Finally the Rugby World Cup kicked off! Here is my review of the weekend’s Rugby World Cup action and scores from the major domestic leagues.
Rugby World Cup
England 35 – 11 Fiji
Tonga 10 – 17 Georgia
Ireland 50 – 7 Canada
South Africa 32 – 34 Japan
France 32 – 10 Italy
Samoa 25 – 16 USA
Wales 54 – 9 Uruguay
New Zealand 26 – 16 Argentina
6 from 8, I don’t think anyone picked Japan and I thought Georgia would be undercooked.
It’s always a shame when the officials are the biggest topic of conversation after a game. The TMO took up a lot of time and also reversed a try that had already been given. I remember hearing Nigel Owens on Brian Moore’s radio show saying that the ref could reverse the decision as long as the conversion wasn’t taken. I only hope that all sides get the same support from the big screen in the stadiums. England started brightly with a line out maul that led to a penalty try and yellow card for Fiji. It always feel harsh to give both punishments. England then were able to take advantage of the sin bin to add another try. Fiji pulled back a try before halftime and if it wasn’t for 8 points missed with the boot would have had England under a lot more pressure. The England bench came on and helped England pull away in the last ten minutes with a second try from Brown and a Vunipola try at the death to earn the TBP win. It wasn’t a good performance though with both sides defence on top and attacks misfiring. Both sides will be looking to improve but Fiji have a quick turnaround before facing Australia.
As predicted the Tonga v Georgia game was a contrast of styles. Tonga had the possession and territory but Georgia were well very well prepared and tackled their hearts out. It wasn’t just an emotional effort but a very well planned game that con tainted Tonga. Georgia did get two tries but the story was their 201 tackles and only missing 16 where as Tonga only made 48 and missed 14. But Tonga’s set piece both scrum and line out were under pressure for the entire game making it difficult for them to get a platform to play off.
Ireland wrapped up an easy win over Canada and did the right thing by building the win through the forwards. The TBP was in the bag before halftime and whilst it went quiet in the second half they picked things up again in the last 15 minutes with the bench players.
The biggest upset in the history of the Rugby World Cup or of rugby ever? Not sure but it certainly ranks up there. Japan took an early lead and after that the lead kept swapping back and forth until South Africa had a 2 point lead at halftime. Again the lead switched one way then the other before things were evened up with about half an hour to go. South Africa pulled ahead only for Japan to pull back and then it happened again. As time wore on the possibility of an upset just grew and grew. South Africa got 3 points ahead with 8 minutes to go. Japan pounded away at the line and had the opportunity to kick for a draw, but called for a scrum instead! Eventually they created the opening and scored in the corner and ignite this World Cup.
France continued their recent style of kicking themselves to a lead of 15-3 at half time. In the second half the offloads stuck and they scored a try. Italy pulled one back but even though they never looked like winning they were on top of both the possession and territory stats. France dominated the scrums and made sure when they did infringe it wasn’t within kicking distance. After four years of not performing France are suddenly looking like a competitive side.
A number of commentators have been speaking up the USA’s chances in this Rugby World Cup. Samoa put that to bed with a dominating performance forcing the USA to make many mistakes. Samoa sealed the win early in the second half and won it by building a lead with kicks rather than the stereotype of running tries. Samoa came into this as the most likely Pacific Island team to make the quarter finals and emerged from the first weekend in that role.
Uruguay made Wales work for their win with stronger defence than expected and were still in touch for the first half hour. Wales did pull away and record an easy victory but the story became more about the injuries. Wales have lost another player who happened to have scored a hat-trick of tries! What kind of team are they going to be able to field over the next few weeks?
The All Blacks went about building a lead from the boot of Dan Carter. The Pumas came back with a try and a couple of kicks. The All Blacks survived their double yellow card relatively unscathed but were still behind by a point at halftime. The All Blacks dominated the second half but poor handling and turnovers meant it wasn’t until the last 25 minutes they could pulling away.
Pumas 20 – 9 Eastern Province Kings
Western Province 29 – 14 Blue Bulls
Lions 26 – 18 Sharks
Cheetahs 44 – 24 Griquas
The Lions are 8 points clear at the top of the table as the Bulls lose back to back games.
Tasman 39 – 20 North Harbour
Wellington 36 – 37 Otago
Taranaki 41 – 0 Waikato
Hawke’s Bay 23 – 17 Bay of Plenty
Southland 49 – 14 Manawatu
Northland 17 – 42 Counties Manukau
North Harbour 10 – 17 Canterbury
Tasman 19 – 28 Auckland
Tasman are now clear at the top of the Premiership and Hawk’s Bay lead the Championship by three points from Wellington.
University of Canberra Vikings 76 – 16 Sydney Stars
Melbourne Rising 37 – 36 Greater Sydney Rams
Queensland Country 34 – 64 Perth Spirit
Brisbane City 61 – 29 NSW Country Eagles
Brisbane top the standings but Canberra are also unbeaten and have played a game less. Those two are clear at the top of the table.