Six Nations 2017: No complaints

I worked the first week of the championship and so missed Wales get off to a winning start against Italy. And for our second game against England I was actually across the border and attending a marriage preparation day (more on that at a later date). So I missed the Irish thumping the Italians and only caught the Wales match from just before half time.

Just in time to see Liam Williams go over and Wales to lead 13-8 at the break after Leigh Halfpenny converted. 

The second half was a cracker with the action swinging both ways, each side attacking well but meeting stiff resistance. While I wouldn’t have complained had Wales romped home with a massive gap in scores, there’s something a lot more entertaining about an evenly matched affair. 

The teams traded penalties with Owen Farrell bagging two for the visitors and Leigh Halfpenny responding with one. Into the final ten Wales held a slim 16-14 lead, and every missed chance and silly error replayed in my head. Wales had been sloppy in places and could have had more points on the board, and were soon on the back foot.

Halfpenny kicked straight to a white shirt and England surged. As the Welsh defence scrambled across the park winger Elliot Daly got past Alex Cuthbert, who did himself no favours with his many critics.

The conversion was tight, but Owen Farrell doesn’t miss many and added the two, leaving Wales needing a try to get a result. With the clock quickly ticking down, Wales’ attempts grew more desperate in the face of a solid English defence.

The final whistle was no doubt a relief for the visitors, who for the second week in a row had left it late. And despondence for the hosts.

It was a tough loss but England just about deserved it, Wales had too many slip ups and can’t complain that England seized their chance when it appeared. 

There are three games left and if Wales can tighten their game and get rid of the sloppier aspects (and maybe Cuthbert?) we could do alright. The championship might be a stretch and depend on other matches going our way, but it’s not off the table completely.

I think part of the reason I took this defeat so well is because the current England team is decidedly villain free, with only Joe Marler and Farrell being players I genuinely dislike. Also, I haven’t seen the obnoxious Saeson I know, which means their arrogant posturing hasn’t riled me up.

The only real reason to actively hope it all falls apart for the English (other than not wanting more gloating and self congratulating nonsense) this year is their coach, Eddie Jones, who is nothing short of an utter bellend. Prone to being gobby at interviews and following last year’s comments about the Joe Marler racism incident, he’s claimed a special place on my hate list.

In a way he’s necessary to the tournament, as every story needs a villain and he’s embraced the role with gusto.

In the final match of the round Scotland, carrying the momentum from their victory over Ireland came back to earth with a bump. Camille Lopez knocked over two penalties in the last ten movies to hand the French a 22-16 victory. Scotland are definitely improving but appeared to take their foot of the gas.

It didn’t help that Finn Russell took the worst conversion appempt I’ve ever seen, managing to knock it under the bar from the easiest angle you’ll get. Their tournament isn’t over, but it means their Grand Slam drought extends to 26 years.

Round 3 predictions: 

Scotland vs Wales

Ireland vs France

England vs Italy

Current score: 4/6.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: Playing the Enemy by John Carlin

In 1995 less than half a decade after it’s first democratic election and the end of apartheid South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup. The nation’s triumph at the tournament was viewed as an optimistic sign for the country and helped to heal the wounds on the nation’s people. This magnificent book details the story of South Africa leading up to the tournament, the challenges it faced and the driving force behind South Africa’s rebirth, Nelson Mandela.

Carlin’s writing is masterful and the research that has gone into it is evident in the wealth of back story and the interviews with numerous figures from all corners of the political landscape and the players involved in the historic tournament.

With obvious and unapologetic admiration Carlin discusses how Mandela emerged from prison a smart and savvy politician, a man who had used his time to understand what made the Afrikaners tick and who used this insight in a remarkable charm offensive that would win over life long enemies. Mandela is portrayed as being intelligent and shrewd, and Carlin acknowledges that he played the game of politics brilliantly, but it is hard to criticise a man who used politics to promote unity and peace. A man who could easily have sought vengeance and retribution but understood that understanding and unity were better for his people.
The book details the secret negotiations Mandela began in prison and his work upon release to lead the ANC to victory. But it also shows that he understood the need to involve all peoples in the new country he wanted to make.

And rugby forms a key part of this. Mandela understood what it meant to the Afrikaner population, how the years of boycott and isolation had hurt them and how to use the return of the Springboks to the international stage as a carrot to spur them to peaceful reconciliation. But he was not bound to how the green jersey was linked to the former violent regime in the eyes of the black population and the struggle it would be to win them over to cheer for a team they had long despised.

Carlin goes to great lengths to capture this, talking to both sides and capturing the rabid, near religious fanaticism of one side and the deep rooted loathing of the other.

The rugby itself takes up a small section of the book, with the politics, and more importantly people being the main focus. The interviews with Mandela, Desmond Tutu and others reveal the emotional tumult that led up to the tournament. It is the players who are most moving, athletes who had been indifferent or ignorant of politics coming to understand that they were key players in uniting their country. Mandela awoke in them an understanding and compassion, overturning the deep seated beliefs they had been raised in. That these players became true believers, who played for more than glory, more than pride is a moving story, and the response of a tense, conflicted nation is inspiring and heartwarming. 

