|2019 Rugby World Cup: Wales v Uruguay|
|Wales (7) 35|
|Tries: Smith, Adams, Penalty try, T Williams, G Davies Cons: Halfpenny 4|
|Uruguay (6) 13|
|Try: Kessler Con: Berchesi Pens: Berchesi 2|
A shadow Wales side laboured to a bonus-point victory over minnows Uruguay to set up a World Cup quarter-final against France.
Wales only led 7-6 after a first half littered with handling errors, the only try coming from prop Nicky Smith.
Josh Adams’ fifth score in Japan and a penalty try extended the advantage, only for German Kessler to drive over.
Replacements Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies both crossed to seal the bonus point as Wales topped Pool D.
They only needed two points to do so – thanks to their head-to-head record against Australia – but this result also means they have won all of their World Cup group matches for the first time since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
This was not the match Wales had envisaged.
Head coach Warren Gatland was always planning to make wholesale changes because this fixture came just four days after their bruising victory over Fiji.
The physical nature of that match increased the need for squad rotation, with fly-half Dan Biggar, centre Jonathan Davies and wing George North among those to sustain injuries and prompt 13 changes.
But regardless of the 15 players taking to the field – and no matter how impressive Uruguay were in their shock opening victory over Fiji – Wales were expected to make light work of Los Teros.
The Six Nations champions started with plenty of attacking intent, with backs and forwards alike throwing the ball around freely and trying to make the game as wide and open as possible.
However, the execution did not match the ambition.
There were multiple handling errors – Aaron Wainwright squandered a chance to score a try as he spilled the ball over the line, and Hallam Amos had a try disallowed for a forward pass by Hadleigh Parkes.
Between the many knock-ons and dropped balls, Wales took the lead as prop Smith burrowed over from close range to score his first international try.
A half-time lead of 7-6 left a lot to be desired, and the mistakes continued in the second half.
The sheer volume of errors was illustrated by the fact Amos had a hat-trick of tries disallowed, two for forward passes and one for dropping the ball over the line.
Luckily for Wales, however, it did not matter. Four second-half tries sealed a bonus-point win which few will remember – not that anybody in Wales will care if they follow it up with victory over France on 20 October (08:15 BST).
Los Teros bid to ‘shock the world’
Uruguay had already ensured this was their best World Cup campaign thanks to their thrilling victory over Fiji in their opening fixture.
Los Teros were not content with one win, though, and they spelled that out with a message written in big red letters on a whiteboard at their hotel which read: “Shock the world.”
Given Uruguay had lost all eight of their previous World Cup fixtures against tier-one sides – by an average of 54 points – beating Wales would have done just that.
Their squad is largely comprised of amateur and semi-professional players, and their tight-head prop in Kumamoto, Diego Arbelo Garcia, is a taxi driver.
But they made a mockery of the gulf in quality and resources as they defended stoically to frustrate their opponents on Sunday.
They got under Welsh skins too, with captain Juan Manuel Gaminara goading Aled Davies and Parkes to prompt a scuffle in the tunnel at half-time.
Uruguay had their tails up at that point, only trailing 7-6 at the break thanks to two penalties from Felipe Berchesi.
And although any hopes of another famous win disappeared with Wales’ flurry of second-half scores, Kessler’s try was reward for an admirable effort from a Uruguay side who have made huge progress during this World Cup.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Bradley Davies. Only added to the squad following Cory Hill’s injury, the experienced lock was busy with ball in hand and carried Wales forward with his power in his first appearance of the tournament.
Wales coach Warren Gatland said: “I’m happy with four from four, not too happy with some of tonight. We were poor at times, not clinical, too many turnovers in that first half and probably blew about four or five chances but we showed a little bit of character in the second half.
“We spoke about being a bit more direct. We were probably trying to play a bit too much rugby.
“They’re a tough outfit to put away. They’re tenacious, they make the tackles and they’re a tidy little side.
“We probably didn’t respect the ball enough, (there were) a lot of turnovers. Then, second half, we started being a bit more direct and earning the right to play and we were a bit better.”
Wales: Halfpenny; Adams, Watkin, Parkes, Amos; Patchell, A Davies; Smith, Elias, Lewis, B Davies, Beard, Shingler, Tipuric (capt), Wainwright.
Replacements: Dee, Carre, W Jones, Ball, Moriarty, James Davies, T Williams, G Davies.
Uruguay: Mieres; Leivas, Cat, Vilaseca, Freitas; Berchesi, Arata; Sanguinetti, Kessler, Arbelo, Dotti, Leindeker, Gaminara (capt), Civetta, Nieto.
Replacements: Pujadas, Echeverria, Rombys, Magno, Diana, Ormaechea, Inciarte, Silva.
Officials: Referee, Angus Gardner (Australia); Assistant referees, Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England); TMO, Rowan Kitt (England).