal’s 22, and Gatland soon turned to his replacements’ bench, sending on Ryan Elias, Corey Domachowski, Tomas Francis and Adam Beard.
Back-row forward Taine Basham soon followed them into the action, and Wales claimed a third try after 56 minutes when Morgan crossed from close range and Halfpenny added the extras.
Portugal deservedly claimed a try midway through the second half when clever lineout work produced a try for Martins. Marques’ touchline conversion attempt hit a post, and it was a warning sign to Wales that their opponents had no intention of going quietly.
The closing stages were all about whether or not Wales could secure a bonus point, and they thought they had it when scrum-half Gareth Davies crossed, only to see it disallowed for midfield obstruction.
That summed up Wales’ day, but after Pinto was dismissed, Faletau scored in the game’s final play and Costelow converted.
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 Jac Morgan, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Dafydd Jenkins, 4 Christ Tshiunza, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Dewi Lake (c), 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 (c), 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 (Italy)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
READ MORE: ‘Sh**housery’ – Louis Rees-Zammit uses Cristiano Ronaldo’s celebration after scoring against Portugal
The article Wales struggle to second Rugby World Cup victory against brilliant Portugal appeared first on Planetrugby.com.