Wales suffered another agonising defeat against a southern hemisphere superpower as a late penalty try gave South Africa a series-clinching victory in the second Test at Mbombela Stadium.
The tourists were denied a first win over their hosts on Springbok soil when full-back Liam Williams’ thunderous challenge was deemed to have illegally prevented South Africa wing Cornal Hendricks scoring in the corner. The hosts needed the conversion too, but the award of the penalty try moved the kick to in front of the posts and made Morne Steyn’s critical shot at goal a foregone conclusion to ensure Victor Matfield’s record 112th Springbok cap ended with a win.
It was hard on a Welsh side transformed from their abject first Test performance, with Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau and Gethin Jenkins putting in Herculean shifts. Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert and Ken Owens scored tries, with Dan Biggar kicking 15 points. South Africa ended with two penalty tries, scores from Hendricks and Willie le Roux, as well as 11 points from Steyn’s boot.
Having been caught cold in the first 25 minutes last week, Wales quickly opened up a 17-0 lead. Biggar slotted a penalty before Roberts ploughed over after Cuthbert’s break.
The Cardiff Blues wing was at it again moments later, breaking tackles and finishing off a patient build-up from the visitors. South Africa had barely tested Wales, but a series of rolling mauls got them back in the game. The first ended with a yellow card for Luke Charteris, and the third brought the first penalty try and another yellow card for Biggar.
From the kick-off JP Pietersen slashed through the Wales defence and linked with Le Roux to send Hendricks over out wide. It meant the Boks trailed by just three at the break but, once back to a full side, Wales responded with their third try. Dan Lydiate and Jones battered away, before Owens tumbled through Duane Vermeulen to dot down.
Steyn and Biggar exchanged penalties before South Africa lock Flip van der Merwe was sent to the sin bin for taking Jones out in the air as the Ospreys lock fielded a restart.
Wales looked comfortable and one powerful shove earned another penalty which Biggar knocked over to put them 13 points up with 15 minutes to go. That should have been that, but Le Roux glided between Jonathan Davies and Ken Owens to slide over.
Then, with barely two minutes to play, came Williams’ challenge and Biggar could not find the mark with two last-gasp long-range drop goal attempts.
South Africa: W Le Roux; C Hendricks, JP Pietersen, J Serfontein (W Olivier, 74), B Habana; M Steyn, F Du Preez; T Mtawarira (G Steenkamp, 67), B du Plessis (S Brits, 26), J du Plessis (C Oosthuizen, 59), F Van der Merwe (L De Jager, 46-50), V Matfield, F Louw, W Alberts (S Burger, 18), D Vermeulen.
Wales: L Williams; A Cuthbert, J Davies, J Roberts, G North; D Biggar, M Phillips; G Jenkins (P James, 64), K Owens (M Rees, 64), S Lee (A Jarvis, 51), L Charteris (J Ball, 64), AW Jones, D Lydiate, J Turnbull, T Faletau.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Aus).