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.
World Cup 2011 Pool Phase Wrapup
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.
Peter de Villiers makes changes for Namibia
Team depth is always an asset in any sport and Peter de Villiers knows this well, so he must be pretty happy to be able to replace winger JP Pietersen with a player of Bryan Habana’s quality. Other changes to the Fijian-demolishing 15 include Francois Hougaard starting at scrum-half, who played a blinder as sub last weekend, winger Gio Aplon, Willem Alberts and prop CJ Van der Linde. De Villiers injury list includes Victor Matfield, Johann Muller, Jean de Villiers and Butch James.
via BBC Sport
What a great weekend it was to open up the 2011 Rugby World Cup with. Who could have predicted that the so-called minnows of the tournament would have pushed the larger teams so hard? But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look back to Friday night and the opening game of the 2011 Rugby World Cup between New Zealand, our hosts, and their local Pacific Island rivals in Tonga.
After the smoke from the amazing opening ceremony fireworks had cleared we were treated to the unusual sight of double haka, with the Tongans performing their own version of the New Zealand haka. And then the games began!
Openside’s Game of the Weekend – South Africa v Wales
South Africa 24 Wales 20
Whilst the rugby world will be firmly focused on Auckland and the opening game between New Zealand and Tonga on Friday night, we reckon if you’re looking for another game to check out then you should look no further than Sunday’s clash between South Africa and Wales in Wellington. The Openside Predictor gives this game to the Springboks but by only a four point margin, 24 to 20. Now the predictor may be skewed by recent SA results when they fielded a ‘B team’ during the Tri Nations but they will definitely be without Bakkies Botha and possibly Victor Matfield for their opening game. This may offer the Welsh a great opportunity to knock over the reigning world champions. The Welsh team will also be upbeat after defeating Six Nations champions England in, admittedly, a recent warm-up game.
Unfortunately history is not on the side of the Welsh, with their last (and only!) victory against the Sprongboks coming back in 1999 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. In the last three games, albeit on Welsh soil, the biggest South African winning margin was 5 points. So at some point something’s gotta give and what a better time than the World Cup?
So if you’ve got a free couple of hours on Sunday and looking for a great game of rugby then check out this Pool D game and see if the Red Dragons can finally get a victory against the Boks.