Argentina fight back to break Wales hearts in Rugby World Cup quarter-final

Planet Rugby
Emiliano Boffelli kicking for Argentina against Wales.

Emiliano Boffelli kicking for Argentina against Wales.

Argentina booked their place in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals after they came from 10-0 down to beat Wales 29-17 at Stade de Marseille on Saturday.

In a gripping last-eight clash, it was Los Pumas who came out on top thanks to an impressive second half that saw them grab two tries among their 23 points.

Joel Sclavi and Nicolas Sanchez got their crossings while Emiliano Boffelli (16) and Sanchez (2) added points off the tee as they progress to the semi-finals.

Wales‘ tries came via Dan Biggar and Tomos Williams but their strong start to the game was undone late in the first half and the second 40 as they bow out.

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Wales’ defeat meant the end of Biggar’s international career, having announced in August that he would retire from the Test arena post-World Cup.

Prince George and the Prince of Wales, who is Welsh Rugby Union patron, cheered on Wales. It was the first time the youngster had watched an international sporting fixture in person overseas.

Argentina had struggled to qualify from their group, but they made a bright start in perfect conditions by stretching Wales’ defence.

Boffelli, though, missed a 30-metre penalty chance and Wales responded through some fluency of their own and a determination to free prolific try-scorer Louis Rees-Zammit in space.

Wales then broke the deadlock after 14 minutes when centre George North – playing in a Welsh record fourth World Cup quarter-final – made initial headway before Biggar crossed between the posts and converted his own try.

Jaco Peyper then left the action, appearing to suffer a calf muscle injury, with Englishman Karl Dickson taking the whistle.

There were also problems with Wales’ shirts, as several players saw numbers peel off the back, before Biggar restored a degree of calm with a long-range penalty that made it 10-0.

Anxiety had rippled through Welsh ranks when Biggar went down clutching his chest after tackling Santiago Chocobares, but he quickly resumed following treatment.

Wales’ problem area was the lineout, losing two on their own throw inside the opening 25 minutes, but Argentina could not take advantage with the Pumas making little headway following an impressive start.

Biggar then missed a penalty, but Boffelli was more accurate with successive kicks as the first half ended with Argentina on the attack and growing in confidence until an overtime brawl broke out with the Pumas just 10-6 behind.

Prior to Boffelli’s second successful strike, Wales wing Josh Adams was fortunate to avoid a yellow card for pushing over an Argentina player off the ball, and a half-time substitution saw hooker Dewi Lake replace Ryan Elias.

Argentina retained the initiative, and Boffelli completed a quickfire penalty hat-trick that send further warning signals to a Wales team that had temporarily lost its way.

But there was no stopping Boffelli as he then kicked a penalty from two metres inside his own half as Wales fell behind for the first time.

Williams made an instant impact after going on for Gareth Davies, splitting open Argentina’s defence on a weaving 25-metre run to the line, and Biggar’s conversion put Wales back in front, holding a five-point lead approaching the hour mark.

After Guido Petti’s let-off for making contact with Nick Tompkins’ head, Sclavi pounced following sustained pressure before Boffelli’s conversion put Argentina back in front and Wales were once again in trouble.

But Warren Gatland’s team threw everything at Argentina during the closing stages, with Rees-Zammit going desperately close to a try in the corner.

It was a breathless and frenzied finale – a suitable end to a memorable contest – before Sanchez intercepted Sam Costelow’s pass, Boffelli converted, Sanchez landed a penalty and Wales were out.

The teams

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 George North, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 Tommy Reffell, 6 Jac Morgan (c), 5 Adam Beard, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Gareth Thomas
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Dafydd Jenkins, 20 Christ Tshiunza, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Rio Dyer

Argentina: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Santiago Carreras, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Agustín Creevy, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Lautaro Bazan Velez, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Matías Moroni

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Karl Dickson (England), Andrea Piardi (Italy)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

READ MORE: Drama as injury forces referee change during Wales v Argentina Rugby World Cup quarter-final