What a great weekend of international rugby we had! Great to see teams playing at 100% intensity with everything on the line. We’ll start with a couple of bizarre facts from the weekend, only one winning team, New Zealand, had a 100% record in the pool phase. Looks like losing a game in the pool phase may not be a bad thing after all. Three of the four teams left in the tournament are coached by New Zealanders, Graham Henry, Warren Gatland and Robbie Deans. Anyway back to the games and first up we had the Celtic clash between Ireland and Wales in the capital city, Wellington.
Wales 22 Ireland 10 (23-18)
Wales’ recent ranking improvement appeared to have been justified as three tries from JJV Davies, Phillips and SM Williams were more than enough to see off the challenge from the Irish. Only Earls dotted down for the Emerald Isle as the Dragons continue their great form in the 2011 World Cup. Will this be the World Cup where Wales take the rugby world by storm? Next up they face northern rivals France.
France 19 England 12 (19-25)
Well the Openside Predictor got this match totally wrong with a predicted England victory. It was third time lucky for coach Livremont playing Parra at number 10 when after two losses, the French dominated England to take the match by 19 points to 12. Both teams scored a couple of tries but it was two penalties by Yachvili and a drop goal from Trinh-Duc that nudged the French ahead.
Australia 11 South Africa 9
If you just saw the Quade Cooper highlights from this game, you could have reasonably assumed that South Africa had taken this game easily. But somehow Cooper’s teammates covered his errant kicking, handling and tackling to beat the Springboks in what was the game of the weekend in terms of excitement if not skill. Australian captain Horwill scored the only try with great Australian defence denying any tries for Souith Africa.
New Zealand 33 Argentina 10 (40-10)
Tries from Read and Thorn and a great kicking performance from Weepu ensured that Argentina never really had a look-in in the final quarter-final. Whilst the All Blacks were not firing on all cylinders they easily overcame the Pumas and still look good to capture the World Title for only the second time despite numerous injuries to key players.