October 27, 2019 / 11:16 AM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 3-Rugby-Pollard breaks Welsh hearts as Springboks reach third World Cup final

 (Writes through)
    By Nick Mulvenney
    YOKOHAMA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Springboks flyhalf Handre
Pollard kicked a penalty four minutes from time to send South
Africa into their third Rugby World Cup final with a 19-16
victory over Wales in a semi-final dogfight on Sunday. 
    The South Africans will return to Yokohama next weekend to
bid for a third World Cup triumph against an England side who
ran defending champions New Zealand out of the tournament with a
breathtaking display of rugby on Saturday.
    This was the other side of the game, a largely grim clash
dominated by the boot - there were a total of 81 kicks from
hand, effectively one a minute, during the match - and which was
appropriately settled by a three-pointer from the kicking tee.
    Man of the Match Pollard nervelessly potted all five of his
shots at goal, including three other penalties and a conversion,
while centre Damian de Allende crossed for the game's first try
in the 57th minute.
    Wales, who will depart heartbroken at having now lost all
three of their World Cup semi-finals, levelled the scores at
16-16 with 15 minutes remaining when winger Josh Adams crossed
for his sixth try of the tournament.
    South Africa would not be denied, however, and secured their
passage to a rematch of the 2007 World Cup final when Pollard
calmly slotted the ball through the posts from about 30 metres
out wide to the left.
    "It was nerve-racking at the end and I must say that, losing
the previous four matches against them, it could have gone their
way again," said Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus.
    "We are only halfway there. We would love to win the World
Cup. We play a class England team in the final now but we've
really got a chance and we might go all the way, you never
    South Africa won both their previous finals in 1995 and 2007
but no side has ever lifted the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a
game at the tournament, as the Springboks did in their pool
opener against the All Blacks.
    "It was a tough, physical match, congratulations to South
Africa, they deserved to win today," said Warren Gatland, whose
12-year tenure as Wales coach comes to an end after the
    "I take my hat off to them, they were very good up front,
defended exceptionally well. But I'm really proud of our guys,
we never gave up ... It was a real arm wrestle, a really tough
    An chilly autumn wind had blown away the last remains of a
balmy day soon after kickoff but that did not deter both sides
from going aerial from the start.  
    South Africa's set piece looked steadier but Wales were
getting past the Springboks' rush defence on the left wing and
looked more likely to cross.
    In the absence of any other enterprise, Pollard and Dan
Biggar reprised their flyhalf penalty-kicking duel of the 2015
quarter-final, with the South African coming out on top - as he
did four years ago - to send his side into halftime 9-6 ahead.
    Biggar stepped up to kick his third penalty to tie the
scores six minutes into the second half but the biggest cheer
from the crowd until that point came when Springboks scrumhalf
Faf de Klerk squared up to towering Wales lock Jake Ball.
    South African fans finally had something to shout about
approaching the hour mark when Pollard for once eschewed the
kick and cut through the defensive line and into the Welsh 22. 
    With the referee playing advantage, the ball came out to the
16-stone de Allende, who brushed off two tacklers and reached
over to touch down in the grasp of a third. 
    Wales, who will face the All Blacks in the third-place
playoff on Friday, hit straight back and camped on the South
African line for a good five minutes, trying to smash their way
    When they finally won a penalty, they elected to take a
five-metre scrum and quickly moved the ball out to the wing for
Adams to dive over untouched. 
    Fullback Leigh Halfpenny split the uprights from wide out to
level up the scores but South Africa's pack had been reinforced
by fresh bodies from the bench and they did enough to ensure
Pollard had his chance to win it.
    "Today we fell short, but hopefully we will get another
opportunity," said Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones, a veteran of
the 2011 semi-final loss to France who was playing his 142nd
    "It wasn't our day but I'm still proud to pull this jersey
on and represent all the people in red in the stadium."


 (Editing by Tony Lawrence)
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