RWC 2015: Early ExitsPosted: October 4, 2015
I’ve never understood sports fans who leave early, I mean, you’ve paid your money and gone to the ground and sometimes there’s still a chance. The most famous example is Manchester United’s late 2-1 victory in the 1999 Champions League Final.
So watching English fans troop out of Twickenham with minutes to go was annoying. I’m more of a “sit forlornly until the final whistle” type.
But I actually witnessed an even worse example of fan behaviour in the pub I watched the end of the match in. One of a few English fans there had spent the time waving a little St George’s flag until she decided to remove it and replace it with a Union Flag. That’s dedication.
I’d missed the first half having gone out with MWF and friends for one of our friend’s birthday (at Bar 44 a really nice tapas restaurant in Cowbridge), so when I got to watch the game it was to see Owen Farrell kick a conversion and narrow the gap to 20-10.
With a little over twenty minutes to go a Welsh viewer reminded his frustrated English friend that Wales had trailed by the same margin. It was a nice way to offer hope but I prayed to all the gods that lightning would strike twice. Like all of Wales I was rooting for the Aussies to win, guaranteeing us a Quarter Final place in the process.
Some five minutes later and it was a one score game as Farrell, impressive as ever, kicked a deserved penalty. England were rallying and Australia were making some small errors, but holding up. England were poised to make a comeback.
This stalled just after the 70th minute mark, when the referee stopped to consult the TMO. I originally thought this was to investigate what looked like a high tackle from Sam Burgess (it was high) but transpired to be looking into Farrell’s own tackle. Farrell was clearly leading with his shoulder and flattened an Australian, followed a second later by Burgess going in high.
Farrell was sent to the bin, with Burgess lucky not to join him.
Australia got the penalty over to restore a ten point advantage. A man down they quickly conceded another penalty and Bernard Foley kicked this as well. Four minutes remained and it looked like it was all over, but the Australians twisted the knife with a superb last minute try. They broke wide and Matt Giteau dived over.
And that was it, England were out of the World Cup. The English fans were left to mutter and grumble as the locals celebrated, singing and cheering as Wales went through.
England had been outplayed and victim to the unreasonable expectations of their players. I’ll discipline cost them, and while Stuart Lancaster and Chris Robshaw will lose their roles, but the criticism could go broader and Farrell, despite his strengths as a kicker, needs better control.
Wales face a serious challenge against a strong Aussie team next week, while England face Uruguay in a game with nothing on the line other than pride. And at least England know they’ve made history, being the first host nation to leave at the group stages, although it’s not the kind of thing you want to be remembered for.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.