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Wales’ World Cup dream ended in Yokohama as they made another painful semi-final exit after losing 19-16 to South Africa.
The Springboks will face England in next Saturday’s final following fly-half Handre Pollard’s match-winning penalty four minutes from time.
Pollard kicked 14 points and centre Pollard kicked 14 points and centre Damian de Allende scored a try, with their opponents replying through wing Josh Adams’ Wales record-equalling sixth try in one World Cup, three Dan Biggar penalties and a Leigh Halfpenny conversion.
For Wales, who were semi-final casualties against France eight years ago when captain Sam Warburton was sent off, it proved an agonising experience.
Their hopes of confirming a first all-northern hemisphere Rugby World Cup final were dashed and they also lost wing George North and prop Tomas Francis to first-half injuries.
Wales now play New Zealand in the third and fourth place play-off. It will be head coach Warren Gatland’s final game at the helm before he steps down after 12 years.
England and South Africa, though, will contest a second final 12 years after the last one that the Springboks narrowly clinched.
Halfpenny was among three changes made by Gatland, replacing ankle-injury victim Liam Williams, while number eight Ross Moriarty took over from Josh Navidi and fit-again centre Jonathan Davies returned for Owen Watkin.
South Africa were without injured wing Cheslin Kolbe, so S’bu Nikosi deputised and Springboks scrum-half Faf de Klerk made an immediate contribution through a kick and chase into Wales’ 22, but North cleared the danger and Wales moved confidently up field.
Both teams readily resorted to tactical kicking, but Wales looked to have a more creative spark about them, with scrum-half Gareth Davies prominent as he marked reaching 50 caps.
The opening 10 minutes, though, were a considerable notch down in terms of pace and intensity on England’s semi-final against New Zealand.
South Africa looked to attack off first-phase ball as De Klerk pulled the strings and his half-back partner Pollard kicked the Springboks ahead through a 15th-minute penalty.
But that score was cancelled out three minutes later when Biggar found the target with a wide-angled penalty, only for Wales to concede a scrum penalty in a game dominated by set-pieces, and Pollard stepped up to make it 6-3.
England head coach Eddie Jones and his defence specialist John Mitchell watched from the stands as both sides struggled to find any pattern or rhythm.
There was precious little ambition either, with boot to ball being the dominant and predictable approach.
Wales needed to get some width on their game and stretch a Springboks outfit seemingly intent on a no-frills approach, despite De Klerk’s verve, but Pollard’s reliable boot then put them six points clear.
It was a dismal end to the first-half for Wales, despite Biggar kicking a second penalty, as Francis and North departed the action in rapid succession.
Biggar gave Wales just the start they needed to the second period, kicking them level with a third penalty.
With the stakes so high, there appeared little chance of the game opening up, and it was 9-9 with 30 minutes left.
Tries by De Allende and Adams – both converted – meant the game appeared to be heading towards extra-time.
Adams’ score matched the Wales best for one World Cup tournament set by Shane Williams, but South Africa had just enough in the attack to shade an attritional encounter.
In the end, in came down to Pollard keeping his nerve as South Africa inched to the final and crestfallen Wales were left to reflect on what might have been.
One more opportunity for Warren Gatland
Gatland on his final game being against his native New Zealand: “It will be hugely monumental, it’s the team I haven’t beaten with Wales so it will be nice to be able to achieve that.”#allblacks
— Jonny Fordham 🏉📰 (@SunJonnyFordham) October 27, 2019
Reflection for Wales
2011: Defied odds by making semi, lose by a point after controversial red card.
2015: Lose at the death in quarters after multiple injuries decimated squad.
2019: Lose after tightest match imaginable with a squad tipped to be genuine contenders.
Which is most painful?
— Ross Harries (@rossharries1) October 27, 2019
“Very exciting times”
De Allende says South Africa will celebrate tonight, rest up tomorrow and have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to prepare for the final.
“We’ve come a long way in the last two years”
Pollard and his inside centre Damian de Allende were both excellent today, while South Africa’s brawny forwards suffocated Wales time and again.
“It was nerve-wracking at the end”
Areally classy interview with Rassie Erasmus, too. He gets a crack at England in the final.
“I’m proud of our guys”
Warren Gatland congratulates South Africa and says Wales never gave up. “We punched massively above our weight. They never gave up tonight. At 16-all, it was pretty close and you’re dreaming…but congratulations to South Africa and it’ll be a great final between them and England.”
Wales vs New Zealand in the bronze medal match
Gatland did say he’d love one final crack at ABs. Friday’s 3rd place playoff not what he had in mind. Players will surely be let loose in interim but still a chance to take NZ scalp. Always such a strange game #WALvRSA #RWC2019
— Tom Cary (@tomcary_tel) October 27, 2019
“We stayed in the arm-wrestle”
Alun Wyn Jones says that Wales’ indiscipline “piggy-backed” South Africa down the field for that last penalty.
Full-time | Wales 16 South Africa 19
Pollard taps the penalty and then boots the ball into touch. South Africa are in the final!
Wales 16 South Africa 19, 79 minutes
Penalty to South Africa! Wales attempted to shove South Africa off their own put-in, but were penalised – correctly – for wheeling around.
Wales 16 South Africa 19, 78 minutes
Great kick from Faf de Klerk. He skips the ball into touch inside Wales’ 22 from a very unhelpful angle. Then Alun Wyn Jones cannot gather Elliot Dee’s throw at the tail! Scrum to South Africa…surely that is that.
