UNHAPPY VALLEYS; RUGBY WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL SOUTH AFRICA 23 WALES 19; Heartbreak for Wales as Boks end dream.
WARREN GATLAND'S warriors went out on their shields as the lush grass of Twickenham turned Springbok green and gold for the day when it could have been painted red.
But Gatland's men finished their World Cup with their heads held high, which is more than can be said of some of the blokes who normally play on this turf.
Wales made nearly 200 tackles and were in with a shout until South African scrum-half Fourie du Preez stuck the knife in with a try in the corner with four minutes left.
Wales had one more crack but there was nothing left in the locker and their World Cup was done and dusted.
Gatland said: "We were not good enough to win. South Africa did what South Africa do. They hung in there and got one chance and they took it. We are absolutely gutted but I am proud of the performance of my guys.
"They put their bodies on the line and emptied the tank. They did all we could ask from them but unfortunately we were just not good enough to hold on for 80 minutes."
It was carnage by the end with Wales' fly-half Dan Biggar being taken off with a head knock seconds before the Boks' devastating winner.
Biggar was fuming and did not want to go but Gatland had no complaints.
He said: "That is a medical call - it looked like he had got a bit of a knock and was a bit unsteady on his feet. We support the medical staff 100 per cent, there are no issues from the coaching staff."
Wales were up against history anyway. They had only beaten the Boks twice in 30 attempts since 1906 and their team hotel has looked like a casualty unit after closing time on a Saturday night in the last month as player after player has been crocked.
England would have lost this game by 20 points. Wales nearly won it.
You could hear some of the hits from the stands as the two teams smashed into each other - and mothers everywhere would have been hiding behind their sofas.
Gatland's half-time talk would have made interesting viewing even though his side were 13-12 up at the break. Wales gave away seven penalties in the first 30 minutes despite having referee Wayne Barnes in their ear about their play at the breakdown.
Gatland would have turned the air blue - four of those penalties had been landed by Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard - but skipper Sam Warburton got it sorted.
Warburton was brilliant - as good a back row as anything New Zealand have got. Jamie Roberts ran into a brick wall all afternoon and Biggar looked like he had come straight from the mythical Welsh number 10 factory. Dan Lydiate made 21 tackles - it was real bodies on the line stuff.
In the end the slightly bigger bodies won - but only just.
A moment of magic from Biggar had put Wales in front when he chased his own high kick, won the ball ahead of Bok full-back Willie le Roux and put Gareth Davies over to score on 18 minutes. Pollard knocked another one over but Biggar was better and with the last play of the half banged over a drop goal to give Wales hope.
It was X-rated rugby by then and all hands to the pump for Wales.
Biggar brought down Bryan Habana when he was in, Gareth Anscombe had a kick charged down but snuffed out the danger and Wales just kept on ear-tackling with Lydiate leading the rearguard action.
74 ght ack as a But when Biggar went off on 74 minutes South African number eight Duane Vermeulen peeled off the back of a scrum and fed Du Preez. It was a heartbreaker.
uts not Wales had plenty of heart and guts but, for once, raw courage was not going to be enough.
SCORERS AND PLAYER RATINGS
SOUTH AFRICA: Try: Du Preez Pens: Pollard, 5 Drop-goal: Pollard WALES: Try: Davies Con: Biggar Pens: Biggar, 3 Drop-goal: Biggar SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux 7; JP Pietersen 6, Jesse Kriel 7; Damien de Allende 7, Bryan Habana 8, Handre Pollard 8, Fourie du Preez 9; Tendai Mtawarira 7, Bismarck du Plessis 8, Frans Malherbe 7, Lodewyk de Jager 7, Eben Etzebeth 9, Francois Louw 8, Schalk Burger 8, Duane Vermeulen 8 REPLACEMENTS: Adriaan Strauss 7, Trevor Nyakane 6, Jannie du Plessis 7, Pieter-Steph du Toit 7, Willem Alberts 7, Pat Lambie 6, Jan Serfontein 7 WALES: Gareth Anscombe 8; Alex Cuthbert 7, Tyler Morgan 7, Jamie Roberts 8, George North 6; Dan Biggar 9, Gareth Davies 8; Gethin Jenkins 9, Scott Baldwin 8, Samson Lee 8, Luke Charteris 7, Alun Wyn Jones 9, Dan Lydiate 8, Sam Warburton 8, Taulupe Faletau 8 REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens 8, Paul James 7, Tomas Francis 6, Bradley Davies 6, Justin Tipuric 7, Lloyd Williams 7, Rhys Priestland 6, James Hook 6
CLINCHER: Du Preez and flanker Schalk Burger show their joy after the captain's late try had booked the Boks a place in the semi-finals
SPRING BACK Fourie Du Preez leaps over the despairing Alex Cuthbert for the try that broke Welsh hearts
SAD SAM Wales captain Warburton tries to hide his dejection at the end