Wales Comes Back to Edge France to Advance to Semifinals

Second-ranked Wales edged eighth-ranked France 20-19 at Oita Stadium, Oita Prefecture on Sunday, 20 October. France held a 19-10 lead at the break.

Wales will play South Africa in the semifinals next Sunday. South Africa defeated Japan 26-3. England will play New Zealand in the other semifinal on Saturday.

Match Recap

Wales needed to make a lineup change with Jonathan Davies aggravating a knee injury during the captain’s run. Owen Watkin replaced him at the outside center with Leigh Halfpenny joining the reserves.

Wales placed France under early pressure, but a high ball by Dan Diggar was gathered by Maxime Medard and cleared.

A kick ahead by France had Wales defending a meter from their own in-goal. On the clearance kick, France counterattacked to within 5 meters of in-goal, but a poach allowed Wales to clear.

From the ensuing lineout, France’s Sebastien Vahaamahina dove over the line for a try in the 5th minute for a 5-0 lead as Romain Ntamack’s conversion attempt bounced off the left upright.

Three minutes later, offloads by Ntamack to Antoine Dupont to Charles Ollivon, resulted in a try with Ntamack slotting the extras to lead 12-0.

Wales Aaron Wainwright scooped up a loose ball for a try under the posts after France captain Guilhem Guirado lost the ball on contact. Dan Biggar added the extras to cut the lead to 12-7.

The scoring has been fast and furious with three tries in 12 minutes.

After a high tackle by Vahaamahina on Jake Ball, Dan Biggar slotted a penalty goal with the Les Bleus lead shrinking to 12-10.

Welsh No 8 Josh Navidi needed to leave the pitch in the 27th minute and was replaced by Ross Moriarty. A short time late, Moriarty was sent to the bin for a high tackle.

France used the penalty to attack from a lineout just inside of Wales 22-meters. They finished after several phases with a try by Virimi Vakatawa with Ntamack slotting the kick to extend the lead to 19-10.

Wales blocked a kick that went back int he hands of French fullback Medard, who kicked ahead with Biggar defending deep. France continued to pressure from a lineout before turning over the ball within 5-meters of in-goal.

France attacked again with George North making a saving tackle on a Gael Fickou run. A Welsh penalty had Ntamack attempting a penalty goal, but the ball went off the left post again.

France almost added another try just prior to the break, but a forward pass voided a Guirado potential try.

France had 60% of the possession and scored three tries during the first half to one for Wales. Handling errors and the Welsh defense minimized what could have been a greater lead by France.

Second Half

France tried to extend their lead early in the second half with a Camile Lopez drop goal attempt sailing just wide of the right posts.

A kick by scrumhalf Dupont was touched by Wales fullback Liam Williams and resulted in lineout to France deep inside Welsh territory. A subsequent Wales penalty had France attacking again from a lineout with Vahaamahina penalized for a arm around the neck of Aaron Wainwright. After a TMO, a red card was issued for a elbow shot to Wainwirght’s head. France would play down a man for the remaining 32 minutes.

Wales cut the lead to 19-13 with a Biggar penalty goal after France was penaltized for not rolling away at the breakdown.

A penalty by Wales had Lopez kicking for territory and attacking from a lineout around the Wales 22-meters. Les Bleus went through 13 phases before a knock on 5-meters from in-goal.

Wales had an attack stopped inside France’s 22-meters with an intercept by Yoann Huget and then a penalty for not rolling away.

France countered with a strong run by Vakatawa and had a scrum 7 meters from in-goal. The ball was turned over to Wales with Parkes clearing.

Wales moved the ball to within 5-meters of France’s in-goal, but a knock on resulted in a turnover. From the ensuing scrum, the ball was stripped and Ross Moriarty grounded with Biggar slotting the extras to lead 20-19 with six minutes remaining.

France controlled 52% of the possession and 56% of the territory and led for all but six minutes in the match. Wales will feel fortunate that they were able to survive this match and will face South Africa in the semifinals next Sunday.

Player of the Match honors went to Aaron Wainwright, who had a try, gained 64 meters, and had 2 clean line breaks.

Squads & Match Preview

Wales: 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Jake Ball, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt.), 6 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Josh Navidi, 9 Gareth Davies, 10 Dan Biggar, 11 Josh Adams, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Owen Watkin 14 George North, 15 Liam Williams 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

France: 1 Jefferson Poirot, 2 Guilhem Guirado (capt.), 3 Rabah Slimani, 4 Bernard le Roux, 5 Sébastien Vaha’amahina, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 7 Charles Ollivon, 8 Grégory Alldritt, 9 Antoine Dupont, 10 Romain Ntamack, 11 Yoann Huget, 12 Gaël Fickou, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 14 Damian Penaud, 15 Maxime Médard 16 Camille Chat, 17 Cyril Baille, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Louis Picamoles, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Vincent Rattez

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistants Referees: Nic Berry (Australia) & Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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