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Superb Wales fall agonisingly short

Wales suffered Rugby World Cup heartbreak after captain Sam Warburton was sent off in a controversial and dramatic 9-8 semi-final defeat to France.

Warren Gatland's men played for over an hour with 14 men after Warburton was dismissed for a dangerous tackle and they came agonisingly close to victory. Mike Phillips' try brought them back from 9-3 down to within a point before Leigh Halfpenny's halfway-line penalty slid just under the crossbar.

Wales threw everything they had at France but they could not create the opportunity for Stephen Jones to take a attempt a late drop goal. France were poor but Morgan Parra landed all three of his penalty attempts while James Hook missed two and Jones failed with his conversion attempt.

Warburton's dismissal was the talking point of the match and referee Alain Rolland was booed from the stands and widely criticised for his decision. But the Irish referee applied the letter of the law after Warburton had tipped Clerc in the tackle and 14-man Wales had to battle for 62 minutes as a result.

Hook landed the kick from near the left touchline to give Wales an early lead but they then suffered the first of two hammer blows when Adam Jones, one of the best props in the competition, limped off after just nine minutes. Paul James replaced him and immediately the Welsh scrum drew a penalty but Hook slipped as he struck the ball and pulled his kick wide.

Wales had dealt with the loss of Adam Jones - but their promising start was punctured when Warburton was shown red. The decision was greeted by boos. France drew level with Parra's penalty before Hook's clearance kick was charged down but Wales were defending heroically and a crunching tackle from North on Maxime Mermoz forced the knock on.

Parra nudged France into the lead after Hook had missed a second penalty. Wales refused to roll over with Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate leading the charge but Hook scuffed a drop goal attempt just before the interval.

Stephen Jones was sent on for Hook after 45 minutes as Wales continued to sap up the French pressure and were eventually penalised for dragging down a maul. Parra extended the lead to 9-3 but Stephen Jones' raking clearance and a strong chase earned Wales a prime attacking platform.

Jamie Roberts and then Faletau carried Wales forward before Phillips attacked the blindside, beating both French locks to score and bring Wales storming right back into the game.

Wales dominated the final 10 minutes, but Stephen Jones fluffed a drop-goal attempt and Leigh Halfpenny fell inches short with a penalty from halfway, before one final, relentless 25-phase assault failed to produce the score required.


From Belfast Telegraph