A perfect kicking display from Raynor Parkinson handed Germany a narrow 16-13 victory over Portugal in Heidelberg and means the hosts are just 160 minutes away from a place at Rugby World Cup 2019.
Parkinson landed four shots at goal from as many attempts, including a late penalty that gave Germany – who had trailed by 10 points early in the second half – the decisive lead, despite appearing to battle cramp.
Number eight Jarrid Els scored Germany’s only try as a crowd of 2,300 were made to sweat for victory on a sweltering June day.
Portugal back-row Sebastiao Villax scored his side’s sole try, while fly-half Louis Rodrigues added eight points with the boot as it looked as though visiting second-row Goncalo Uva would celebrate his 100th cap in style.
But Germany were able to rally as Rodrigues’ three missed penalties proved crucial. The hosts’ reward is a home-and-away play-off with Samoa, starting in Apia on 30 June, for a place in Pool A alongside Ireland, Scotland, hosts Japan and Russia.
Cheered on by a passionate home support, Germany started like a team with a point to prove in Heidelberg.
Fly-half Hagen Schulte had ended the pre-match warm-ups receiving treatment on an apparent ankle injury, but he showed no sign of any issue as his cross-field kick just evaded full-back Pierre Mathurin in the right corner.