Wales 17-29 Argentina: Los Pumas fight back to send Wales out of Rugby World Cup
Joel Sclavi's converted 68th-minute score was followed by an intercept try from Nicolas Sanchez to send Argentina into next week's World Cup semis.; Warren Gatland: "We're all gutted about that as it slipped away from us, but you've got to take learnings"
Last Updated: 15/10/23 7:19am
Argentina scored two late tries to break Welsh hearts in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a 29-17 win in Marseille.
Joel Sclavi's converted 68th-minute score was followed by an intercept try from Nicolas Sanchez to send the South Americans into next week's semis.
Wales are left to reflect letting slip a golden opportunity to reach the last four, having led 10-0 after 22 minutes with all those points coming from Dan Biggar, whose Test career is now over.
They also led midway through the second half after Tomos Williams' try had put them back in front, but Argentina's dominance in the final 15 minutes proved decisive and they will now face New Zealand in next Friday's semi-final in Paris.
As for Wales, a changing of the guard looms with Biggar ending a decorated international career just months after a number of stalwarts including Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric hung up their Test boots.
Score summary: Wales 17-29 Argentina
Wales - Tries: Biggar (14), T Williams (57). Cons: Biggar (15, 58). Pens : Biggar (22)
Argentina - Tries: Sclavi (68), Sanchez (77). Cons: Boffelli (69, 78) Pens: Boffelli (39, 40, 44, 48), Sanchez (80).
- Rugby World Cup: Wales vs Argentina as it happened
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Story of the game
Biggar spoke during the week of his determination to ensure Saturday's game was not his last in a Wales shirt.
That sentiment was evident in a commanding, tempo-setting first-half display from the fly-half, whose purposeful carrying was crucial in driving his team upfield.
Wales' opening score came in the 14th minute as they played quickly off a scrum to create space on the right. George North found space for a half-break before offloading to Gareth Davies on the inside, who fed Biggar a simple pass for an easy run-in.
He converted his own try before adding three more from the tee as Wales capitalised on a high Argentina penalty count.
Wales' dominance on the scoreboard was built on a foundation of solid defence, having only allowed Argentina into their 22 once during the opening 30 minutes; conceding a penalty which Boffelli sent wide.
However in the final throes of the half, Argentina began to assert themselves and got on the scoreboard through a simple Emiliano Boffelli penalty, before a needless late hit from Josh Adams invited the Argentina kicker to slot over his second and bring his side to within four points of Wales at half-time.
Having appeared disjointed and largely unthreatening for much of the opening 40, Argentina were buoyed by their late first-half recovery and carried that momentum into the second period.
Welsh discipline twice faltered early after the break allowing Boffelli to kick two more penalties and put Argentina ahead.
Wales needed a spark, and it came through replacement scrum-half Williams who, just seven minutes after coming off the bench to replace Davies, darted through a gap to sprint unopposed beneath the posts and put his side back in front.
Referee Karl Dickson, promoted to referee in the first half when Jaco Peyper came off with an Achilles injury, had a big call to make in the minutes before Sclavi's decisive score when Argentina second-row Guido Petti made contact with the head of Nick Tompkins going into a ruck; with the referee ruling there was no foul play given Tompkins was falling, despite Welsh protestations.
Four minutes later Wales trailed as Sclavi drove over and Boffelli converted to make it 19-17.
Wales pushed for a score to go back ahead and nearly had it when Rio Dyer broke free and released Louis Rees-Zammit who dove for the line, but was brilliantly tackled into touch by Matias Moroni.
The result was in the balance until the 77th-minute, when Sanchez picked off Sam Costelow's pass to race in and spark wild Argentina celebrations at Stade Velodrome.
Controversy over head-contact call
Referee Karl Dickson and TMO Marius Jonker agreed that Argentina's Guido Petti had committed no foul play in making contact to the head of Wales centre Nick Tompkins as they entered a ruck in the 64th minute.
Dickson: "The player is falling as he is releasing, and the player falls into him. I'm at no foul play, he comes into the breakdown legally and the player falls down.
"On field at the moment we're at no foul play, because I called tackle then the player falls significantly, the blue player is bent at the waist and comes in legally. Do you see anything different?"
Jonker: "No I don't see anything different but I think it's important you explain this and I'm with you on this."
Wales head coach Warren Gatland clearly disagreed with the decision but was measured in his post-match analysis of the incident.
Gatland: "It will be interesting to see the feedback on that [Petti] challenge. I thought it was at least a penalty.
"I also thought Dillon Lewis was on the ball before they scored. Those big moments can swing things in big matches.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens with the feedback from the panel. If he feels Nick has dropped his height, I need to go back and look at it. I felt it was a penalty."
Gatland: Wales gutted but won't go backwards
Wales head coach Warren Gatland
"We're all gutted about that as it slipped away from us, but you've got to take learnings.
"How do we improve? We probably played a little too much rugby around halfway and needed to be more conservative.
"How do we take those learnings away from this? I'm incredibly proud of the work these players have put in. We've made some really good strides. We don't want to go backwards. That's a good challenge to accept."
Cheika: Argentina players wanted to fight
Argentina head coach Michael Cheika
"These players are such good people without getting too emotional. I think their hard work showed at the end of the game - they wanted to fight, they wanted to earn it."
Can you go all the way?
"I don't know if we'll go for sweeping statements yet but we'll wait and see - we are just thrilled to be going to Paris, we haven't had a taste of it in this World Cup.
"I know that we'll be heavily not favoured for that game obviously, but we'll give it our best."
Argentina will now play New Zealand on Friday October 20 at the Stade de France.
England face Fiji while hosts France meet South Africa on Sunday, with the winners of those games meeting next Saturday in Paris in the second semi-final.