Birthday bonus for Gatland as Wales beat Portuguese
By Alex Bywater IN NICE Marques.
dmg media (UK)
WARREN GATLAND declared Wales’ bonuspoint win over Portugal a ‘birthday present that came early’ after his team continued their perfect World Cup start. Gatland turns 60 today and will celebrate by watching Fiji’s clash with Australia — a game which could have big implications on how Pool C will pan out. He will do so from a position of contentment. Wales’ second string were far from perfect against Portugal, but the bottom line is they now have 10 points from two games. Taulupe Faletau’s 83rd-minute effort at the Stade de Nice ensured Wales went home with a bonus point when it had looked highly unlikely across the entirety of the game. ‘If someone had said you’d have 10 points from the first two games, we’d have been pretty happy with that,’ Gatland said. ‘Job done — we’ve got the five points. We can be happy with that. We were conscious about getting that bonus point at the end.’ This success means Gatland now has a record 16 World Cup wins as a coach. It took him past Eddie Jones, who can emulate that mark if his Wallabies beat Fiji today. Faletau’s try could well prove crucial. With Wales, Jones’ Australia and Fiji all chasing two quarter-final spots, Pool C may well come down to points difference. The No8 spun out of a tackle to cross the line after earlier efforts from Louis Rees-Zammit, captain Dewi Lake and Jac Morgan, who was outstanding after a late call-up to start. Australia are Wales’ next opponents in what is on paper their hardest group-stage encounter. Prop Henry Thomas remains a doubt for that game due to a hamstring issue. Morgan wasn’t even in Gatland’s matchday 23 but when starting flanker Tommy Reffell felt his calf tighten in the warm-up, the Wales co-captain was summoned to begin the game. Portugal were outstanding for long periods. They ran the ball from everywhere and always looked to offload. Portugal benefited from Wales playing a game that was too open and with too many errors. Rees-Zammit did give Wales the perfect start and after crossing the line, produced a Cristiano Ronaldo-style celebration. Dewi Lake got Wales’ second with the clock in the red at the end of the first half to send them to the break 14-3 to the good. Had Samuel Marques’ kicking not been poor, Portugal would have been closer in touch. Johnny Williams was yellow carded in the first half for playing the ball on the floor. It summed up Wales’ display as they grew frustrated and got sucked into an end-to-end game which suited Portugal more than it did them. Morgan crashed over for Wales’ third in the second period but Portugal never went away. Only a brilliant, try-saving tackle from Faletau had denied their outstanding flanker Nicolas Martins in the first half. But he went over in the second from a neat line-out move. Wales huffed and puffed and it looked like a fourth try would elude them. But when Portugal lost wing Vincent Pinto to an initial yellow card for leading with his leg in an aerial contest with Josh Adams, Faletau struck Wales’ crucial blow. Pinto’s card was harshly upgraded to red after the try. It meant Gatland could celebrate his birthday with a five-point win. Portugal captain Tomas Appleton said: ‘We are frustrated. We are not here to just be a presence at the World Cup. We’re here to win.’ SCORERS; Wales — Tries: Rees-Zammit, Lake, Morgan, Faletau. Cons: Halfpenny 3, Costelow. Portugal — Tries: Martins. Pens: