And now we have only eight. Twelve teams have now packed their bags and are on their way home, most expected to be making the trip right now, but some would have thought their visit to New Zealand would last at least a week longer. Here’s a quick rewind of the weekend’s games and how the final round of pool matches played out.
We had a sense an upset was coming. We’d had (perhaps ironically) Canada beating Tonga and Argentina over-coming the Scots, but they really weren’t major upsets, we were due a BIG one! And on Saturday night in Wellington we got it. When Tonga led at half-time by 13 to 6, we sensed something special was about to happen, rugby history was about to be made. The brave Tongans hung on, desperately at times, in the second forty minutes to close out a momentus 19 to 14 victory over the French. To say the French played within themselves is an under-statement, yet take nothing away from the Tongans, they went out determined to win and shut the French down. But like a cruel plot twist, France will progress to the quarter-finals and Tonga travel home, such is the way of sport, a lack of bonus points prevented them from making the quarters. In the other Pool A game, a rampant and Dan Carter-less New Zealand team over-whelmed a brave Canadian team by 79 points to 15.
After the excitement of the Wellington upset, Scottish fans hoped for a similar experience in Auckland in the final game on Saturday and for 76 minutes it looked as if they would cause the second upset of the day. But England’s winger Chris Ashton broke Scottish hearts when he scored in final minutes of the game, the scoreline finishing 16 – 12 to England. Only an unlikely Georgia victory over Argentina would see the Scots taking any further part in the World Cup. However Argentina ground out a 25 to 7 win to claim second spot in Pool B.
In a contrast to Pools A and B, nothing untoward occurred in Pool C. Australia over-whelmed the Russians and Ireland ran out easy winners in their clash with Italy. Ireland and Australia progress to the quarters, the rest fly home.
Pacific Island hearts were truly broken in this pool over the weekend, with Both Samoa and Fiji losing to South Africa and Wales respectively. Samoa pushed the South Africans close but South Africa did just enough to win 13 points to 5 and register four wins out of four to claim the pool. Wales followed up with a convincing win over Fiji, with a 66 to nothing rout.