|The moment that changed France-Wales|
In this first Semi, Wales looked the better of the two teams early on, as both teams were having a helluva time with the wet ball. It affected the handling and even the kicking game-James Hook missed a penalty when his plant foot slipped under him, and the kick would sail just wide right. He did convert an earlier penalty that had Wales up 3-0.
In the 18th minute, the young Welsh Captain Sam Warburton followed through on a tackle of French wing Vincent Clerc by picking the French wing up in the air and off his feet and Clerc's head hit the ground first. In judo it would have been a match-winning ippon. In rugby, it's a very dangerous tackle-the perfect marriage of the speedy Clerc running into the bigger and stronger Welsh flanker. Irish referee Alain Rolland did not hesitate for a second. A red card to Warburton at this early stage of the game changed it: Gone was the Welsh leader, a very good player, and a forward. This would have affect the Welsh scrum against the French.
I thought at this point that the rout would be on. No way would Wales be able to stay close to the French. I was wrong.
To have called the Welsh heroic for their play while being a man down for 62 minutes against a talent-laden French side would be an understatement. France put themselves into position late in the first half to threaten with tries, and yet, the Welsh went into the locker-room at half-time down only 6-3, courtesy of the boot of Morgan Parra-who would add one more penalty in the second half to make it 9-3.
The French seemed content to kick the ball for territory. Some of their kicking seemed aimless. With a man advantage, the French seemed like they were playing not to lose rather than playing to win. I cannot think of the last time I saw a XV de France play that way. It almost bit France in the ass.
Welsh scrum half Mike Phillips took advantage of some rare possession in French territory to score a cheeky try. The conversion failed, but Wales was, incredibly, very much in the game.
Late in the game, a penalty(I thought a harsh one) against Nicolas Mas gave Leigh Halfpenny( who was simply brave and adroit fielding all of the high balls lobbed at him) a chance to hit a penalty from midfield. The gutsy fullback's kick came just under the bar. From another 1-2 meters in, it would have made it.
I think people watching this game have to be thinking a couple of things. Wales showed incredible heart by playing 3/4 of a semifinal a man down against a talented side, and coming THIS close to still winning. France, on the other hand, now becomes the first team with two losses in group play to ever make a RWC final. The French seemed unusually afraid to take the game by the scruff of the neck and make it their game. If Australia won ugly against the Springboks last weekend, this game was an even uglier win for France-but they are still going to the final to play the winner of Sunday's All-Blacks-Wallabies game.
Part of the reason that a sport like rugby is such a great game is that it does mirror life: you have to deal with setbacks, and that sometime, life is just not fair. The Welsh were gallant losers. The French unsympathetic winners. I think that's the shortest way you can paraphrase this semi-final.
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