South Africa 17-16 Wales, Rugby World Cup, September 11
Welsh devastated by defeat
ESPNscrum Staff
September 11, 2011

James Hook admitted that he and his Wales team-mates had been left heartbroken by the nature of their 17-16 defeat by South Africa in an enthralling Pool D clash in Wellington on Sunday.

Wales found themselves seven points adrift after just three minutes of play, following a converted try from Frans Steyn, but they responded brilliantly to their early setback and a brace of penalties from Hook brought them back into the game before No.8 Toby Faletau touched down during a storming third quarter from Warren Gatland's troops to edge them 16-10 ahead.

However, the Springboks rallied late on and nicked a scarcely deserved win courtesy of a try from Francois Hougaard. Wales' players were left visibily devastated by the outcome of the game and Hook admitted that the defeat was tough to take.

"We're bitterly disappointed," the versatile Wales back told ITV1. "We came so close. We were quite confident all week but we came up just short. We played really well and we didn't quite get the victory and in a tournament like this, it's all about getting the win."

There were many positives for Wales on the day, not least the performance of Faletau, who really took the game to the Springboks during the second half.

"Toby's a fantastic player - he's only 20 years old but he's just getting better and better," Hook said of the dynamic back-row.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland was just as disappointed by the loss after seeing fly-half Rhys Priestland botch what looked like an easy drop goal opportunity before Hook sent a late penalty attempt wide of the posts.

"I'm proud of the effort the players put in but we didn't win the game," the New Zealander said. "We put ourselves in with a chance to win but I think we weren't quite good enough.

"The players will be devastated but we had a chance - a drop goal in front of the posts, Hooky had a penalty. "It's all about competing at the highest level and that's just the little half a percent we've got to learn from."

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