Wales 28-8 Portugal: Warren Gatland’s side struggle to win World Cup against impressive Portugal

Louis Rees-Zammit replaces Wales' first try
Louis Rees-Zammit played in two World Cup matches and scored in both
Wales (14) 28
Try: Rees-Zammit, Lake, Morgan, Faletau The inconvenients: Halfpenny 3, Costelow
Portugal (3) 8
Try: Martins Pens: Brands

A much-changed Wales struggled to secure a bonus-point victory in the World Cup against impressive Portugal in Nice.

Portugal excelled in the first half, but trailed 14-3 at the break after Welsh tries from Louis Rees-Zammit and captain Dewi Lake.

Flanker Jac Morgan, included late for the injured Tommy Reffell, scored before Portuguese flanker Nicolas Martins crashed over.

Taulupe Faletau got the bonus point with a late fourth try.

Portugal finished the Pool C match with 14 men after winger Vincent Pinto received a late red card for a careless high boot on Josh Adams.

While Wales were incredibly disappointing, Portugal deserve credit for their adventurous attacking approach.

Wales had beaten Portugal 102-11 the only other time they faced each other in 1994. It would never happen again.

There were eight places between the two teams in the World Rugby rankings before the match, but you wouldn’t have thought that after watching the competition on the French Riviera.

Portuguese semi-professionals put Wales to work

Portugal, which had semi-professional players in its ranks and is coached by former France winger Patrice Lagisquet, had qualified to begin only a second World Cup campaign after participating in the 2007 tournament.

Warren Gatland initially made 13 changes to his Welsh starting team, with only number eight Faletau and winger Rees-Zammit remaining from last week’s thrilling victory over Fiji.

It was 12 changes as Wales faced disruption after flanker Reffell was withdrawn at the end of the warm-up, with team co-captain Morgan replacing him in the starting team.

Wales defense coach Mike Forshaw had warned his team what had happened to a much-changed France side who struggled against Uruguay on Thursday night before winning 27-12 and similar events have occurred.

It was an opportunity for Welsh players to make their case for selection against Australia in Lyon on September 24.

Few would have improved their case based on this performance, which was littered with errors and plagued by roster dysfunction. A late inclusion, Morgan managed to impress with a man-of-the-match display.

With Pool C still perhaps decided on points difference, Wales will be an interested spectator when Fiji take on Australia in Saint-Etienne on Sunday.

New look Wales fail to connect

Wales' Johnny Williams is tackled by Tomas Appleton
Johnny Williams made his first World Cup appearance for Wales

There was experience and youth in the new-look Wales team, but little evidence of familiarity.

Flyhalf Gareth Anscombe, 32, was playing his first World Cup match in eight years after missing the 2019 competition with a serious knee injury.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who became the oldest Welsh full-back to start a World Cup match, and flanker Dan Lydiate were taking part in a third world tournament.

In contrast, Exeter locks Christ Tshiunza, 21, and Dafydd Jenkins, 20, formed Wales’ youngest second-row partnership, while Lake, 24, led the side on his debut in World Cup.

Scrum-half Tomos Williams led his side as he won his 50th cap, against opponents eager to win, but his opposite number Samuel Marques missed his first attempt.

Despite an encouraging start from Portugal, Wales scored first thanks to an impressive finish from Rees-Zammit, who collected his own tricky grubber to win his second World Cup try.

The winger cheekily scored the try by imitating Portuguese football legend Cristiano Ronaldo’s celebration.

Portugal continued to entertain with their expansive approach as full-back Nuno Sousa Gedes nearly set up a try for flanker Martins which was only denied by a brilliant covering tackle from Faletau.

Wales were reduced to 14 men after center Johnny Williams received a yellow card for a professional foul while playing the ball on the ground.

Portugal troubled Wales with their attack-at-all-costs attitude and a brilliant kick from Marques created an attacking opportunity which was denied by Halfpenny’s brilliant defence.

Gatland has often called Halfpenny the best defensive full-back in the world and this moment confirmed that claim.

Portugal’s dominant kicks continued to pay off and Marques deservedly scored his team’s first points from the penalty spot.

Williams returned to the field and almost scored before losing possession just before the Portuguese line. Lake put Wales ahead just before half-time by scoring a try which gave them a 14-3 half-time lead, which flattered his team.

Wales find their way to bonus point

Wales’ scrum superiority was evident at both sides of the half, but they lost three consecutive touches at the Portugal 22 early in the second half.

Marques missed a penalty attempt before Gatland changed more than half his attackers as he looked for inspiration.

Wales began to play a more structured game and it paid off when Morgan slotted home from close range.

Portugal regrouped and rewarded their passionate supporters when Martin crashed over after a well-worked lineout.

Substitute scrumhalf Gareth Davies thought he had scored the bonus point try after some impressive build-up work from Rees-Zammit, but the score was disallowed for interference.

Portuguese winger Vincent Pinto was shown a late yellow card for a high foot that hit substitute Wales winger Adams in the face.

This decision was referred to the bunker system and considered a red card.

Faletau took advantage by taking the upper hand on the last play of the match to ensure that Wales took maximum points.

Wales top Pool C with two wins from two, second-placed Australia face Fiji on Sunday, Georgia are fourth and Portugal last.

Warren Gatland, Wales head coach: “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.

“Some boys looked a little rusty having not played together, but we will get the win and move on.

“People had an opportunity today and we’re going to review that to see who performed well.

“Our touch didn’t work as well as we would have liked and we were a little sideways at times. When we were direct and won contact we looked comfortable.

“To be fair to Portugal, they put us under pressure, they moved the ball well and I was impressed with them.”

Portugal coach Patrice Lagisquet: “There were two mistakes and then they can score two tries. We were too shy in the first half, we didn’t play collectively enough.

“We showed in the second half that we can play better rugby but I’m a little disappointed with the red card because for me it was totally accidental.

“I’m a little disappointed with these few things but what I appreciate is the behavior of the players, they were really committed, they fought a lot, I’m proud of their attitude.

“We take experience from the game. For this young team, these young players, we have to be more confident in the way we play.”


Wales: L Halfpenny; Rees-Zammit, Grady, J Williams, Dyer; Anscombe, T Williams; Smith, Lake (captain), D Lewis, Tshiunza, Jenkins, Lydiate, Reffell, Faletau.

Substitutes: Elias, Domachowski, Francis, Beard, Basham, G Davies, Costelow, Adams.

Sin-bin: J Williams 25

Portugal: Guedes; Pinto, Lima, Appleton (captain), Marta; Portela, Marques; Fernandes, Tadjer, Alves, Bello, Cerqueira, Granate, Martins, Simoes.

Substitutes: Costa, Campergue, Ferreira, Freitas, Wallis, Lucas, Moura, Storti.

Red card: Pinto 77

Arbitrator: Karl Dickson

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