2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final
Wales (10) 20
Tries: Wainwright, Moriarty Cons: Biggar 2 Pens: Biggar 2
France (19) 19
Tries: Vahaamahina, Ollivon, Vakatawa Cons: Ntamack 2
A dramatic last minute try from substitute Ross Moriarty was just enough to see this years Grand Slam champions Wales into the World Cup Semi finals with a hard fought win over France in Oita.
France who had dominated in the first half leading 19-10 at the break, but never really over came the loss of Lock Sebastien Vahaamahina in the 48th minute for a blatant elbow into Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright as Wales used the extra man to mount a comeback and snatch the victory by a single point 19-20.
The welsh had to overcome the loss of first choice centre Jonathan Davies in the build up as they aimed to reach what would be only their third World Cup final following their exploits in 1987 and 2011.
However, they would need to over come a French side that has slowly improved with every game over the tournament and came out fighting from the start as they stormed into a clear lead with tries from Vahaamahina, Charles Ollivon and the fantastic Virimi Vakatawa who was a thorn in the Welsh defence all night
With France off to the better start they were grateful to George North and Justin Tipuric who both produced crucial tackles in the opening minutes to deny the Les Blues an early score. But this was just the French going though the gears and they soon raised the pressure after a poor clearing kick from Gareth Davies gifted France possession close to the welsh line and Vahaamahina powered over, thank fully for the welsh Romian Ntamack missed the conversion something that would prove crucial for them later in the game.
Two minutes later and the French were in again this time Vakatawa producing the footwork in midfield to beat Josh Navidi before linking up with Ntamack and Dupont to send flanker Ollivon in open space to score, this time Ntamack was successful and the French led 12-0 after only 8 minutes of play.
Thankfully for the welsh fans they knew their said had the ability to come back and the Grand slam champions eventually woke up with a bang as a crunching tackle from Jake Ball on French skipper Guilhem Guirado was enough to dislodge the ball and with Wainwright quickest to react he picked it up and galloped over for Wales first points of the game. Biggar converted before adding a penalty and the difference was back to two points.
Just a wales had started to wake up they were struck with the loss of Navidi who limped off with a hamstring issue to be replaced by Moriarty who in his hurry to get involved found himself quickly back on the side lines after a yellow card for his first tackle of the game.
France quickly took advantage of the extra man and after a brief battering of the welsh line, the ball was spread to Vakatawa who powered over for another converted try just before the break to make it 19-10.
The second half started in much the same way as the first as France looked to open up a bigger lead, but that was to change as Vahaamahina had a moment of madness as he sent his elbow directly into the head of Wainwright to be shown a straight red card and condemn his side to playing a man down for the last 30 minutes.
Despite the extra man, wales still couldn’t find the space to exploit and were reliant on the boot of Biggar to close the gap, along with some luck as Vakatawa was again involved only for Penaud to drop the ball with the line open in front of him.
However the decisive moment came late in the game as the French had a scrum meters from their own line, instead of sending the ball down field the French attempted to set a better platform, but didn’t consider the interventions of replacement scrum half Tomos Williams as he stole procession and with the help of Justin Tipuric got close enough to the line for Moriaty to make amends for his earlier sins and dive over. following a brief discussion the TMO awarded the try and with Biggar’s conversion the Welsh were in front for the first time in the game.
With just minutes remaining the French again throw everything at the Welsh defence but they held strong for a famous victory and a semi final place against South Africa next week.
Wales: L Williams; North, Watkin, Parkes, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; Wyn Jones, Owens, Francis, Ball, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Wainwright, Navidi, Tipuric.
Replacements: E Dee, Carre, D Lewis, Beard, Moriarty, T Williams, Patchell, Halfpenny.
France: Medard; Penaud, Vakatawa, Fickou, Huget; Ntamack, Dupont; Poirot, Guirado (capt), Slimani, Le Roux, Vahaamahina, Lauret, Ollivon, Alldritt.
Replacements: Chat, Baille, Setiano, Gabrillagues, Picamoles, Serin, Lopez, Rattez.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)