WATCH: South Africa clinch a finals spot with 19-16 win over Wales
We have our finalists.
This was the decider – Wales or South Africa had the chance to join England in the final of the Webb Ellis trophy on Saturday. The Welsh were bidding to reach their first-ever final after reaching their third overall semifinal following a narrow victory over France.
Interestingly, Wales had only won two of their first 31 test matches against South Africa but recently had won each of their past four games against them before this tie. These nations have met twice in World Cups with the Springboks winning both matches.
Kick-off ensued following a proud rendition of the anthems.
Wales 16-19 South Africa: Watch highlights below
South Africa grabbed the first spoils of the game after they were awarded a penalty 15 minutes in. Handre Pollard did well to slot the ball through for three easy points.
Three minutes later, Wales responded as they received a penalty; Dan Biggar converted for a finely-balanced score of 3-3.
South Africa inched into the lead yet again with another penalty – Pollard made light work as he scooped up three more points.
Five minutes before halftime, SA took a six-point lead courtesy of yet another penalty and once again, Pollard made no mistake for a score of 3-9.
The penalty theme of the first half continued as Wales clawed the gap down to three points with seconds left in the half. Biggar did the honours before the gong signalled the end of the first 40 minutes. Wales would've been glad to be just three points shy of their opponents and given they had looked better in attack, they had every chance of getting back into the contest. However, injuries to George North and Tomas Francis in the opening sequences undoubtedly made matters difficult.
Francis was left in a heap by a monstrous Duane Vermeulen carry that did for his game. He is likely to be out of the tournament.
The second half kicked off and nearly an hour into the contest, the first try arrived courtesy of South Africa. After the ball was swung out left, Damian de Allende gathered to charge through the Welsh defence to score five crucial points. Pollard added the extras as the score read 9-16.
Neither side was backing down and Wales provided the just response with a try. The Welsh demonstrated swift hands as the ball was moved left from Williams to Davies before eventually finding an unmarked Josh Adams. Leigh Halfpenny added the extras for a tense 16-16 score.
6 - Josh Adams is now the outright top try scorer at #RWC2019, his haul of 6 tries is the joint most a player has managed for @WelshRugbyUnion in an edition of the tournament (@ShaneWilliams11 6 in 2007). Vital.#RWC2019 #WALvRSA pic.twitter.com/J3e3ckasw1
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 27, 2019
As the contests flowed into the final 10 minutes, it was the Springboks who would have the final say on the scoreboard. After receiving yet another penalty, Pollard grabbed three crucial points to nudge SA ahead and keep them there.
And so it finished it Yokohama with Wales falling just short of the required mark again.
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 27, 2019
Despite this though, they demonstrated incredible bravery in the face of riddling injuries to push the Springboks till the final whistle. Warren Gatland's men will depart this game knowing they gave it their all and getting to a semifinal is no small feat in itself. Having mentioned that he would step down at the end of the tournament, Gatland has a final third-place tie to fight for before bowing out. The move brings an end to an illustrious 12-year tenure which saw his team win four Six Nations trophies and earn their first-ever world number 1 ranking.
Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones spoke post-game:
"We showed it today, stayed in the arm wrestle and stayed in it at 16-16 but we piggybacked penalties and South Africa took advantage and congratulations to them."
"Today we fell short, it wasn’t our day and I am still proud to pull this jersey on and represent all the Welsh in the stadium."
And coach Warren Gatland also had his say:
"I am proud of them, we punched massively above our weight in terms of playing numbers in Wales, we gave 100% in a close contest. But South Africa deserved to win tonight."
"We never gave up and were in the arm wrestle. At 16-16 it was pretty close and you're dreaming of the three points going our way."
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) October 27, 2019
As for South Africa, they have earned a repeat fixture of the 2007 final and their third final overall. But based on the evidence seen today, It's hard to see their name being engraved on the trophy after 80 minutes against England. And here's some additional food for thought – no team in WC history that has lost a game in the tournament has gone on to win the trophy and SA did lose their opening game against New Zealand. Saturday's final will reveal the truth.