South Africa will play England in the Rugby World Cup final after a tight semi-final victory over Wales.
In a scrappy game, the first try of the match came in the second half when Damian de Allende crashed over to give South Africa a seven point lead with 24 minutes to go.
Josh Adam scored Wales’ first try of the game just eight minutes later as Warren Gatland’s side’s brave decision not to kick a penalty for a guaranteed three points paid off. Leigh Halfpenny converted to level the scores at 16-16.
With time running out in the match discipline was key, but a Pollard penalty from 35 yards allowed South Africa a chance to lead 16-19 with four minutes to go, and that is how it finished, South Africa making their third World Cup final.
Coming into the game both knew England would be their opponents if they could make it to the final after Eddie Jones’ side’s impressive win over reigning world champions New Zealand a day earlier. All focus was on progression to the next stage of the competition.
It took until the 15th minute for the first points of the match after a nervy start from both sides under the lights at the Yokohama International Stadium. Wales were punished for not rolling away and Pollard successfully put South Africa three points ahead from right in front of the posts.
Just two minutes later and Wales were level. Willie le Roux got his timing wrong at the breakdown and was penalised for being offside. Biggar made the score 3-3 from a tight angle from the resulting penalty.
With so much at stake it was proving to be a tight contest with kicking playing an important role in the outcome of the game. The Boks were given a penalty following a scrum on 20 minutes that put them back ahead 6-3.
South Africa were growing in confidence in a scrappy game, but not even their rolling maul was proving effective against a stubborn Wales defence.
As half time approached South Africa extended their lead to six points. Ken Owens was penalised for a maul infringement and Pollard kicked his third penalty through the posts from the left touchline.
Despite swirling wind, both sides were keen to get involved in a box-kicking battle. Wales were awarded a penalty for a tackle without the ball and Biggar reduced his side’s deficit to three points with a minute to go before half time, as George North was forced off with a muscle injury to his leg.
South Africa leading 9-3 at the interval.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the end of the first half. De Klerk spilled a Halfpenny kick into touch and Wales had a lineout inside the Boks' half. South Africa were then penalised for jumping across the lineout and Biggar levelled the scores at 9-9 from the resulting penalty.
After a long wait, the decisive moment in the match came on 56 minutes with the first try of the match. Damian de Allende showed power and resilience to throw himself over, and following Pollard’s conversion South Africa led by seven points, 9-16.
Wales knew they had to go for it to turn a semi-final defeat around and immediately put the pressure on their opponents, and that is exactly what they did.
Wales’ decision not to kick from goal from a penalty when well placed and instead go for the scrum paid off perfectly when Adam found space and went over on the left wing with 65 minutes played. Halfpenny converted to level an incredibly tight match at 16-16.
With the match entering the final five minutes both sides were eying up the potential match winning drop goal. But a penalty with four minutes left on the clock for South Africa gave them a chance to go in front once again in the match. Pollard scoring his fifth of the game to make the score 16-19.
Wales gave away a penalty in the final minute and South Africa made the most of running the clock down, the match finishing 16-19 to South Africa who make their third World Cup final.
Wales boss Gatland will take charge of his last game as Wales boss in the third vs fourth play-off on Friday.
The Boks will face England in the final on Saturday at the Yokohama International Stadium. England looking for their second title, and South Africa looking for their third.
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