by Callum Ellis
WALES sealed top spot in Pool D to set up a quarter-final clash with France after securing a win over Uruguay.
Warren Gatland’s side were frustrated throughout, but it was Nicky Smith and the boot of Leigh Halfpenny that helped Wales on their way to a 7-6 lead at half time.
Josh Adams, Tomos Williams and Gareth Davies all dabbed down for Wales in the second half, and they were awarded a penalty try.
The result sees Wales secure a 100% record in the pool stages for the first time since 1987. Then they enjoyed their most successful World Cup campaign, finishing third.
Gatland made wholesale changes from the win against Fiji four days ago. Hadleigh Parkes and wing Adams were the only two players to make the starting line-up.
Wales prepared for the extreme humidity in Japan by covering rugby balls in baby oil on the training ground, but it was uncharacteristic handling errors that prevented them from going ahead early on.
Gatland’s men remained camped in Uruguay’s 22 and thought they had their first try when Aaron Shingler crossed over in the corner. The flanker gathered Aled Davies’ classy offload but it was ruled out by the TMO after Shingler was in touch as he dabbed down.
Wales had to remain patient. It took 17 minutes for them to register their first points of the day as they went through the phases before Smith bundled over from close range, with Halfpenny adding the extras.
Uruguay responded through the boot of Felipe Berchesi after Wales were penalised for offside.
Wales were denied their second try after Owen Watkin, Parkes and Hallam Amos all combined. Amos went over but the TMO ruled that Parkes’ pass was forward and the try was scratched off.
Berchesi tapped over a penalty to cut the deficit to just one point in the final stages of the first half.
Halfpenny was unable to respond to Berchesi’s kick after the restart as he saw his attempt bounce back off the post.
But Wales were quick to return to Uruguay’s 22 and after Bradley Davies was held up, they opted to go wide and Adams went over for his fifth try of the tournament with Halfpenny converting.
After his try in the first half was ruled out, it was a case of deja vu for Amos as he collected Parkes’ pass to dab down, but it was ruled out for another forward pass from the centre.
Uruguay were reduced to 14 men when Santiago Civetta was penalised for an infringement and, after Rhys Patchell opted to kick for the corner, Wales took advantage of the extra man and earned a penalty try.
The South Americans hit back with their first try of the evening as German Kessler drove over and Berchesi’s conversion sailed through the posts.
Halfpenny set up the replacement Williams to ensure the bonus point was secured before Halfpenny tapped over to add two additional points.
Amos’ evening was summed up as he completed an unwanted hat-trick when he dived over in the final few minutes, dropping the ball on his way over the line to deny him again.
But there was still time for quick-thinking Davies to add his name to the scoresheet as he sprinted home after opting to tap and go, while Halfpenny was on target with the conversion to round things off.
Wales now travel to Oita for a quarter-final showdown with France next Sunday.