Analysis: Adams underlines finishers’ instinct

The master poachers make their own luck.

The master poachers make their own luck.

On a day where Hallam Amos thrice dotted down only to be called back by the TMO each time, Josh Adams notched his fifth try of this World Cup to move into sole lead as the top try-scorer in the tournament.

In many ways this Wales side has enjoyed a natural progression over the last four years, but Warren Gatland was right when he singled out Adams’ emergence as one of the key factors in reaching the world’s elite.

It is easy to forget that coming into 2018, Adams was an uncapped and unheralded speedster starting to rack up the tries for Worcester.

He played the first two games of the Championship that year, and by 2019 was an ever-present in the Grand Slam-winning team, scoring three tries along the way.

He has become so important to Wales that when it came time to preserve a member of the backline, with only scrum-half Gareth Davies left on the bench, it was Adams who was withdrawn.

Adams now has a trio of wing greats in his sights. The late Jonah Lomu, Bryan Habana and Julian Savea each managed eight tries in a single World Cup. It would take a big effort for Adams to catch them, but his score in a 35-13 win over Uruguay gives him a chance.

That scoreline does not reflect how much of a test this was. Gatland had urged a much-changed team to stake a claim for a place in the matchday squad for the quarter-final against France.

Instead, Wales found themselves leading by a single point at the break, and the game was only truly put to bed with a penalty try 14 minutes from time that made it 21-6.

Los Teros troubled them at the breakdown and were well-organised in defence. They rarely threatened the try-line, bar a pick-and-go score when the result was already sealed, but it was a challenge nonetheless.

France will be very different. They will break more tackles and pose more of a threat with ball in hand.

In that regard, Shaun Edwards will have been pleased with an improved defensive display. After falling below 80% tackle completion percentage against Fiji, Wales were back over 90 here.

Their set-piece was almost flawless, winning eight scrums from eight and losing just one of 17 lineouts, while Adam Beard had one important steal on Uruguay ball in the first half.

His return will certainly be welcomed, the second row having recovered from having his appendix out before the tournament. Whether he has done enough to earn a place in the matchday 23 against France remains to be seen.

The handling was not perfect, Hadleigh Parkes particularly guilty in this area, perhaps due to the broken bone in his hand that is still bothering him.

There was also a lack of cohesion, which is to be expected in a team that changed 13 players from the team that beat Fiji.

Parkes was one of those to start both games, Adams the other. Those two will feature against Les Bleus, the majority of the remainder of the starting XV will be well-rested after skipping this game.

This game was never going to tell us a great deal about what to expect from Wales in a knockout game. It did serve as a reminder, however, that when Adams gets a chance, he generally takes it.

France have been warned.