3rd Place Play-off: Wales 18-43 South Africa
By Graham Clutton
South Africa defeated host nation Wales 43-18 at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Sunday to finish third in the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship.
However, Wales gave the Baby Boks a run for their money in the early stages of the second half and can be proud of their fourth place position in the competition.
It took the hosts four minutes to register their first points with a Leigh Halfpenny penalty putting Wales in front after South Africa had been caught offside.
It had been a decent start from Wales with their defence rock solid when called upon inside their own 22 and their attack quick and purposeful.
Even with 10 changes – one positional – from the side beaten by New Zealand on Wednesday, Patrick Horgan’s team were combative and competitive against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
However, when Ralph Koster’s speculative kick ahead bounced awkwardly, Wales found themselves outnumbered on the right and centre Francois Brummer – the leading point scorer in the tournament – crossed in the corner.
Fellow centre Robert Ebersohn collected his side’s second try on 19 minutes – Brummer converting – and with full back Wilton Pietersen causing havoc on the counter attack, Wales appeared to be in for a long evening.
Halfpenny did reduce the arrears with a 24th minute penalty after the Baby Boks were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, but a break from Robert Ebersohn five minutes from half time brought a third try for South Africa.
Their fourth came in stoppage time. This time it was flanker Koster who nipped in after a flat pass from Robert Ebersohn. Brummer converted for a 26-6 interval lead and with Wales suddenly looking as though their previous four games had caught up with them, there appeared to be only ever one winner.
However Wales, to their credit, they kept their heads up and played with adventure and after 54 minutes they were rewarded with a try from Halfpenny that the wing was unable to convert.
Halfpenny did convert replacement Sam Hobbs’ try and with Pietersen in the sin bin for South Africa, Wales had a sniff of victory. However, 12 minutes from time, replacement Frederick Kirsten bundled his way over and Lionel Mapoe soon added try number six.
Fly half Josias Ebersohn, the twin brother of centre Robert, made it seven with a try in injury time with Brummer’s conversion making it 43-18.
South Africa Man of the Match Ralph Koster: "It was a hard game and Wales were a difficult side to break down. But once we had scored a couple of tries in the first half, we were in a decent position. All credit to Wales, they came back at us and it was not until the final 20 minutes that we were able to pull away again."
Wales Head Coach Patrick Horgan: "Maybe it was a game too far for us. We have taken some pretty tough knocks throughout the tournament and although the boys were desperate to finish on a high it was not to be. They are a fine side and they caught us out at the end of the first and second halves."
Wales Captain Josh Turnbull: "The New Zealand game in the week was a bruising encounter and we came into this one as a battered side. I thought we gave it our best shot but it was not enough at the end of the day. We came into the comeptition hoping to finish higher than our fourth place last year [at IRB Under 19 World Championship]. Still, we have matched that and I think we have developed as a side."