Wales lose to clinical South Africa in first autumn Test

Jean de Villiers scored the first of three South African tries. Credit: PA

Wales were beaten 24-15 by a clinical South Africa side in the first game of the autumn internationals at the Millennium Stadium.

The hosts had more of the ball throughout the game, and played some exciting expansive rugby, but made mistakes at important moments.

The visitors took their chances to score three tries.

It was Warren Gatland's first game back as head coach, after leading the Lions to victory in Australia - but this result means Wales have still not beaten a leading southern hemisphere side since 2008.

Wales started strongly, with two breaks from centre Jonathan Davies leading to two penalties, kicked by Leigh Halfpenny.

South Africa showed what they are capable of in a devastating five-minute spell that brought two tries.

First, veteran winger Bryan Habana counter-attacked from deep, and broke free - before centre Jean de Villiers juggled the ball and touched down.

Habana burst through after attacking from behind his own 22-metre line. Credit: PA

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis then scored another try after a line-out for the visitors deep in Wales' 22.

Morne Steyn kicked the conversions and South Africa led 17-9.

Scarlets pair Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams were both forced off after being injured in the build-up to the first try.

Adam Jones then limped away, to make it three injuries for Wales within the first half-hour.

Wales fought their way back into contention before half-time, playing a free-flowing game with plenty of passing out of the tackle.

Halfpenny kicked two more penalties to reduce the deficit to 17-12 at the break.

Leigh Halfpenny kicked four first-half penalties for Wales. Credit: PA

Although Wales had played most of the rugby, South Africa were strong in the tackle, at the ruck and line-out, and had showed their potency in attack.

The opening minutes of the second half did not match the intensity of the first, with both sides making mistakes, conceding penalties and trading long kicks.

Leigh Halfpenny made it five from five, to bring Wales within two points after 55 minutes.

Irish referee Alain Rolland - infamous among Wales supporters for sending off captain Sam Warburton at the 2011 World Cup - then grew tired of scrums continually collapsing.

Rolland sent a prop from both sides: Gethin Jenkins and Coenie Oosthuizen - who had just come on to the field - to the sin bin.

With Adam Jones and Scott Andrews having already been injured, Wales did not have another prop to bring on, so the scrums became uncontested.

Pat Lambie's long penalty came up short on 60 minutes, and Wales then delivered a series of big tackles to rattle South Africa.

South Africa's physicality put them on top against Wales. Credit: PA

But the visitors then scored another clinical third try, to put themselves back in control.

Scrum half Fourie du Preez gathered a bouncing ball, and kicked into space.

Rhys Priestland was beaten to the ball, and centre Jaque Fourie fed du Preez to race clear.

Wales put real pressure on the South African try line for the first time after 70 minutes, after counter-attacking when two South Africans went for the same high ball.

They won a penalty in the visitors' 22, but lost the ball at the ruck and South Africa cleared.

George North came as close as anyone to the South African line, but Wales couldn't break through. Credit: PA

The visitors comfortably closed out the game to consign Wales to yet another defeat against a top southern hemisphere side.

Wales must now prepare for Argentina, Tonga and Australia again on coming Saturdays in Cardiff.