Penalty, Handre Pollard! Wales 16 South Africa 19, 75 minutes
Fantastic kick. Will that be crucial?
Wales 16 South Africa 16, 74 minutes
South Africa turn the screw now. Their lineout drives gains a few metres…and Dillon Lewis comes in at the side!
Pollard has a chance to put his side ahead once more…
Wales 16 South Africa 16, 73 minutes
This is like watching two knackered heavyweights lugging punches at one another. Francois Louw pounces over the ball…
Wales 16 South Africa 16, 72 minutes
Rhys Patchell steps back for the drop-goal attempt! It’s short. Pollard clears to touch.
Wales 16 South Africa 16, 69 minutes
Louw’s first action is to concede a penalty! he came in at the side after Moriarty’s carry. Patchell pings the ball into touch. Wales are camped on the edge of South Africa’s 22…but they are being pushed back.
Wales 16 South Africa 16, 66 minutes
Two Wales replacements combine to force a turnover on Malcolm Marx. Adam Beard goes low and Rhys Carre rips. Wales will have a scrum.
A couple of interesting replacements to tell you about. Aaron Shingler is on for Aaron Wainwright. Willie Le Roux comes off for Francois Steyn and Francois Louw replaces Siya Kolisi.
How do you get rid of Wales?
Try, Josh Adams! Wales 16 South Africa 16, 66 minutes
Wow! Wales’ scrum splinters but Moriarty does brilliantly at the base to get the ball away to Tomos Williams. Jonathan Davies feeds Adams and Wales are over!
Leigh Halfpenny steps up…he nails it. We are level again.
Wales 9 South Africa 16, 63 minutes
South Africa hold out, but they have conceded a breakdown penalty. Huge moment! Wales call for a scrum. They are five metres out. If this isn’t the game…it’s pretty close.
Wales 9 South Africa 16, 61 minutes
Wales are within three metres. They’ve gone through 12 phases….
Wales 9 South Africa 16, 59 minutes
Wales are so difficult to shake off. They force a penalty on the floor and kick to the corner…
Try, Damian De Allende! Wales 9 South Africa 16, 57 minutes!
South Africa’s inside centre really deserves that. Wales are eventually broken down. Pollard is prominent in the build-up, making a couple of arrowing runs. The second gives South Africa a penalty advantage and De Allende shrugs off Biggar and then Tomos Williams to score.
Pollard converts…and this is interesting. Rhys Patchell is replacing Dan Biggar.
Wales 9 South Africa 9, 54 minutes
South Africa force a scrum penalty. Wyn Jones slips to the floor…and he’ll be promptly replaced by Rhys Carre.
Wales 9 South Africa 9, 52 minutes
Du Toit bounces Moriarty and Wainwright away with a powerful carry but Wyn Jones is over the ball to force a penalty.
Wales put together a lively few phases…but Biggar’s inside pass to a trailing Halfpenny travels forward. Just.
Half an hour to go and we’ve passed the number of kicks England and New Zealand made in their semi-final yesterday. #WALvRSA
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) October 27, 2019
Wales 9 South Africa 9, 50 minutes
South Africa’s scrum, bolstered by the arrival of a new front row, is strong and De Allende carves into midfield. De Klerk probes blind and throws a long pass but Nkosi is bundled out.
Tomos Williams is on at scrum-half for Wales, by the way.
Wales 9 South Africa 9, 48 minutes
Nkosi climbs to compete with Dan Biggar, who spills. Scrum to South Africa just beyond halfway.
Wales 9 South Africa 9, 45 minutes
This is saying something, but that short spell might be the worst passage of the game so far. Parkes is charged down. Pollard tries a kick. And is charged down. The ball comes back to Parkes. Who is charged down again. Eventually Wales recover and clear…and Le Roux knocks-on into touch.
Head to head
This wasn’t the best idea from Jake Ball, just after that previous South Africa penalty.
Penalty, Dan Biggar! Wales 9 South Africa 9, 45 minutes
Wales 6 South Africa 9, 44 minutes
Unforced error from South Africa. They jump across the lineout and give Biggar a chance to level from the tee.
Wales 6 South Africa 9, 43 minutes
Poor from Pollard. Gareth Davies clears down-field and, after a sparky carry from Nkosi, the fly-half kicks too long. Halfpenny gathers, calls for a mark and clears…De Klerk spills under no pressure.
Wales 6 South Africa 9, 42 minutes
More of the same, then. Again, South Africa win the kicking tussle as Pollard drops into the pocket and skips a punt into touch just beyond the Wales 22.
Here we go again. Wales are within three points. They will be delighted with that. Biggar gets us going again, going long to Vermeulen, who is tackled by Gareth Davies.
Hard to argue
I honestly enjoyed the New Zealand v Italy, England v France and Canada v Namibia games more than this semi-final. #RWC2019 #WALvRSA
— Tom Vinicombe (@TomVinicombe) October 27, 2019
Crash course in high tackles
They’ve been a talking point throughout this tournament. Check out our video.
Half-time | Wales 6 South Africa 9
Ross Moriarty fields the restart awkwardly, falling over in the process. South Africa storm up and power over him, but concede a penalty for handling on the floor.
Wales go to touch, win the lineout and Gareth
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