Wales 18-23 South Africa: Hosts are denied clear try-scoring chance due to a PITCH INVADER


Do defeats to South Africa always have to be this agonising?

That was the question on three and-a-half million lips as the Springboks did it again against Wales – ripping their hearts out and stamping on them right at the last.

It was the same at the 2019 World Cup, a late penalty then, and during the Lions tour in the summer. This time Malcolm Marx’s 73rd minute try from a rolling maul was the sickener. 

South Africa came out on top with a late try from the back off the maul from Malcolm Marx

But LIam Williams had a clear try-scoring opportunity scuppered by a pitch invader in Cardiff

But LIam Williams had a clear try-scoring opportunity scuppered by a pitch invader in Cardiff 

The pitch invader stopped Williams running freely onto the ball and South Africa recovered

The pitch invader stopped Williams running freely onto the ball and South Africa recovered

He was dragged off the pitch by stewards as Wales' Josh Adams looked on in disbelief

He was dragged off the pitch by stewards as Wales’ Josh Adams looked on in disbelief 

The invader was booed and had beer thrown at him as he was ejected from the stadium

The invader was booed and had beer thrown at him as he was ejected from the stadium 

In a game pock-marked by penalties it was the only try, and meant Wales lost to the world champions at home for the first time since 2013.

Would Wales have scored if a moronic pitch invader had not entered the field as Liam Williams surged into the South African 22 around the hour mark?

Probably not, but it was the talk of the town after – another insult to the injury of a tight loss.

‘We could have won that match, it came down to a couple of moments,’ said Wales boss Wayne Pivac after, ruefully.

‘It was big step in the right direction, playing the world champions at their own game. I thought it was a big pat on the back for their effort.’

Dan Bigger kicked over six penalties as the boot ruled during Saturday's contest in Cardiff

Dan Bigger kicked over six penalties as the boot ruled during Saturday’s contest in Cardiff 

There was more than that for Ellis Jenkins. The flanker was a caped crusader, even becoming captain when Jonathan Davies went off in the second half, on his return from three years out of Welsh red against the same opponents he so savagely injured his knee against in 2018.

But even he could not stop the inexorable maul of fate, the one that broke Welsh hearts again at the end. As ever, there was no subtlety to the Bok game-plan, with the usual kick-tennis.

When Louis Rees-Zammit fumbled his first high ball he might have been in for a longer day than the hen-do group all wearing 1970s Welsh shirts and scrum-caps while walking three different directions at once by 3pm near Cardiff Central station.

But soon the wing recovered, and almost scored – just about banged into touch on the right. Like the Lions tour, there was little wild creativity on show.

Back from that trip were South Africa’s wild pack of hyenas on the touchline, prowling about in bibs, entering the field sometimes even when the ball was in play, shouting at referees and advising their players on lineout calls and all sorts else.

Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit is tackled by Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi in Cardiff

Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit is tackled by Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi in Cardiff 

Physio Rene Naylor is the worst of the yappers – the one who yelled instructions at the Boks from the in-goal area during the Lions series – and here she was at it again.

Whatever the bibs were saying the Bok gameplan was no departure from what made them world champions two years ago. Kick, chase, maul, scrum, repeat. Why not, when no one can stop you?

Wales, to their credit, did largely for 73 minutes. Jenkins was rolling back the three years he has missed since his awful knee injury to the last day he wore red and schooled the Springboks.

Wales’ scrum buckled at times, and Ryan Elias missed one lineout in the rain.

Wales did go into the break 12-9 up – Dan Biggar hitting four penalties to Handre Pollard’s three – but did not capitalise on a period where they were a man up. 

South Africa's Eben Etzebeth runs with the ball and is tackled by Dan Biggar and Will Rowlands

South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth runs with the ball and is tackled by Dan Biggar and Will Rowlands

Prop Ox Nche committed two offences in three phases, first hitting Tompkins high in a tackle deemed fair on reflection, then blocking the centre cynically as Biggar chipped over the Bok defence. He had to go, but soon Rhys Carré did as well, sin-binned when illegally entering a ruck.

There was an ominous feeling around the Principality Stadium as the Bok Bomb Squad entered – Marx, Vincent Koch and Steven Kitshoff coming on together.

But as green waves crashed into red, Cardiff transforming into Ellis Park with chants of ‘Bokke, Bokke’ ringing round, Jenkins went hunting, once more snaffling a key turnover then later punching the air as Wales won a penalty. Biggar hit it and Wales led by six. 

South Africa captain Kolisi carries the ball away from Wales' Nick Tompkins in the first-half

South Africa captain Kolisi carries the ball away from Wales’ Nick Tompkins in the first-half

But they could not settle, Frans Steyn soon monstering one of his own from 53 metres.

This was now sick torture for Welsh fans – this game following the recent script. When would the pain come, with 10 minutes, five, or less to go?

One more penalty from Pollard and the scores were level entering the last 20 minutes.

In the dramatic last throes the intruder interrupted, Biggar nudged Wales ahead with a penalty before South Africa thought they had won it.

The Springboks celebrate their victory as Wales just miss out against South Africa again

The Springboks celebrate their victory as Wales just miss out against South Africa again

A bad box-kick from Cobus Reinach was gathered by Eben Etzebeth, who fed Makazole Mapimipi for a run-in, but referee Paul Williams disallowed it as the lock had never retreated from an offside position.

But the inevitable heart-ache did come, with Marx’s maul try seven minutes from the end. Elton Jantjies missed the kick but his penalty on the whistle saw South Africa win by five.

‘We come from a country where people just don’t accept defeat,’ said Siya Kolisi, the captain summing it up. 

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