Pollard kicks South Africa past Wales and into the World Cup final

Handre Pollard’s immaculate display from the kicking tee proved the difference as South Africa ended Wales’ World Cup adventure at the semi-final stage.

Handre Pollard’s immaculate display from the kicking tee proved the difference as South Africa ended Wales’ World Cup adventure at the semi-final stage.

After a cagey first half when the boot dominated, Damian de Allende powered over for the first try before the hour mark.

But Warren Gatland’s reigning Guinness Six Nations champions, despite a mounting injury list that included Tomas Francis and George North in the first half, produced a magnificent response when Josh Adams went over in the left corner.

The scores were level heading into the closing moments before Pollard held his nerve with his fourth penalty to make it 19-16 and set up a final with England, a re-match of the 2007 final.

The first half was a kick-fest, both from the tee and hand, as both sides largely looked to play it safe with a World Cup final on the line.

Wales threatened down the left a couple of times in the early skirmishes through Adams.

But the Springbok scrum looked to be taking charge, and Pollard kicked his side into an early lead when Justin Tipuric failed to roll away.

Biggar responded almost immediately with his first kick, from wide out on the left when the Boks went offside.

Ross Moriarty then dropped the restart and a Bok scrum won another penalty and Pollard restored South Africa’s lead.

The Boks did threaten before the break with ball in hand when Siya Kolisi, Faf de Klerk and Willie Le Roux worked an overlap down the left.

But it was the rolling maul that won their third penalty of the night that Pollard drilled for a 9-3 lead.

And it appeared to be getting worse for Wales, Francis and then North limping off before the break with injuries prompting major reshuffles.

But Biggar’s second penalty of the half, for a Bok tackle off the ball, reduced arrears to 9-6 at the break.

It got even more scrappy at the start of the second period, three chargedowns in quick succession epitomising two sides not hitting full stride.

De Klerk and then Le Roux both spilled up and unders as well, and when a Welsh maul got moving, Biggar stroked over his third penalty to level things up.

A Wyn Jones turnover at the breakdown then put Wales back on the front foot and chasing history.

But then arrived the game’s first moment of real quality. De Allende started it with a fine offload, Pollard’s arcing run round the ruck created yet more momentum and when it came left the centre had too much power for Biggar and Owen Watkin to dot down.

Pollard’s tough conversion was also drilled for a 16-9 lead, and Wales needed a reponse as the hour mark came and went.

Rhys Patchell came on for Biggar, and one of his first actions was to send a kickable penalty deep into the Bok corner.

Wales went battering at the line, phase after phase after the maul was short but still the Boks held firm.

Eventally Jerome Garces gave Wales a penalty at the breakdown but once again, Jones turned down the points and opted for a scrum by the posts.

And the gamble paid off, in spectacular style. Moriarty at the base did so well to find Tomos Williams who went short through Davies to Adams in the corner.

Leigh Halfpenny took over the kicking duties and drilled a sublime conversion from the touchline and once again we were level with 15 minutes remaining.

Francois Louw and Frans Steyn were now on for the Boks, and the former got caught at a breakdown as the game entered the final ten minutes to give Wales another attacking platform.

The attack was well repelled though by the Boks and it ended with a Patchell drop goal that faded wide.

Louw got his revenge soon after with a fine turnover and while Pollard’s own drop goal was also off target, the Boks had an advantage to play with.

Back it came and Pollard held his nerve to slot what proved the decisive kick.

There was still time for Wales to try and muster a response, but when a lineout went awry and Vincent Koch won a scrum penalty, the game was done.

Pollard slammed the ball into the stands and the Boks could celebrate while Wales’ dream ends at the semi-final stage for the third time.