Wales edge out Springboks in Washington

by AFP

Ryan Elias scored a crucial late try to give Wales a dramatic 22-20 win over South Africa in their rugby union clash at RFK Stadium in Washington.

A thrilling final 10 minutes saw Springbok replacement Robert du Preez go from hero to zero. First he kicked what looked like a match-winning penalty to put South Africa 20-17 up.

But just minutes later he was charged down by Wales scrum-half Tomos Williams and Elias pounced to ground the ball and score the game's decisive try.

Earlier in the match Wales had scored through full-back Hallam Amos and debutant Williams, South Africa responding with tries from wing pair Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi.

Gareth Anscombe and Elton Jantjies kicked the rest of the points, but just when Du Preez looked like he'd won it, Elias ensured it was an afternoon to celebrate for Wales.

It was a brutal encounter in Washington. Photo: AFPBoth sides named youthful outfits with the build-up to the game dominated by criticism of the 80 minutes as a money-making public relations exercise which devalued international rugby.

For the players involved it was a chance to make an impression, though the forecast pre-match rain made for slippery conditions. The weather contributed towards a woeful opening quarter.

Starting at centre for Wales, George North carried forwards and South Africa were pinged at the breakdown. Anscombe stepped up from out wide, but couldn't nail the penalty attempt.

Both sides seemed keen to play, but the error count was high and a messy scrum contributed to the scrappy nature of the game.

Wales went off their feet at a ruck after Amos claimed a high ball, allowing Springbok fly-half Jantjies to open the scoring. At that stage Wales were struggling, but the loss of wing Steffan Evans to injury coincided with them finding their feet.

Evans limped off after a nasty collision with opposite number Ismaiel.

Elton Jantjies booted two conversions and a penalty for South Africa. Photo: AFPHadleigh Parkes replaced his Scarlets team-mate and moved into the centre with North returning to his more customary wing berth. It worked immediately.

Parkes was involved in a Wales breakaway, Ross Moriarty more than played his part and Amos sent the South African defence the wrong way with a dummy to cross the line.

It soon got even better for Wales, scrum-half Williams marking his international debut for a close range try which Anscombe once again improved.

Wales had rebuffed a South African attack to win a vital penalty at the end of the first half, but they gifted their opponents a way back into the game when it resumed. Ismaiel was the scorer, picking off a pass from Amos to make his way to the line and score.

 Jantjies converted for what was an ideal start to the second period for Rassie Erasmus' men.

Anscombe responded to give his team some breathing room by kicking a penalty before missing with another long-range effort.

The American crowd booed the decision to go for goal on both occasions, but the crowd soon had the grandstand finish they were after. Jantjies chipped ahead and Wales centre Owen Watkin was adjudged via the TMO to have deliberately chipped the ball out of play.

He was yellow carded and perhaps lucky not to concede a penalty try. It mattered little for those of Springbok persuasion. From the scrum, the ball was spread back left where Mapimpi dived over and Jantjies converted to tie the game and set up a thrilling finale.

Even with Watkin returning to the field South Africa were dominant and Du Preez entered and looked to have won the game when he slotted a simple kick following a scrum penalty. But there was still time for more drama as the replacement back's kicked was blocked by Williams and Elias dotted down for a score which sent Wales wild.


South Africa 20

Tries: Ismaiel, Mapimpi

Cons: Jantjies 2 

Pens: Jantjies, du Preez

Wales 22

Tries: Amos, Williams, Elias

Cons: Anscombe 2

Pens: Anscombe