Wales made it into the last four of the World Cup with a dramatic come from behind 20-19 win over 14-man France.
Here are five things we learned from Wales’s victory at Oita Stadium on Sunday:- Seeing Red –
It is possible to win rugby matches a man down but there’s a good reason why this rarely happens at international level and at a World Cup in particular.
France were leading 19-10 when Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off in the 49th minute for a blatant elbow into the face of Wales flanker Aaron Wainwright.
Suddenly, the whole mood of the match changed.
That it took Wales until six minutes from time to score the match-clinching try was testament to the resolve of a youthful French side but they should never have been put in that position in the first place.
“I think I completely lost my head. It’s difficult,” said Vahaamahina, holding back tears, to his team-mates in the dressing room in a video posted on French broadcaster TF1’s website. “Frankly, it’s indefensible.”
– French flair returns –
One silver lining for France was the sparkling rugby they produced at the start of the match that led to a fine trio of tries.
Some of the midfield running and passing was a throwback to the best of French rugby traditions and far removed from their lumbering style of recent times.
Toulouse half-backs Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are both in their early 20s, while the quick duo of Virimi Vakatawa and Damian Penaud should both have several more years of Test rugby ahead of them as well.
– Get your kicks –
Having a goalkicker with a match success rate of less than 80 percent is asking for trouble. While you could argue that Ntamack was unlucky to see a first-half conversion and penalty hit the post, the two eminently kickable chances should not really have been anywhere near the woodwork.
As it was, the five points spurned proved crucial to the outcome.
– Find a way to win –
It wasn’t pretty but knockout games are all about the result and the fact Wales were able to win without being anywhere near their best should give them a degree of confidence heading into a semi-final with South Africa.
Wales are unlikely to get away with another slow start against the Springboks in a match where they will hope to have centre Jonathan Davies, much missed in defence during the France match, fit following a knee injury.
– Ref in bother –
That referee Jaco Peyper needed to consult the television match official before showing a red card, after failing to spot Vahaamahina’s clear hit on Wainwright himself, might have given the South African pause for thought.
But it did not stop Peyper apparently being photographed later with celebrating Wales fans while appearing to mimic Vahaamahina’s elbow shot.
Critics said this cast doubt on his neutrality and judgement, two qualities vital to the success of any referee.
World Rugby said it was “establishing the facts” before commenting further.