Wales will take on France in the quarter-finals of the World Cup after finishing top of Pool D following a 35-13 triumph over Uruguay in Kumamoto.
It was a poor display from Warren Gatland’s men but they started well enough, going 7-0 ahead via Nicky Smith’s try. However, they struggled to get to grips with a feisty and energetic Uruguayan outfit. The 2019 Grand Slam winners conceded far too many penalties and Felipe Berchesi made no mistake off the tee to keep Los Teros in the contest at the interval.
Wales’ greater quality eventually told, though, as Josh Adams, Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies scores, as well as a penalty try, secured the bonus-point triumph.
The South Americans stunned Fiji earlier in the competition and they were rewarded for their performance here as German Kessler touched down, but a weakened Welsh team did enough to prevent them repeating the feat from Round One.
Los Teros deserve immense credit after producing an incredibly resilient display. Centres Andres Vilaseca and Juan Manuel Cat carried hard and gave plenty of go-forward, while their industrious forwards and the booming boot of Santiago Arata got them out of several difficult situations.
Uruguay were also brave, if ill-disciplined, in defence, but they were eventually breached as the constant pressure resulted in Smith crossing the whitewash from a close-range surge.
That score could have opened the floodgates but the Uruguayans were impressive and frustrated the Six Nations outfit, earning a number of penalties which resulted in Berchesi reducing the arrears from the tee.
Fully deserved and it's Uruguay's leading try-scorer of 2019, Kessler who sneaks over#ITVRugby #RWC2019 pic.twitter.com/oLKpWaUyvY
— ITV Rugby (@ITVRugby) October 13, 2019
It was just reward for their endeavour and they continued to thwart Wales’ attack towards the end of the first half. That led to several infringements and Uruguay’s fly-half duly added a second three-pointer to remarkably close the gap to one point at the break.
The Welsh needed to go back to basics and cut out a few of the errors which had pervaded their play. Gatland’s side duly did that and an excellent looping pass from Rhys Patchell saw Adams touch down unopposed.
Those mistakes weren’t completely eradicated, however, and they were denied another score when Hadleigh Parkes’ assist to Hallam Amos was called back after correctly being adjudged forward.
Wales remained on the front foot, though, and Santiago Civetta was yellow carded following a series of indiscretions from Uruguay. With their opponents a man down in the pack, they set up a maul and, when it was illegally collapsed, referee Angus Gardner awarded a penalty try.
That score took the game out of the South Americans’ reach but they continued to fight and deservedly went over through Kessler. It brought them to within eight points of the Welsh but two late tries from Williams and Davies rubberstamped the victory for the group winners.
For Wales: Tries: Smith, Adams, Penalty try, Williams, G Davies Cons: Halfpenny 4
For Uruguay: Try: Kessler Con: Berchesi Pens: Berchesi 2
Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric (c), 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Adam Beard, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Nicky Smith Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Wyn Jones, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 James Davies, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Gareth Davies
Uruguay: 15 Gaston Mieres, 14 Leandro Leivas, 13 Juan Manuel Cat, 12 Andres Vilaseca, 11 Nicolas Freitas, 10 Felipe Berchesi, 9 Santiago Arata, 8 Alejandro Nieto, 7 Santiago Civetta, 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara (c), 5 Manuel Leindekar, 4 Ignacio Dotti, 3 Diego Arbelo, 2 German Kessler, 1 Mateo Sanguinetti Replacements: 16 Guillermo Pujadas, 17 Juan Echeverria, 18 Juan Pedro Rombys, 19 Diego Magno, 20 Manuel Diana, 21 Agustin Ormaechea, 22 Tomas Inciarte, 23 Rodrigo Silva
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia) Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England), Karl Dickson (England) TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)