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Wales see off South Africa to finish Autumn Test series in the right manner

Published 26/11/2016

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny excelled with the boot.
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny excelled with the boot.

Wales posted only a third victory over South Africa in 110 years as they ended their autumn Test series in winning fashion at the Principality Stadium.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked 17 points, while hooker Ken Owens and flanker Justin Tipuric crossed for second-half tries, giving Wales a record 27-13 triumph against the Springboks.

But while it was another Wales performance that by and large failed to hit the heights, they still ended the November schedule with three wins from four starts, equalling their previous-best 75 per cent winning return of 2002.

Springboks fly-half Elton Jantjies booted a penalty double, while Pat Lambie converted flanker Uzair Cassiem's late try on his Test debut - but South Africa were left reeling from an eighth Test defeat in 2016 under beleaguered head coach Allister Coetzee.

Seven days after being beaten by Italy in Florence, the Springboks again came up short, and it is hard to imagine how Coetzee can continue in his post when South Africa resume international duty next year.

Wales, though, can reflect on three November wins for a first time in 14 years when they saw off Romania, Fiji and Canada.

Interim head coach Rob Howley, at the helm while Warren Gatland builds towards next year's British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, has come under fire for Wales' perceived lack of flair, yet results suggest that Wales are in reasonable shape buiding towards next February's RBS 6 Nations opener against Italy in Rome.

South Africa made all the initial running, dominating early territory through the attacking work of centres Francois Venter and debutant Rohan Janse van Rensburg, and they deservedly went ahead when Jantjies struck a seventh-minute penalty.

Wales were slow out of the blocks in comparison, but they drew level five minutes later when Halfpenny found his range from two metres inside South Africa's half, and he maintained his 100 per cent record through two further strikes in three minutes.

South Africa were their own worst enemies, transgressing in open play, and French referee Romain Poite did not require a second invitation to punish them.

Jantjies cut the gap through an angled penalty, but Halfpenny made it four penalties from four attempts eight minutes later, taking Wales 12-6 clear, which was the final scoreline against South Africa two years ago.

There was little to enthuse the crowd in terms of attacking rugby, and perhaps their biggest cheer was reserved for half-time when it was announced that 61 times-capped number eight Taulupe Faletau had come on for his first autumn appearance after recovering from a serious knee injury.

Halfpenny was the one constant in Wales' performance, and another penalty made it 15-6 before the home forwards drove South Africa relentlessly back inside their own 22, and Scarlets forward Owens powered over from close range.

South Africa, with four Test debutants in their starting line-up, seemingly had no answer to a 14-point deficit, offering next to nothing in attack as Wales comfortably closed out the game.

They did, though, deliver a try 11 minutes from time when Cassiem crashed over from close range, with Lambie's successful conversion meaning that Wales could not completely switch off.

But they still had ammunition left in the tank, and Tipuric finished off in style two minutes from time with a try that Halfpenny converted, making it a 14-point winning margin.

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