David Does RWC quarter finals
Our Chief Rugby Analyst is back with his take on the quarter finals. How did your team perform? Where can they improve? Read on to see how David saw the first knock-out stage of the tournament.
Wales 22 – 10 Ireland
A Wales side playing “without fear” and with the underdog tag defended their way to a Rugby World Cup semi-final by standing up to a muscular Ireland to win the first quarter-final 22-10. Wales’ three tries to Ireland’s one was a true reflection of the attacking abilities of the two sides, although not of Ireland’s first-half dominance of territory and possession. Ireland had 60 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of possession in the first half but their bludgeoning and battering of the Wales defence produced a solitary penalty goal after Wales had opened the match with a spectacular Shane Williams winger’s try. Ireland drew level early in the second half when wing Keith Earls somehow managed to keep his feet in play while sliding over in the corner. But the match turned Wales’ way when man-of-the-match Mike Phillips caught Ireland napping down the blindside of a ruck – a trademark of the French-based scrum half’s play. Wales held on grimly before sealing the deal with a try late on.
England 12 – 19 France
Imanol Harinordoquy gave a barnstorming display to earn the man-of-the-match award as France reached the Rugby World Cup semi-finals with a 19-12 win against England. Les Bleus avoided a third straight RWC loss to England with a classic performance that married France’s twin traditions of backline flair and forward power. They had a 16-0 half-time lead that they battled hard to protect in the second half, even though it took them until the 73rd minute to score their first points after the break with a drop goal from replacement Francois Trinh-Duc. It was England’s lack of discipline that allowed France to build the platform on which they secured their half-time lead which they never surrendered. The English never gave up and managed to push the French hard in the second half, but committed way too many errors to pull off a victory.
Australia 11 – 9 South Africa
Australia somehow turned a spluttering lineout, an embattled scrum and minimal territory into an 11-9 win over South Africa and a place in the semi-finals. When referee Bryce Lawrence blew for full-time the Wallabies had their error-forcing defence and especially man-of-the-match David Pocock to thank for dethroning the defending champions. The flanker’s heroic work at the breakdown saved them time after time when South Africa were on the attack. The Australians were forced to make 147 tackles to South Africa’s 53 as the Springboks sent wave after wave of big, powerful runners at their line. Aside from Pocock’s crucial turnovers, South Africa was hampered by making too many mistakes in potential try-scoring situations under defensive pressure and will rue their 11 handling errors in the match. They also missed their main breakdown warrior, Heinrich Brüssow, who came off after 20 minutes.
New Zealand 33 – 10 Argentina
An outstanding kicking display from Piri Weepu helped the All Blacks subdue a dogged Pumas side. Weepu was the star performer of the match at Eden Park, slotting seven penalties for a 100 per cent success rate that set a RWC 2011 record. Second-half tries by Kieran Read and veteran Brad Thorn cemented a 33-10 win for the All Blacks to set up a last-four showdown with Australia next week and the success commemorated full back Mils Muliaina’s 100th Test match. Argentina’s defence continued to hold firm for most of the match, managing to deny the All Blacks a try for most of the game. But with a final tally of 134 tackles compared with New Zealand’s 54, the Pumas started to tire towards the end. That enabled Read to break through to score the All Blacks’ first try and bring most of the 57,912, black-clad fans to their feet. Although it took his men 66 minutes to register a try, New Zealand coach Graham Henry was happy with how his side took on their tenacious opponents.