France edges Wales out of Rugby World Cup


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The Independent Online

France squeaked into the Rugby World Cup final with a thrilling 9-8 win over a Wales side which threatened a miracle after its inspirational captain Sam Warburton was sent off on Saturday.

Wales looked to have buried itself when Warburton picked up France winger Vincent Clerc and dropped him dangerously in the 18th minute, while leading 3-0. Irish referee Alain Rolland gave him an immediate red card, and just as quickly the muted crowd's sympathies swung to Wales.

The Welsh gave the 58,629 in attendance plenty to cheer in Eden Park, with a terrific defense that forced 11 handling errors, held in the scrums and, more importantly, stayed in touch with France on the scoreboard.

"It was always going to be tough after the sending off. But we gave our all to the end," said stand-in captain Gethin Jenkins.

Four years ago, France held the exact same lead against England, until Jonny Wilkinson landed a penalty and a dropped goal in the final six minutes to dash French hopes.

Wales even scored the only try to scrumhalf Mike Phillips, whose decisive score also ended Ireland hopes in the quarterfinals. But they barely missed two chances to grab the lead, when replacement flyhalf Stephen Jones' conversion glanced off the left post, and fullback Leigh Halfpenny's penalty attempt from the halfway line just fell under the crossbar.

France, which got all its points from Morgan Parra's three penalty goals, held on and will meet the winner of Sunday's semifinal between New Zealand and Australia.

The final will be France's third, and by curious coincidence they're 12 years apart: 1987, 1999 and 2011. The Tricolores hardly featured in both finals, however, with heavy losses to the All Blacks in the first and the Wallabies in the second.