South Africa beats Wales to book Rugby World Cup final against England
London, Oct. 27, 2019 (AltAfrica)-South Africa booked a Rugby World Cup final meeting with England as a Handre Pollard penalty with four minutes remaining sealed a 19-16 victory over Wales at a blustery Yokohama Stadium on Sunday.
In a dreary encounter, riddled with errors and poor kicking, fly-halves Dan Biggar and Pollard duelled in a game of kick tennis off the tee for long periods, leaving the Test 9-9 early in the second half.
Springboks centre Damian de Allende struck for the opening try just shy of the hour mark, but Wales replied via wing Josh Adams in the corner to set up a tense final 10 minutes.
While both sides had spells with ball in hand, it was the Boks who edged home as Pollard slotted through the uprights off the tee late on when Wales prop Dillon Lewis came in at the side of a maul.
Pollard kicked the first points of the semi-final on 15 minutes after a thoroughly scrappy opening to the contest, bisecting the posts from the Wales 22 after Justin Tipuric was penalised for failing to roll away.
A neat midfield move minutes after the restart saw Wales in behind South Africa for the first meaningful time and when Bok full-back Willie Le Roux came round offside, Biggar struck a superb penalty from out wide to level things.
Wales No 8 Ross Moriarty spilled the forthcoming restart, however, and from the resultant scrum the Bok pack eked out a penalty with a sustained forward drive. Pollard stepped up and delivered off the tee again for 6-3.
After 34 minutes, Pollard extended that lead to 9-3 when Wales hooker Ken Owens came in at the side of a maul after Biggar and Gareth Davies had struggled to execute exit kicks into the wind.
Wales then lost George North to a hamstring problem, but a minute before the break Biggar reduced the deficit to three points after Bok pair Bongi Mbonambi and Duane Vermeulen tackled flanker Aaron Wainwright off the ball.
Both sides headed off thereafter, having struggled to gain any semblance of control in the Test within a dour first half.
The second period started in much the same way, with knock-ons and miscued kicks dictating things, before Biggar levelled the tie six minutes in when the Boks were penalised for going in at the side of a maul.
It was to be South Africa who would notch the opening try, however, when centre De Allende powered to the line past Biggar, Tomos Williams and Owen Watkin after Pollard had sliced into the Wales 22 for the original line-break. The resulting conversion left things at 16-9.
Having turned down a kickable penalty on the hour mark in search of a try, an exhausting 20-phase Wales attack in the Bok 22 led to another penalty concession by South Africa. From here, Alun Wyn Jones opted for an attacking scrum rather than simple kick at goal, and it proved inspired.
With the Bok pack pushing hard for a penalty against the head, scrum-half Williams got hands on the ball before shipping it wide through the hands down the left for Adams to score in the corner – levelling Shane Williams’ record of six tries at a single World Cup for Wales.
When Leigh Halfpenny fired over a sensational touchline conversion, the Test was level once again at 16-16.
It was Wales who were in possession and probing into the final 10 minutes, but a Rhys Patchell attempted drop-goal from distance fell short, before Bok replacement flanker Francois Louw earned a critical breakdown penalty, which relieved all pressure.
Louw’s actions also saw South Africa gain territory courtesy of the penalty kick from hand, and it was via the resultant lineout on the Wales 22, that prop Lewis transgressed at the maul to give Pollard the chance for glory.
The playmaker struck the ball crisply – as he had done all evening – to it send over and put the Boks in front with very little time remaining.
Another penalty earned via the scrum deep in the Wales 22 in the closing seconds allowed South Africa to kick the ball off and celebrate victory.
In this Test, not much was positive in all honesty.
Place-kicking was of the highest standard though. Pollard kicked magnificently off the tee, as did Biggar, while Halfpenny’s one conversion was perhaps the most impressive strike of the night.