AUCKLAND, NZ – To every English fan that’s been taunting the All Blacks about ‘only being able to win a World Cup at home’: oh boy, that came back to bite you, didn’t it? All of New Zealand greatly enjoyed the opportunity to support the Wallabies for possibly the first time ever on Sunday morning, the 33-13 result of course sending the hosts crashing out of the World Cup in the most humiliating of fashions.
There’s been a bit of criticism of the pool system and how one team out of England, Australia and Wales was destined to miss out on the quarters. That’s a bit short-sighted, really. One of those teams would need to move to another pool, which would then make that one the ‘pool of death’. The way Argentina have been playing even the perceived weak Pool C would suddenly become pretty dangerous. The only way to really solve it would be to have a whole other pool and four more teams, which would be a bit stupid.
In saying that, pools C and D have gone basically to script. Let’s recap the weekend’s games:
All Blacks 43 Georgia 10
The All Blacks returned to Cardiff for the first time in an RWC since their fateful 2007 semi final, this tim ether came away with a win but weren’t spared criticism after this performance. Despite a 30 point win over a very game Georgian side, there were enough errors in this performance to make the public and media back here a little bit nervous. Most notable was the off-night Dan Carter had with his boot, spraying conversions wide of the posts that probably would have made the scoreline seem a little bit more comfortable. The Georgians managed to get on the scoreboard early, with a try to fullback Beka Tsiklauri after Waisake Naholo had split their defense open for the first try. To their credit, the All Black line wasn’t ever threatened again, but they couldn’t convert the overwhelming territorial advantage into enough points. Tries followed to Julian Savea (3), Dane Coles, Kieran Read and Malakai Fekitoa, but this performance was one that was less ‘let’s make a statement’ than ‘let’s get this out of the way’. Georgia were good, they definitely know how to tackle and will be favorites in their last pool match against Namibia.
Argentina 45 Tonga 16
So if the All Blacks weren’t going to make a statement, Los Pumas sure did. They were simply sublime in the second half of this match against a physical Tongan side who came to play, but ultimately got blown off the park. Spurred on by Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, who livened up the corporate area with a patriotic showing of outrageous support for his homeland, Los Pumas ran in five tries. Four of them were converted by Nicolas Sanchez, who added four penalties and a try of his own for 28 points. The Tongans actually scored the first try through first five Kurt Morath, unlike Sanchez though he had a shocker with the boot. They added another very well-worked try to prop Soane Tonga’uhuia to trail by seven at the break, but ran out of steam in the second half. Santiago Cordero ran in another stunning try to continue his impressive tournament so far to push the game out of reach of the Tongans. Los Pumas are now an excellent chance for the semis, given the form of the Wallabies and improving Springboks, we could be seeing all four Rugby Championship teams at the business end of the tournament. Let’s just hope they didn’t celebrate too hard with Maradona after the game, a failed mass drug test could ruin their ambitions.
Ireland 16 Italy 9
It was the battle of the baldies in this Six Nations rematch, Italian stallion Sergio Parisse returning to the Azzuri to face Paul O’Connell and the Irish. With names like that this probably should’ve been a decent game, right? Nope. If you missed this one, count yourself lucky and if you were thinking of catching a replay, consider going and plucking your nose hairs instead. It’ll probably be more fun. Ireland were supposed to be one of the title contenders and this should really have been a statement against an Italian team that has really looked as though they don’t even want to be at the World Cup at all. Instead, we got 80 minutes of rubbish from both teams, one try to Keith Earls and a whole lot of kicking. Ireland better be careful this weekend against France, they lose there and they’ll have a date with the All Blacks in the quarter final.
The All Blacks have Tonga this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see if they can blow the last remaining cobwebs out before the quarters. France/Ireland is a huge game, right now you’d have to favour the French. Georgia has a lot of motivation against Namibia, if they win this they automatically qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019.
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