In a tense encounter on Sunday, Australia managed to secure a crucial bonus-point victory with a score of 34-14. This win keeps their faint hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals alive, though the path remains challenging. The match unfolded amidst a spirited atmosphere at Stade Geoffrey-Guichard.
Portugal, buoyed by their passionate supporters, started strongly. After conceding an early penalty converted by Ben Donaldson, the Portuguese team embarked on an exciting phase of attacking rugby, culminating in center Pedro Bettencourt crossing the try line in the corner. Australia found themselves trailing 7-3 just 13 minutes into the game.
The Wallabies faced adversity but found their rhythm, especially after Pedro Bettencourt received a yellow card shortly after scoring. In a span of seven minutes, they scored three tries, with one highlight being a beautifully orchestrated team effort, capped off by prop Angus Bell.
Fraser McReight secured the bonus point for Australia early in the second half, seemingly putting them on course to outpace the 16th-ranked Portuguese team. However, Portugal, fueled by the Wallabies’ two yellow cards within three minutes, refused to yield. A second try for Portugal, with only nine minutes remaining on the clock, raised the prospect of a historic upset before winger Marika Koroibete dashed those hopes with a late try.
Australia now faces a crucial scenario heading into the final weekend of pool play. They must rely on Portugal to defeat Fiji on October 8th and prevent the Pacific Islanders from earning a losing bonus point to secure their place in the quarter-finals.
Eddie Jones, the head coach of Australia, remains optimistic, stating, “We’re still alive. That was the aim of the day. For a young team down to 13 men, we showed plenty of courage and fought hard.”
Rob Valetini, Australia’s number eight and the Mastercard Player of the Match, praised his team’s resilience, acknowledging the possibility that this could have been their last match of the tournament.
Portugal’s captain, Tomas Appleton, expressed pride in his team’s performance against the two-time world champions. However, he conceded that there was room for improvement and emphasized their determination to win in their upcoming match.
Appleton also lauded the incredible support from Portuguese fans, both in France and back home, highlighting their unwavering dedication and enthusiasm for the team.”