- Wales take three-match series to a decider after first win over Springboks in South Africa
- Conversion from left touchline by Gareth Anscombe wins it at the death for the tourists
- Wayne Pivac and Co now looking for a series-winning victory in Cape Town next week
Wales made history in Bloemfontein with a late Josh Adams try and Gareth Anscombe conversion securing their first ever victory in South Africa over the Springboks.
Wayne Pivac’s men had been cruelly denied in the first Test when a last-gasp Damian Willemse penalty broke their hearts, but they finally got one over the Springboks in the Rainbow Nation. Wales looked dead and buried at one stage and it looked as though South Africa’s physicality might just have taken its toll on the men in red.
But they refused to throw in the towel and their patience paid off when prolific try scorer Adams sneaked in at the corner with a mere two minutes remaining. But the game was not won as Wales still had to knock over a touchline conversion. Anscombe stepped up with the weight of a proud rugby nation on his shoulders, but despite South Africa’s frantic attempts to charge down the Ospreys man came up trumps to secure a memorable day for the Northern Hemisphere after Ireland and England’s victories over New Zealand and Australia, respectively.
“Do you know what after last week we spoke about the disappointment and hurt we felt to lose in the way we did right at the end,” said Wales wing Adams.
“We said if we can bottle the hurt and disappointment up as a team then it can be used effectively. I think it showed the character of the team the way we came back. There was a bit of a slump there and we were 12-6 down but we came back to win it. I think it speaks volumes of this team.
“It was a very special moment for Gareth. That was a pressure kick, right by the touchline to take us in front. He’s absolutely nailed it. I’m super chuffed for him especially after missing the birth of his second child.
“South Africa’s defence is renowned to be a strong one and rightly so because it is. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of time to break a defence like that down.
“The try at the end I thought was taken excellently by the team. We went through the motions with the forwards, sucked them in, and we ended up scoring at the corner. As a squad we are absolutely delighted especially after last week.”
South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber’s controversial decision to make 14 changes to his starting XV backfired as Wales came out on top.
The visitors were gifted the perfect start when the hosts were penalised going off their feet at the breakdown which allowed Dan Biggar to open the scoring. But the Springboks hit back immediately as they stretched Wales’ defence with Kurt Lee-Arendse nearly crossing at the corner, but they had to make do with three points from the boot of Handre Pollard.
Biggar and Pollard both missed long-range penalty attempts but the Springboks were winning the contact area with their driving lineout and explosive ball carriers putting them in strong positions. But Wales defence coach Gethin Jenkins would have been delighted with Wales’ defence in the first 40 minutes as they soaked up wave after wave of South African pressure.
The Springboks took the lead almost immediately after the break through Pollard’s boot before Biggar failed with his attempt at the posts. Pollard extended South Africa’s lead to six points but the Leicester Tigers bound playmaker then missed a shocker in front of the posts. But even so the Springboks were close to breaking clear with the likes of Andre Esterhuizen and Arendse breaking off tackles. Replacement second-row Alun Wyn Jones was then controversially sent to the sin bin for allegedly using his hands in the ruck, however the replays showed the ball being kicked by a South African boot with Wales’ most capped player not even touching the ball. The Springboks went to the corner and made it a two-score game courtesy of Pollard’s boot.
But Anscombe claimed three points back to give Wales a fighting chance going into the final 10 minutes of this clash. Replacement tighthead Sam Wainwright won a penalty at the scrum to allow Anscombe to drill the ball into South Africa’s five metre line. Wales got their mauling game going which forced the world champions to concede a penalty, and after some patient build-up play Adams scored at the corner with a sensational touchline conversion from Anscombe creating history.
Wales will have an opportunity to win the test series in Cape Town next Saturday and the enormity of that challenge isn’t lost on Pivac.
“It hasn’t happened before,” said Pivac when asked about the enormity of winning a test in South Africa. “We are in the race to win the series next week.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge and it will be a different South African side as we know. It just makes for a good series.
“It’s going to be a big week for us and we’ll look forward to it. It was a bit like last week. It came down to the last play.
“We were hanging in there. What a great scrum from Sam Wainwright at the end and Chicken (Anscombe) kicking that conversion from the try line.”
South Africa: W Gelant; K Arendse, J Kriel, A Esterhuizen, A Fassi (D Willemse 68); H Pollard (G Williams 74), J Hendrickse; T du Toit (M Mchunu 48), J Dweba (V Koch 41), T Nyakane (V Koch 41), E Etzebeth, M Orie (R Nortje 60), M Coetzee (R Elastadt 48), P du Toit, E Roos (D Fourie 48).
Wales: L Williams; L Rees-Zammit, G North, N Tompkins A Cuthbert (J Adams 17); D Biggar (G Anscombe 52), K Hardy (T Williams 41); G Thomas (W Jones 50), R Elias (D Lake 50), D Lewis (S Wainwright 66), W Rowlands (A W Jones 55), A Beard, D Lydiate (J Navidi 60), T Reffell, T Faletau.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Scores 0-3 Biggar pen 2, 3-3 Pollard pen 6, 6-3 Pollard pen 44, 9-3 Pollard pen 52, 12-3 Pollard pen 52, 12-6 Anscombe pen 66, 12-11 Adams try 78, 13-12 Anscombe con.