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Wallabies overcome Portugal to keep slight quarterfinal hopes alive

By Finn Morton
Izaia Perese of Australia breaks with the ball whilst under pressure from Samuel Marques of Portugal during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Australia and Portugal at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on October 01, 2023 in Saint-Etienne, France. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

In the wake of their record defeat to Wales in Lyon, Eddie Jones’ Wallabies have kept their slender quarterfinal hopes alive with a hard-fought 34-14 win over Portugal at the Rugby World Cup.

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With the Flying Fijians failing to lock up all five points against Georgia in Bordeaux, the Wallabies could keep their near-impossible World Cup dream alive with a winning bonus point.

It didn’t come easy, but the Aussies got the job done. Eddie Jones’ men survived an early scare from Portugal as they ran away with the win.

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Preparing to play in front of a Portuguese-dominated crowd at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, appeared nothing short of desperate as they looked to bounce back from a row of disastrous defeats.

With captain David Porecki leading the way, the Wallabies were visibly focused as they made their way off the field after their warm-up, but there was one clear absentee.

Flyhalf Carter Gordon wasn’t there. The young playmaker was officially ruled out just an hour before kick-off, with veteran Samu Kerevi coming onto the bench to replace him.

Utility Ben Donaldson was named to start in the No. 10 jersey and appeared to be Australia’s only experienced option in the position. It was a troubling space for the Wallabies to be in.

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With the match underway at 5.45 pm on a beautiful evening in east-central France, the Wallabies made the most of the ideal conditions.

Donaldson knocked a relatively routine penalty attempt over to give the Aussies a 3-nil lead, but Portugal weren’t here to just make up the numbers – they took the lead shortly after.

Inside centre Tomas Appleton threw a sublime cut-out pass to his midfielder partner Pedro Bettencourt to set up the opening try. Bettencourt scored in the corner, and the crowd went berserk.

Halfback Samuel Marques nailed the conversion to give Los Lobos a surprising 7-3 lead. The Australians in attendance were left stunned, frustrated and wary.

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But the match quickly turned back in the Wallabies’ favour. Bettencourt was yellow-carded for a high shot on Izaia Perese, and the Aussies made the most of their advantage.

Towering lock Richie Arnold and captain David Porecki both crossed for tries as the Wallabies began to find their groove with a one-player advantage.

Wallabies enforcer Angus Bell added another try to the score with 15 minutes to play in the half. The scores didn’t change before the break with the Aussies taking a 24-7 lead into the sheds.

Queenslander Fraser McReight scored the decisive try for the Wallabies after the break, with the flanker linking up with wing Mark Nawaqanitawase to score Australia’s fourth try.

Bonus point secured. If they could hang on for the much-needed win, then they’d still be alive at Rugby World Cup 2023 – although only just.

Portugal made a statement of intent just before the one-hour mark as they bombarded the Wallabies’ defensive line with waves of relentless attack.

Points Flow Chart

Australia win +20
Time in lead
75
Mins in lead
7
89%
% Of Game In Lead
8%
31%
Possession Last 10 min
69%
5
Points Last 10 min
2

Los Lobos has a try disallowed with Mike Tadjer having the ball knocked out of his hands just above the try line. The crowd, quite clearly, didn’t agree with the TMO’s decision.

But a yellow card to Wallaby Matt Faessler made things interesting. Portugal were parked deep inside Australia’s 22 and they were playing with all the ball.

The Wallabies managed to hold on, and even turn the ball over, but it spelled disaster almost immediately. Centre Samu Kerevi led with his forearm into contact and was subsequently sent to the bin under review.

Portugal had a two-player advantage and were awarded a penalty about 15 metres out from the Wallabies’ try line. They kicked for the corner, and they needed to score.

But again, the Wallabies held on. Backrower Rob Valetini jumped up and celebrated as the Wallabies’ maul stood firm in the face of persistent pressure.

The clock continued to closer and closer towards full-time, but there was no quit in this Portuguese outfit. They returned to the Wallabies 22, and eventually left with points.

On the back of a dominant scrum, replacement Rafael Simoes crashed over to make it a 29-14 game after the successful conversion.

But it wasn’t to be for Portugal. The Wallabies scored again through wing Marika Koroibete, and there simply wasn’t enough time left to offer a comeback.

The Wallabies head into a bye week and will  just have to wait and see if Fiji have what it takes to book their place in the quarters against their valiant Portugues outfit next week.

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