Argentina leave Wales shell-shocked as Warren Gatland's side crash out of World Cup

Argentina came back in the second period to leave Wales shell-shocked in Marseille
©Adam Pretty - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images

Wales tumbled out of the Rugby World Cup as a rallying second-half performance from Argentina saw them secure a 29-17 victory and place in the semi-finals.

In a first period which lacked any real accuracy, Wales found themselves 10-0 ahead thanks to a converted try and penalty from Dan Biggar but despite looking comfortable, Warren Gatland's side were only four points up at the break as Emiliano Boffelli responded from the tee.

The Argentina full-back extended his tally after the interval as Los Pumas moved 12-10 in front but Tomos Williams' timely response on 55 minutes nudged Wales' noses back ahead.

Wales might have felt aggrieved when Argentina second-row Guido Petti didn't receive a card for a shoulder to the head of Nick Tompkins, especially as Michael Cheika's charges retook the lead through Joel Sclavi shortly after.

Wales were now chasing the game and in doing so, their fate was sealed when Nicholas Sanchez intercepted Sam Costelow's pass to score from 40 metres out.

Having dictated the nature of this contest during the first half in Marseille, Wales will be scratching their heads as to how they lost this quarter-final after looking in command.

Many will point to the decision from referee Karl Dickson - who had to replace the original man in the middie Jaco Peyper who was injured in the first half - not to show a card to Petti, with Wales boss Gatland describing the officiating change as 'disruptive'.

“It probably didn’t help the referee getting injured. That was a little bit disruptive in terms of the game," Gatland said.

"We were 10-0 up, thinking that we could have taken a couple of the opportunities presented to us, and unfortunately we gave away a couple of soft penalties that allowed them to go in with a couple of those before half-time.

“It will be interesting to see what happens in terms of the feedback from the panel. If he felt that Nick had dropped his height, and said it wasn’t foul play…I’d need to go back and have a look at it. I probably feel it is at least a penalty situation.

"Then, on the back of that, we felt Dillon Lewis was on the ball for a significant amount of time before they ended up scoring their try as well. Sometimes those things happen in a game. Big moments can swing things. That’s just the way it is."

As for Argentina, they will face either Ireland or New Zealand next Friday in Paris - and expect a South American descent on the French capital. Their fans were brilliant.

After fast starts against both Fiji and Australia in the pool stages, Wales were looking for something similar here but it was Argentina who made the early in-roads.

Their first spell of pressure yielded a penalty opportunity for Boffelli who was off target, but the variety we had seen in Wales' attack earlier in the tournament would actually create the first try of this last-eight tie.

Half-backs Gareth Davies and Biggar linked up well and with George North also contributing, the Wales skipper was able to run in unopposed.

Wales were having a problem with their shirt numbers which seemed to be disintegrating off their backs, but there was no mistaking their try-scorer who celebrated in his usual, passionate manner on what proved to be his final international appearance. 

In all honesty though, Wales' first score was probably the most accurate sequence of play of the opening 40 with execution at a premium in this cagey affair.

North firing a pass into Josh Adams which bounced off his chest was a prime example of this because if the winger had collected the ball, he would have strolled home while Wales also couldn't capitalise on the space which Louis Rees-Zammit seemed to be constantly popping up in on the right wing.

Their line-out - which had been such a good attacking platform during this World Cup - also malfunctioned as Wales struggled to stamp some true authority on the game.

Nevertheless, Biggar was able to land a penalty to move his side 10-0 ahead and they seemed to be in control but after a lacklustre period for Argentina, the South Americans grew into the contest before the break.

Some territory - combined with indiscipline from Wales - provided Boffelli with a simple three points before a collision between Adams and Tomas Cubelli sparked outrage from the noisy Los Pumas supporters.

With the Argentina fans calling for a yellow card, Dickson's decision was just a penalty but the Wales winger could probably count himself a tad fortunate after putting his shoulder into the challenge.

That late rally from Los Pumas bled into the opening stages of the second period as Boffelli added a third penalty and it was quickly followed by a fourth from just over halfway.

This was the first time Wales had found themselves behind since their opening game of the tournament and with the nerves increasing, who would be next to strike?

The passionate Argentine fans were making a racket but soon it was 'Hymns and Arias' ringing around the magnificent Stade Velodrome as replacement scrum-half Williams sniped his way over from 20 metres to score under the posts. Biggar's simple conversion nudged his side five points in front.

Argentina regathered themselves but their instant territory gain looked to be in vain when Petti led with his shoulder into the head of Tompkins at a ruck inside the Wales 22.

However, it was only deemed a penalty by Dickson - while Tompkins went off for a HIA - and Argentina made sure they capitalised on their field position as replacement prop Sclavi finally found a way through the red defensive wall.

The tension was now palpable with Wales trying to work their way back into the contest, but the sucker punch was delivered by Sanchez who intercepted just inside the Wales half to seal Los Pumas' place in the last four.

"I have come to this tournament with different draws at different times," Argentina boss Chieka said post-match. "When I say the draw I mean who you play first, second etc, etc. I felt like we had a light prep [before England in their opening pool stage game which they lost] because we know what our squad looks like. In the build-up, we didn't play a lot of games.

"We knew the first game would be a bit rough from us. We learned a lot because there was a lot of first-time World Cuppers in there. I think they learned a lot from that game in terms of handling what is knock-out footy in what wasn't knock-out footy - every game since has been knock-out.

"All that work you put in as a foundation is what you bank on in this tournament. You have got to look at it with your playing roster, the team you are going to play, what the turnaround time is and just try and plan it out so it works to get a bit of flow. One thing the team has always got is lots of fight. 

"A semi-final won't be the end, that's what I am expecting. That sounds pretty obvious but teams who are playing in Paris look to be already in the semi-finals and finals. In a couple of days we will start to prepare ourselves. We are happy but that is not the final step, we want to go further."