The Australia v South Africa match was not the classic I presupposed. It was another one of those hard fought, dogged performances, with very little in attacking prowess. The Australians have to be pleased with, and applauded just the same, for their impenetrable defence; especially the likes of David Pocock, who had yet another indomitable game around the breakdown.
The match marked the end of the road for two of world rugby’s finest players, Victor Matfield and the South African captain, John Smit, as well as the resignation of South Africa’s coach, Peter de Villiers.
…played rather uncharacteristically substandard…
New Zealand, without their star man, Dan Carter, for the rest of the tournament, played rather uncharacteristically substandard in the first half against the ever-competitive Argentineans. However, the Auckland public were soon without disappointment as the All Blacks ran in a couple of tries after half-time. There were a few niggles, probably due to the loss of their No. 10 talisman, but with the way open for others to step up and take control of the game, the shortest player on the All Black team, did just that. Piri Weepu had been competing with the more mercurial, Jimmy Cowan, for the No.9 position, but on Sunday cemented his place with a game-defining display of masterful forward control and ball distribution, as well showing that it’s not only France who have talented kickers at scrum-half, scoring seven goals from seven attempts.
The injury of Colin Slade may signify another untimely blow to New Zealand’s World Cup powerhouse, but they are still the favourites, and with a spritely young fly half by the name of Aaron Cruden alongside some of the finest attacking rugby players the sport has ever seen, the match-up against Australia is set to be an unequivocally precocious affair.
…unable to obtain anything more than three points…
Well those faithful Irish came, once again, unstuck against an impassioned Wales side (and right after I’d tipped them to go all the way). They were the stronger team for much of the first half, but as has all too often become accustomed to the Irish side, they were unable to obtain anything more than three points for their struggles. That does not mean to say Wales were nothing more than fantastic, of which they were, racking up a total of 141 tackles in the face of the Irish onslaught, and altogether playing a more refined and more resplendent game of rugby. They seized their chances with fervour, scoring two corner touchdowns, and finishing off an attacking spell against a tired Irish defence, with a jinking run from centre, Jonathan Davies.
It is now for the Welsh to take on the reinvigorated French team, and for the Australians to overcome their highly talented, yet injury hit, neighbours.
Can the New Zealand juggernaut overcome the penultimate hurdle?
Images courtesy of Jimmy Cowan and the RWC