Wales’ World Cup dreams are at an end after a dramatic defeat to South Africa, but Warren Gatland could find no fault with his players.
After an incredible year that has seen them claim the 2019 Guinness Six Nations crown with a Grand Slam and make the final four of the World Cup, they finally came unstuck on Sunday in Yokohama.
Damian de Allende’s second-half try put the Springboks on top but, despite a mounting injury list that included losing George North and Tomas Francis before the interval, Wales came roaring back.
Josh Adams went over in the left corner to level the scores late on before Handre Pollard held his nerve to put the Boks into the final against England with a 19-16 success.
“We knew it was going to be an arm wrestle,” he said.
“We stayed in the arm wrestle and we got back in it. I thought there was a momentum shift in the last four or five minutes then we were penalised and conceded and the game went away from us.
“I’m not taking anything away from South Africa. There was not a lot of flowing rugby played. We tried to move the ball but once you are in the arm wrestle it was attrition.
“I’m proud of the boys for staying in there. With a bit of luck and a bounce of the ball things might have been a bit different.”
“We are disappointed, but there have been other games in my career where we haven’t given 100% or the team just hasn’t done it on the day.
“But I cant ask any more of these players, they tried everything and congratulations to South Africa.”
That is not the end for Gatland, who has the small matter of the bronze-medal match against the All Blacks still to come.
New Zealand are the only team the Wales head coach has not beaten in his 12 years at the helm, and he will be itching for one last send off.
He added: “We have another game to play, against the All Blacks. The dream was – my first game was against England – for it to be the last game but it was not to be.
“We need to recover well and start preparing for the All Blacks. Next Friday will be our last time together so we must make sure we enjoy ourselves.”