Wales 20-19 France: Rugby World Cup quarter-final report, match highlights and scorers

Wales celebrate their late try against France in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final
Wales celebrate their late try against France in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final

Wales staged a stunning fightback victory to win a gripping World Cup quarter-final in Oita after France pressed the self-destruct button.


Wales 20-19 France

Wales tries: Wainwright; Moriarty
Wales conversions: Biggar (2)
Wales penalties: Biggar (2)

France tries: Vaahmahina; Ollivon; Vakatawa
France conversions: Ntamack (2)
France penalties:
France red card: Vaahmahina

Match highlights

Wales vs France (20-19) | Rugby World Cup 2019 Highlights


Match report

Wales launched a late comeback to defeat 14 man France 20-19 in a dramatic Rugby World Cup quarter-final to reach their second semi-final in eight years.

Ross Moriarty's try five minutes from time saw the Welsh come from 19-10 down at the break, as they eventually took advantage of Sebastien Vahaamahina's foolish red card on the 50-minute mark.

With France in control of the contest at 19-10, second row Vahaamahina deliberately and unnecessarily elbowed Aaron Wainwright in the face to receive his marching orders. It was a moment of madness that effectively cost his side a place in the semi-finals, after they had dominated most of the match.

Despite their off the field problems and rifts in the camp, the French showed a cohesive unit and excellent first half display that blew Wales open.

Vahaamahina and Charles Ollivon, rounding off one of the tries of the tournament, went over in the opening 10 minutes.

At 12-0 down Wales briefly got back in the contest with Wainwright's breakaway try, but Virimi Vakatawa added a third before the break to give Les Bleu a 19-10 advantage at the break.

Without injured centre Jonathan Davies Wales lacked the required creative spark to make the most of their man advantage for the majority of the second period, but their pressure finally told as Moriarty drove over after Wales had stolen the ball from a French scrum five metres out.

Eight years ago Wales lost their semi-final to France 9-8 after captain Sam Warburton was shown a controversial red card. Revenge was gained in this quarter-final, aided by Vahaamahina's dismissal, despite a lacklustre display.

France, underdogs in this contest after a poor 2019, used their aggression in defence early on to force Wales into errors and poor kick execution and that allowed them to capitalise with two quickfire tries in the opening 10 minutes.

The first came from a rolling maul five metres out to eventually force Vahaamahina over. Moments later Les Bleu showed their expansive running game, throwing the ball wide early in their own half and finding holes in the Wales defence to produce one of the tries of the tournament.

Vakatawa made a half break, feeding inside to Romain Ntamack, who shipped to Antoine Dupont and the scrum-half drew the final defender and released Ollivon through under the posts.

Warren Gatland's side were in danger of being blown out of the contest and the World Cup within the first quarter of this all northern hemisphere quarter-final and needed something quickly.

That came from Wainwright, as France lost possession on halfway due to a thumping tackle by Jake Ball on French captain Guilhem Guirado and the flanker picked up the loose ball on his toes and raced in from 50 metres out of nowhere to give his struggling side a lifeline.

Dan Biggar added the conversation and a later penalty to reduce the deficit to two points. But with centre Jonathan Davies forced out of the game 90 minutes before kick-off due to injury Wales were lacking creative spark.

It was the French that continued to show the greater attacking threat and when they stretched Wales out wide again it forced sub flanker Moriarty into a high tackle on Gael Fickou that resulted in 10 minutes in the sin bin.

France took full advantage with centre Vakatawa crashing over from the resulting penalty.

France began the second half like the first, well on top and causing the Welsh all kinds of problems. But then the moment of madness from Vahaamahina.

With France driving to the Welsh line, just metres out from their fourth score, the giant second rower delivered a deliberate elbow to the face of Wainwright and was rightly shown a red card, leaving his side to play the final 30 minutes with 14 men.

Biggar pulled three points back with the boot, but Wales had to wait until the final six minutes to truly make their advantage count.

With France under pressure on their scrum five metres from their own line replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams ripped the ball out of the grasp of the France flanker Ollivon and Moriarty went over.

There was more drama to come as the try was referred to the Television Match Official to see if the ripped ball had gone forward. It was 50/50 and the try was awarded to allow Biggar to convert from in front of the posts to give Wales the lead for the first time in the match.

It was a a lead they would not give up in the final five minutes and a broken French side could not muster any final chances to retake the led.

Wales will now play South Africa in next weekend's semi-final after the Springboks beat hosts Japan 26-3.


Match reaction

Warren Gatland admitted Wales were forced to draw upon their reserves of character to dig themselves out of trouble in a 20-19 World Cup quarter-final victory over France at Oita Stadium.

The Grand Slam champions trailed 12-0 at one stage and 19-10 at half-time but they capitalised on the 47th-minute dismissal of Sebastien Vahaamahina for an elbow on the head of Aaron Wainwright to spring their escape act.

Ross Moriarty scored the decisive try with six minutes remaining to leave France to lament Vahaamahina's brazen act of thuggery.

"Hats off to France because they were excellent and were very unlucky. They have definitely improved since the Six Nations," Gatland said.

"I'm very proud of our players because they never give up even when they're under a bit of pressure. They keep fighting and finding a way to get a result.

"The red card was significant but that sometimes galvanises teams as well. The last time we met in a World Cup it was very a similar score - that was a one-point game.

"We didn't play our best but we showed great character and that's testament to this group of men and now we can look forward to the semi-final.

"We're excited about where we are - the semi-final of a World Cup. (Captain) Alun Wyn Jones said it's 240 minutes to do something you'll remember for the rest of your life.

"We're down to 160 now. If you can't get excited about that then nothing will excite you."

Referee Jaco Peyper made one of the easiest decisions of his career by showing Vahaamahina a red card for his assault on Wainwright, which took place in full view of Oita Stadium.

The lock and opening try scorer spent the rest of the game unmoved sat on the bench with his hands on his head.

"The officials dealt with it appropriately. I don't think anyone could complain about that. The right decision was made," Gatland said.

"Rugby is heat of the moment stuff and he made an error of judgement. When you've got a lot of testosterone involved in some pretty high-intensity games, that will sometimes happen. He's made a poor decision."

Gatland revealed that number eight Josh Navidi limped off with a hamstring injury while centre Jonathan Davies was forced to withdraw from the starting XV before kick-off because of a knee problem.

"Josh Navidi has a hamstring but we don't know how severe it is. Jonathan wasn't far away from being right, he just made a made decision that was best for the team," Gatland said.

"We assessed him this (Sunday) morning and he wasn't 100 per cent. Hopefully over the next 48 hours he'll put himself in contention for the semi-final."

France boss Jacques Brunel endorsed Vahaamahina's dismissal and was more concerned by Wales' controversial match-winning try that saw the ball ripped from Les Blues hands before appearing to travel forwards to Justin Tipuric.

"The red card I don't contest - when you see the images it's very clear. He did have contact with the face so we can't deny that," Brunel said.

"Of course it changed the game. When you're playing half the match with 14 men it's difficult.

"I want to stress the quality and courage of our team because we had to make up for this numerical disadvantage.

"There are other decisions I'm not totally sure of. I would like to see the last try again because they grabbed the ball and it went forward. I would like to see that image again and I'm disappointed about it."

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