Moriarty late try sends Wales into semi-finals

Ross Moriarty’s late score secured Wales a dramatic 20-19 quarter-final win over 14-man France in Oita.

Ross Moriarty’s late score secured Wales a dramatic 20-19 quarter-final win over 14-man France in Oita.

Sebastien Vahaamahina’s moment of madness in the second half was the decisive moment, an elbow to Aaron Wainwright meant he was sent off when France had looked in control.

Les Bleus were 19-10 to the good after an awesome first-half attacking display, Vahaamahina, Charles Ollivon and Virimi Vakatawa all crossing.

During that barrage, Ross Moriarty came on for the injured Josh Navidi, then almost immediately saw yellow for a high shot on Gael Fickou.

But Wales had a foothold thanks to Wainwright’s solo score and the boot of Biggar.

And with a numerical advantage for the final half an hour, Wales gradually turned the screw.

Warren Gatland’s side never seem to know when they are beaten.

And while France did so well to slow the game and try and survive, at the death it was Moriarty on hand, pouncing after the ball went loose from a French scrum under their own posts to score and Biggar converted for the win.

The first half was largely one-way traffic, France came roaring out the blocks and Wales just had to cling on.

It didn’t start well, Les Bleus scoring two tries inside the first ten minutes of action in Oita.

Wales had been warned when Penaud went to work up the right before a vital Justin Tipuric turnover saved the day.

But the first try was soon to arrive, and it was all about forward power as Vahaamahina stepped and barged over after a rolling maul had got them close.

Romain Ntamack missed the extras, but Jacques Brunel’s side were on fire and their second try was a thing of real beauty.

Vakatawa stepped clear of Navidi, fed Ntamack and in a flash it went through Antoine Dupont and Ollivon was under the posts.

Wales were 12-0 down in dire need of a foothold, so Wainwright provided it. A huge Jake Ball hit dislodged the ball from Guilhem Guirado on halfway, the Dragons flanker swooped on it, spotted a hole and then just raced all the way under the posts before anyone had really moved.

Biggar added the extras and then a penalty after a Vahaamahina high tackle, French ill discipline cooling their fiery opening.

But on the half-hour mark the game turned, Navidi limped off to be replaced by Ross Moriarty and the No.8’s first involvement was a high shot on Fickou.

Jaco Peyper had little choice but to show him yellow, and for the last ten minutes of the half France battered at the line looking to put the game to bed.

They did get a third try, Ntamack’s delayed pass releasing Penaud who offloaded to Vakatawa to dive over.

That conversion was unmissable but he did have another penalty come back off the post and brave and brilliant Welsh defending, with Josh Adams to the fore, meant Gatland’s side went in only nine points behind.

While Wales were back to their full complement on the resumption, France were without Ntamack as Camille Lopez replaced the injured Toulouse man.

Lopez was immediately involved, dragging a drop goal wide but prodding and probing with his kicking game and France were immediately back on the front foot.

The maul twice went close, but once again Wales held firm and then Vahaamahina had his brain fade.

Les Bleus were on the Welsh line, turning the screw, and the Clermont lock then deliberately elbowed Wainwright to the head and was shown a clear and obvious red card.

Now it was France with the disadvantage and over half an hour to try and hold on.

A Biggar penalty as the Welsh pack started to rumble closed the gap to only six points at 19-13.

Replacements entered the fray, France removing their No.8 Gregory Alldritt to get lock Paul Gabrillagues on.

And up to and beyond the hour mark, Brunel’s side managed to take the sting out of the game.

Dupont and Lopez probed while Vakatawa continued to make things happen around him.

The game entered the final ten minutes, with both benches emptied and Wales still trailing by six.

But France were struggling at scrum-time with a man less, first they forgot to shift anyone to the base to control it, and then under their own posts it got even worse.

Ollivon had shifted there this time, but replacement Tomos Williams produced an amazing tackle rip, the ball looped up and Tipuric pounced, one recycle later and Moriarty had grounded the ball.

Biggar drilled the extras, as he always seems to do when the chips are down, and Wales were in front for the first time in the match with only five minutes remaining.

And that was how it stayed, the 14 men of France unable to create one last opportunity as Wales advance to the final four.