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October 21, 2019

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Springboks end Japan’s RWC hopes

South Africa broke Japanese hearts with a 26-3 quarterfinal victory yesterday to set up a Rugby World Cup semifinal against Wales, which needed a late try to scrape past 14-man France by a single point.

Japan showed its trademark pace and adventure in a promising first half, but it was worn down by the two-time world champion, which scored 21 unanswered points in the second period.

Defeat brought an end to Japan’s marvellous run, in which it stunned Ireland and Scotland en route to topping Pool A unbeaten and reaching the quarterfinals for the first time, rising to an all-time high of sixth in world rankings.

Rugby is far from the most popular sport in Japan, but fans have come out in numbers — and watched on TV in their millions — for the first World Cup held in Asia.

Yesterday’s results completed the semifinals line-up for this weekend, after defending champion New Zealand brushed aside Ireland to go on a collision course with England, which convincingly beat Australia.

In Tokyo, there were worrying signs for Japan when wing Makazole Mapimpi brushed off flyhalf Yu Tamura’s tackle to score in the corner in the third minute.

But fleet-footed Japan, dominating possession, was soon giving South Africa the run-around and Tamura got it on the board at 3-5 down after a surprising scrum penalty against the heavyweight Springboks pack.

Handling errors cost the Boks dear in a frustrating first half but it gradually tightened the screws after the break as Pollard kicked three penalties before Faf de Klerk and Mapimpi delivered late tries.

Earlier, Wales scrambled into the semifinals with a nail-biting 20-19 win over 14-man France, which carried strong echoes of their last World Cup meeting in 2011.

Ross Moriarty’s late try clinched it as Wales avenged its 2011 semifinal loss to France with a mirror-image result — after it also had a man sent off and lost by a point eight years ago.

Sebastien Vahaamahina saw red for his elbow to Aaron Wainwright’s face in a maul in the 49th minute, echoing then Wales captain Sam Warburton’s sending off in the 2011 semifinal, won 9-8 by France.


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