Rugby World Cup 2019: Wales 16-19 South Africa

Handre Pollard put in a clinical display as his late penalty sent South Africa through to the Rugby World Cup final at Wales' expense.
Handre Pollard put in a clinical display as his late penalty sent South Africa through to the Rugby World Cup final at Wales' expense.

South Africa battled into the final of the Rugby World Cup as Handre Pollard's pinpoint kicking earned a 19-16 victory over Wales in a semi-final of attrition in Yokohama.

With England coach Eddie Jones watching on from the stands following his side's dominant display against New Zealand, Pollard starred to take the Springboks into their first World Cup final since 2007.

Following an exchange of penalties between Pollard and the equally composed Dan Biggar, a try from Damian de Allende put South Africa in the lead before the hour.

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The tournament's leading try-scorer Josh Adams powered over to pull Wales level soon after but, despite a spell of pressure, Warren Gatland's side could not craft another opening.

It was Pollard who settled it, punting a long-range penalty through the uprights after a foul at the maul to send South Africa through to their third World Cup final, with England waiting for a rematch of their showdown 12 years ago.

Pollard had stressed the importance kicking would play in Sunday's meeting, and South Africa's fly-half nosed the Springboks ahead with a three-pointer in the 15th minute.

Wales swiftly restored parity, Biggar sending a pinpoint effort through the posts from out on the left flank after Willie Le Roux was penalised for offside.

With Pollard having re-established their lead, South Africa started to demonstrate some of the slick play which has made them such a force in Japan, with Adams making a crucial tackle to deny Faf de Klerk driving clear before another Pollard penalty doubled the Springboks' advantage.

Wales were dealt a double injury blow as half-time approached, Tom Francis forced off before George North pulled up with an apparent hamstring strain, though Biggar did nudge Gatland's side back within three points.

Biggar took advantage of De Klerk's error to level matters shortly after half-time, but it was South Africa who made a breakthrough when De Allende powered over in the corner following a break from Pollard, who duly added the extras.

Wales responded in force though and, after declining a penalty in favour of a scrum, they had their reward as Jonathan Davies teed up Adams to race over, Leigh Halfpenny stepping into Biggar's shoes to level the scores.

Rhys Patchell sliced an attempted drop-goal wide with Wales looking to capitalise on their pressure, but Dillon Lewis' rash decision to drive into the maul proved decisive as Pollard kept his composure to end Wales' hopes.

On-point Pollard proves Wales' downfall

Pollard kicked five penalties and scored a drop goal in the 2015 quarter-final win over Wales but had struggled for consistency with his kicking this year prior to Sunday's encounter.

He hit form in style in Yokohama, however, converting all of his kicks while also making the breakthrough for the opening try in what was a stellar individual performance.

Gatland left to ponder what might have been

Wales were hit by an injury to starting full-back Liam Williams in the week, with the Six Nations champions then losing key men Francis and North in the space of four first-half minutes.

Without some of their most consistent big-game performers, Wales just did not have enough to overcome Rassie Erasmus' resilient Boks, meaning Gatland bows out without having the opportunity to cap what has been an extraordinary tenure with the biggest prize of them all.

Key Opta Facts

- That was the first time at the 2019 Rugby World Cup that Handre Pollard had managed a 100 per cent goal-kicking rate from the tee.
- Apart from a 22-20 win over an experimental South Africa side (featuring 13 debutants) in Washington in 2018, Wales have still not beaten South Africa outside Cardiff.
- Wales made 39 kicks from hand in the game, the most they have made in a Rugby World Cup game since 1991 against Argentina (48); South Africa also made 39 kicks, their most since the 2007 final versus England (48).
- South Africa averaged four metres per carry in this match, whilst Wales could only average 1.7 metres per carry.
- Alun Wyn Jones won his 142nd Test cap (Lions matches included), equalling Sergio Parisse as the second-most-capped player in Test history behind Richie McCaw.

What's next?

England await South Africa in Saturday's final back in Yokohama. After missing out on the chance to play in their first World Cup final, Wales will face Gatland's native New Zealand on Friday in the bronze final.

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