The Wallabies beat Portugal 34-14 to stay in contention for a quarter-final place
The Wallabies finish with a modest 11 points from their four pool matches and one point for Fiji in next weekend’s clash with Portugal will be enough to send the Aussies packing. They would be the first Wallabies not to qualify for the knockout stage at a World Cup.
Australia had a tight grip on the game by half-time – but not before they were given an almighty fright. And that started in the first dozen minutes.
Trailing to a Ben Donaldson penalty, Os Lobos laid siege to the Aussie line and they struck gold on 11 minutes when Tomás Appleton’s superb miss pass to Pedro Bettencourt gave him a clear run to the line down the right flank. Samuel Marques converted, 7-3 to the underdogs.
Unfortunately for Bettencourt, he left the field soon afterwards for a high tackle and by the time he returned Portugal had leaked 21 points.
Richie Arnold got Australia’s first try after strong carries by Angus Bell and Rob Valetini.
Hooker and captain Dave Porecki then dotted down from a driving maul, and the outstanding Bell also crashed over from close range.
Donaldson’s conversions made it 24-7 at the break, though Nicolas Martins was inches from striking back after a thrilling Portuguese counter.
The atmosphere was magnificent, with Portugal fans creating a gurgling cauldron of noise and colour. The Aussie tries pricked the mood a little but there’s no doubt that the support for the emerging nations at this World Cup has been one of the tournament’s best features.
Australia needed a bonus point to go with their win and they got it on 47 minutes when the winger Mark Nawaqanitawase delivered a smart dummy and scoring pass for back-row Fraser McReight to cross unhindered.
Portugal threw caution to the wind. But then that is their natural style. They have been a delight to watch at this World Cup and have won the hearts of all neutrals.
And their assault was aided by some loose tackling by Australia that bordered on the utterly reckless. Lalakai Foketi escaped with a penalty for one high tackle, then Matt Faessler was binned for a maul offence straight after a team warning.
Mike Tadjer was initially awarded a try from that drive, only for TMO Joy Neville to intervene and claim there was clear separation as he dived over. Referee Nika Amashukeli looked unconvinced but went with his TMO’s call.
Next, Samu Kerevi – a late addition to the match-day 23 after Carter Gordon pulled out with a knee injury – led with the elbow as he ran into skipper Appleton and the centre was carded. Australia down to 13.
The Wallabies looked at sixes and sevens. “Koroibete, I’m not sure what he’s on today,” said ITV commentator Ugo Monye after the winger flew out of the line and created problems for his team.
Justice was done eventually as Portugal replacement Rafael Simoes went over following a dominant scrum, but with only ten minutes remaining it felt too little, too late.
Koroibete made the points safe with a late score for Australia. It was their 11th try of the tournament – their lowest tally at a World Cup is 12 in 1995 and they are unlikely to get the chance to add to this year’s haul.
It’s another unwanted record on a day when one of the country’s finest servants made history of the right sort. James Slipper made his 21st World Cup appearance – beating George Gregan’s 16-year-old national record – and his 134th Test appearance all told, so joining Welshman Gethin Jenkins as the most capped prop in history.
A tip of the hat to Slipper but this Wallaby campaign is likely to be remembered for altogether different reasons.
Australia head coach Eddie Jones said: “In a pool stage you want to control your own destiny and we haven’t done that. As I’ve said, I take full responsibility for that.
“I’m going to have three days off, then three days of training so I’m heavily involved. That’s the only answer I am going to give you at this stage. I don’t mean to be rude but I have got to focus on coaching this week.
“It’s three days off. Do you want to know where I’m going to go? I’ll have to make something up as I have no idea at this stage. Maybe take some cava to Fiji, maybe that might work.”
Australia Andrew Kellaway; Mark Nawaqanitawase, Izaia Perese, Lalakai Foketi, Marika Koroibete; Ben Donaldson, Tate McDermott; Angus Bell, David Porecki (capt), James Slipper, Nick Frost, Richie Arnold, Tom Hooper, Fraser McReight, Rob Valetini.
Replacements 16 Matt Faessler, 17 Blake Schoupp, 18 Pone Fa’amausili, 19 Rob Leota, 20 Josh Kemeny, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa , 22 Samu Kerevi, 23 Suliasi Vunivalu.
Portugal Nuno Sousa Guedes; Raffaele Storti, Pedro Bettencourt, Tomás Appleton (capt), Rodrigo Marta; Jerónimo Portela, Samuel Marques; David Costa, Mike Tadjer, Diogo Hasse Ferreira, José Madeira, Martim belo, David Wallis, Nicolás Martins, Thibault de Freitas.
Replacements 16 Francisco Fernandes, 17 Duarte Diniz, 18 Francisco Bruno, 19 Steevy Cerqueira, 20 Rafael Simoes, 21 Joao Belo, 22 Joris Moura, 23 Manuel Cardoso Pinto.