Wales beats South Africa 22-20 in rugby test in US
WASHINGTON (AP) — Wales pounced for an opportunist try with five minutes to go to beat South Africa 22-20 in their rugby test in the United States on Saturday.
Replacement hooker Ryan Elias dived on a loose ball after a charge down for the winning score to give Wales a third straight victory over the Springboks and first ever outside of Cardiff.
Wales had blown a 14-3 halftime lead to trail 20-17 late in the game at RFK Stadium in Washington. Wales led through tries by fullback Hallam Amos and scrumhalf Tomos Williams on his test debut. Those scores came in the space of three first-half minutes and after an opening half-hour full of errors from both sides.
Rain, a slippery ball, and a greasy surface didn’t help and Wales adapted marginally better in a scrappy first 40.
The Springboks — playing under new coach Rassie Erasmus for the first time and with 13 players making their debuts — came back strongly in the second half with wings Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi crossing for tries in their first tests.
Replacement flyhalf Robert du Preez kicked South Africa into the lead with six minutes to go, but had two clearing kicks charged down in a matter of seconds soon after, resulting in Elias’ game-deciding try in the 75th minute.
The try was slightly freakish.
Du Preez didn’t learn his lesson from the first charge down, when South Africa managed to scramble and secure possession again. His next attempt at clearing the danger from behind his tryline was also charged by a Welsh player, and the ball rebounded off the head of Ismaiel then free for Elias to fall on and win the game.
The win will give Warren Gatland’s team a boost ahead of a two-test series in Argentina, when Wales should revert to a full-strength lineup.
South Africa was even more understrength in Washington, with Erasmus choosing to leave almost all of his first-choice players at home to prepare for a three-test series against England, starting next Saturday.
Instead, Erasmus fielded a team with seven players on debut in the starting lineup and another six coming off the bench for their first caps.
One of those was flyhalf du Preez, who is the fourth member of his family to play for the Springboks after his father and his two brothers.
His first job was to kick a simple penalty straight after coming on to push South Africa 20-17 ahead after its second-half comeback, a minute before twice failing with what should have been routine clearances.