Wales secure semifinal spot with 20-19 win over France in RWC 2019 9 months ago

Wales secure semifinal spot with 20-19 win over France in RWC 2019

The remaining two semifinal spots was up for grabs.

On Saturday, the first two spots were clinched by England and New Zealand respectively. Sunday's first fixture saw Wales take on France to become the third team to qualify for the final four.

Wales won every single one of their pool games despite not convincing in every game. France meanwhile arrived with rumours of discontent between the players and coach Jacques Brunel. They pulled off some slick performances in their group games, winning everything before having their final game against England called off due to Typhoon Hagibis.

Additionally, this would serve to be Welsh coach Warren Gatland's swansong World Cup before stepping down at the end of the tournament, but today would not prove to be his final game in charge.

Wales 20-19 France

Just before kick off, Wales announced the late withdrawal of centre Jonathan Davies due to the niggling knee injury he picked up in the last game against Fiji.

The game kicked off.

Five minutes in and it was France who took the lead – Sebastien Vahaamahina hauled over from close range to score after a shoved maul got him within a metre. The conversion was missed by Romain Ntamack.

Just three minutes later, the French inflicted further damage as Antoine Dupont found Charles Ollivon who scampered under the posts for five points. Ntamack grabbed the extras for a score of 12-0.

11 minutes in and Wales responded brilliantly. Aaron Wainwright collected a loose ball before speeding past the French defence to score. Dan Biggar added the conversion.

18 minutes in and Wales were awarded a penalty; Biggar made no mistake to cut the deficit down to just two points as the score read 10-12 to France.

30 minutes in and France restored a comfortable lead as Damian Penaud lofted a gem of a pass for Virimi Vakatawa who crossed over to score. Ntamack converted for a score of 10-19.

Halftime ensued after an unconvincing display from Gatland's men whose inaccuracies had cost them. Halftime stats showed France bossing the possession with 60% and having 334m made compared to Wales's 134m.

The second half kicked off.

48 minutes in and the French found themselves playing with 14 men – Vahaamahina was sent off for a reckless elbow challenge to Wainwright's head, leaving France to defend their nine point lead with a man disadvantage.

53 minutes in and Wales had another penalty to crunch the gap; Biggar comfortably added the three points for a score of 13-19 to France.

The game entered the final 10 minutes and Wales had it all to do to find a way back into the game and into the semis. And then, in a moment of pure elation for the Welsh, Ross Moriarty scrambled over the line to grab five crucial points. Biggar added the two points for a narrow lead of 20-19.

And so it finished at Oita! The Welsh scraped past France in the dying moments of the game to secure a place in the semifinals. As for the French, despite their brilliant start, they were largely anonymous in the second half and the red card for Vahaamahina effectively crippled their chances of progressing.

Eight years ago, during the 2011 WC semifinals, Wales lost to France by a single point, with 14 men and ended up missing out on the final. Today, in 2019, Gatland's men claimed victory over their opponents in the same way by a solitary point against 14 men France. Rugby's a funny game, eh?

Wales are through to just their third semifinal and they did brilliantly to fight back and get the desired result in the end. But in all honesty, either of South Africa or Japan will fancy themselves against this Welsh team to get to the final.