Wales v South Africa
Wales got off to a great start, keeping the ball alive and passing behind the perceived front receivers. They recognised that the likes of Schalk Burger were waiting to be given the opportunity to smash a red jersey. This led to an early chance with an overlap on the right hand touchline. Sadly for Wales, the crucial last pass went in to touch. Dan Biggar’s ability to fearlessly rise high and collect his own kicks, continued to keep Wales on the front foot for large periods in the first half.
South Africa to their credit managed to win crucial kickable penalties at the breakdown. It may not have been pretty but in the 2nd half they held on to the ball in Wales’ half. The one moment that separated the teams resulted from turning over a turnover! It’s probably what SA needed, to put 16 players out of the game at the resultant scrum. Momentarily remove the defensive capabilities of the Welsh backrow and Alun Wyn-Jones. The scrum wheeled left, Duane Vermeulen picked up, drew in Lloyd Williams and Alex Cuthbert, before releasing Fourie Du Preez. Vermeleulen’s offload was a brilliant piece of skill.
Despite the loss, Wales’ heroic defence by fronting up to tackle, wave after wave of big South African ball carriers was courageous.
Argentina v Ireland
Ireland got off to the worst possible start. To be fair, this was down to the performance of Argentina. They attacked the Irish breakdown, securing turnovers and winning penalties by attacking with pace and width. They isolated bigger Irish forwards in the wide channel, taking their tries with clinical ease. At 17 – 0 after 13 minutes, the game was all but over. Well at least that’s what it looked like.
The sin binning of Ramiro Herrera started the Irish revival. They upped their tempo, ball retention and more importantly, made their way on to the scoreboard. There is no coincidence that they got greater success by attacking in a wider channel, away from the big hits and the hotly contested breakdown. The momentum continued to flow in Ireland’s favour and the come back of the tournament was definitely on. As Ian Madigan lined up a challenging long range penalty, to potentially level the score, the momentum was with Ireland. Surely, the game was theirs?
This became the turning point for Argentina who took control of the match and blew away the Irish dreams
New Zealand v France
New Zealand dismissed the romance that France could be their bogey team. They were extremely clinical from the first whistle and played at an incredible pace. Every player is comfortable with the ball in hand and the interplay between backs and forwards never allowed the French defence to settle. In Dan Carter they have a man who makes all the correct calls and executes with ease and accuracy.
Scotland v Australia
The tournament itself reached a historic moment during this match, with over 2 million spectators having watched RWC 2015. With the hopes of the Northern Hemisphere resting on the shoulders of Scotland, they looked to have pulled off a great upset when Mark Bennett intercepted to take them 2 points ahead with 6 minutes left on the clock. The ricochet of a ball can be cruel and none more so for Australia’s winning penalty. With Brendan Foley’s earlier success rate, it was not guaranteed but he did step up and decide the outcome.
It is hard to believe that New Zealand will not make the final after such a comprehensive performance. Argentina were great in the first and last 15 minutes but I believe Australia will take the 2nd slot. Australia have the attacking flair to challenge them in the wide channels and will learn from Sunday’s fixture to finish off a game, in knockout rugby.