Wales falls short against France

Wales captain Sam Warburton (C) makes an illegal tackle on France’s Vincent Clerc during their...

Wales captain Sam Warburton (C) makes an illegal tackle on France’s Vincent Clerc during their Rugby World Cup semi-final match at Eden Park in Auckland October 15, 2011. Warburton was sent off for the tackle. REUTERS/David Gray

Richard Mauntah, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

It came down to missed opportunities for Wales.

Playing a man down for over 60 minutes, the Welsh gave a gutsy effort but fell just short 9-8 to France in the first semifinal of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

The Welsh missed penalty opportunities. and missed a conversion on their only try, points that could have made the difference.

But their major blow came 18 minutes into the game when, with Wales leading 3-0, Sam Warburton made a strong attempt at a tackle of Vincent Clerc but in doing so lifted the Frenchman off the ground and slammed him to the turf.

It was ruled a dangerous tackle and he was sent off.

“It felt that as soon as I hit him his body weight took control of what happened,” Warburton said. “I went to compete for the ball, thinking it was a normal tackle. The next thing I know I’m walking off into the stands.”

The Welsh were forced to bring a back into the scrum and change their strategy on lineouts.

The French meanwhile had trouble getting anything going. They did get two penalties in the first half from Morgan Parra to grab a 6-3 advantage but otherwise looked lacklustre.

France did come out for the second half looking like they might put the game away but very soon settled into a kicking game, just hoping to maintain territorial advantage, and did get another penalty kick from Parra to make it 9-3. In the 58th minute, Wales made them pay for the complacency when scrum half Mike Phillips found space off a scrum 25 metres out and scampered for the game’s only try. But Stephen Jones, a veteran who had sparked the team off the bench, failed the conversion which kept the score at 9-8.

With about five minutes to play, Wales got an opportunity just inside the French half but while Leigh Halfpenny’s kick was accurate enough, it was a mere foot below the crossbar. France would hold Wales off with a fine defensive stand to hang on.

“We did not start well, we lost confidence,” France coach Marc Lièvremont said. “When they went down to 14 and we had 15 we were still inhibited, but that does not matter; what matters is when they scored a try, we kept out composure.”

France got good performances by Julien Bonnaire, who was named man of the match, and scrum half Dimitri Yachvilli, whose presence was found all over the pitch.

“We defended well and played with our hearts,” team captain Thierry Dusautoir added “We didn’t play our best rugby but we’re quite happy we’ll be (in the final) next week.”

France, which has made this an every-twelve-year tradition to make the final (1987 and 1999 was its other appearances), will play the winner of Sunday’s New Zealand-Australia match. But the French will have to show a lot more than they did if they are to be competitive.


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