If World Rugby has its way, Portugal could blossom into one of Europe’s most exciting teams.
Portugal showed this in Saint Etienne on Sunday when they were beaten 34 – 14 by the Wallabies, but received most of the plaudits for their passion, fighting spirit, handling and support.
The Portuguese dominated the first quarter and caught the Wallabies off guard by throwing the ball around left and right. But after center Pedro Bettencout was sent off with a yellow card for a shoulder-to-the-head dive, the scale began to swing in the Wallabies’ favour.
In addition, Portugal scored two tries that were not awarded and this could have made a big difference.
The flanker Nicolas Martins was first tackled by Andrew Kellaway at the touchline on the corner flag and later the hooker Mike Tadjer could not move the ball over the goal line after a rolling movement.
The Wallabies’ discipline also fizzled with reserve hooker Matt Fassler and substitute center Samu Kerevi trying to elbow an opponent out of his way, and were punished with yellow cards.
The Wallabies can now progress to the quarter-finals in Group D provided Portugal surprise against Fiji this coming Sunday and eliminate them.
But if Fiji wins or just gets a bonus point themselves, the Wallabies go home with two wins and two losses after a very disappointing World Cup tournament.
The Wallabies are a young team, and they did what they had to to beat Portugal, but did not completely convince. They are playing without confidence and to then continue training without knowing if they will progress further will place high demands on the beleaguered coach Eddie Jones, whose days are soon numbered.
Scorers: Australia 34 (24): Tries: Richie Arnold, Dave Porecki, Angus Bell, Fraser McReight, Marika Koroibete. Goals: Ben Donaldson (3). Penalty: Donaldson.
Portugal 14 (7): Tries: Pedro Bettencourt, Rafael Simoes. Goals: Samuel Marques.