Several times reading I was choked up, marvelling at the story and the strength of men like Mandela and Tutu who show none of the resentment one could easily understand in men who suffered under the apartheid system. It’s no wonder Hollywood took to this story (Invictus) as it marries the themes of redemption, forgiveness and triumph so well it could almost be too good to be true.

Of course, Carlin knows that South Africa didn’t become a peaceful, perfect Utopia, but this story shows that it emerged stronger and more united than any would have believed in the early 90s as it teetered on the brink of civil war.

Verdict: Sensationally written this is a moving, involving and inspiring work which shows how sport can be a unifying factor and the skill and success of one of modern history’s greatest figures, Nelson Mandela. A great read even for non rugby fans. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2016 Part 4: Too Little, Too Late

Today, with three matches remaining, the Six Nations Championship was pretty much resolved. The Scots upset the French, handing the title to England.

It followed a tense game between Wales and England at Twickenham. In truth, England deserved the win having dominated for the majority of the game, but they still contrived to throw away a nineteen point lead and finish kicking for touch in relief.

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Triple crown confirmed yesterday. Championship today. Next week the Grand Slam?

Wales had been shaky, and it was only an individual moment of skill from Dan Biggar that got them back into it. Biggar charged down a kick and chased the loose ball to touch down beneath the posts and then converted.

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Biggar scores

From then Wales began to edge it, and added two further tries from George North and Taulupe Faletau. Owen Farrell added two penalties to keep England ahead, and Wales piled forward at the end until England turned it over and put the ball over to finish it.

There were a few dodgy referee decisions and bad luck, but the Welsh can’t complain as they simply didn’t turn up for over half the game. A strong finish made it a contest, but it was England’s day and their performances throughout have been solid and they deserve the championship, even if it means enduring smug gloating for at least a year.

So, well done England, deserving champions.

Wales however need to address their problems and get to a stage where we maintain decent form for the full 80. There was also the worrying sight of captain Sam Warburton being stretchered off, but thankfully he seems to be okay.

Ireland thumped the Italians after a weak start to the tournament, but the surprise result was Scotland getting their first win over the French since 2006. It meant nobody can catch England and barring an upset Wales will be in second place.

It’s a bit of a disappointment that the last round’s matches are all but meaningless, with only the middle places left to be decided. The only questions left to be answered are whether England can complete the Grand Slam (likely) and whether Scotland can make it three wins in a row (less likely).

But it has been a good championship, with a few upsets and some cracking matches.

Round 5 Predictions (current score- 8/12)
Wales vs Italy
Ireland vs Scotland
France vs England

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2016 Part 3: A Quiet Friday Night In, Shouting at the TV

The Wales vs France match is traditionally the Friday night match and has thrown up some decent games over the years, but the 2016 installment will not go down as a classic.

The first half was a tight, frustrating affair as Wales dominated but encountered strong French defence. Not helping was that Dan Biggar missed a kick and it was 6-3 at the break.

After the break Wales came out all guns blazing and Biggar added another penalty before George North burst through to score his second try in two games.

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North celebrates

France weren’t done, however, and pushed up. Their inexperienced lineup and some heroic Welsh defending meant there was no way through, although it left this Welshman on the edge of the sofa cursing at the screen.

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Alex Cuthbert and Liam Williams put in some big hits

Wales held out and had flashes of skill, especially from Gareth Davies, who is playing phenomenally at the moment. He gave the French problems and Wales started to creep back into it, and led 19-3 heading for the close.

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Davies, one of Wales' best

Unfortunately after defending so well Wales then messed up allowing France to gain major ground and nab their own try minutes from the end through Guilhelm Guirado. It was too late to alter the course of the game, but disappointing for Wales.

I skipped what was essentially the wooden spoon decider between Scotland and Italy, which the Scots won 36-20.

The final match saw England take on Ireland. It was another close first half with the teams 6-3 at the break. I missed this, keeping apprised on Twitter where I heard James Haskell had been sent to the bin and that Ireland had capitalised quickly for the game’s first try.

I came down with England having replied to be leading 14-10. They would add another try to lead 21-10, the final score. Ireland looked incredibly creaky at times although they were unluckily not given a try near the death which could have at least saved some face. England looked the better team but were lucky they didn’t get three yellows as Mike Brown put the boots to an Irishman but was judged to be accidental. Danny Care, however was binned.

This means Ireland’s hope of being the first to win three championships in a row. England and Wales are the only undefeated teams, meaning their showdown in a fortnight could well be the decider for the tournament. France could still also win it, but are outsiders.

As much as I love the tournament I’m glad if a break as Wales’ frustrating display on Friday was not exactly entertaining and I expect the England match will be a tense affair. And I fear a disappointing one…

Round 4 predictions (current score 6/9)
Ireland vs Italy
England vs Wales
Scotland vs France

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2016 Part 2: Power Prevails

I missed the France vs Ireland match but by all accounts I didn’t miss much as France scored a late try to edge it 10-9.

Wales faced Scotland in Cardiff and to the relief of a nation Dan Biggar had overcome injury to return. Wales got off to a great start as Gareth Davies ran in a try within seven minutes of the kick off and Biggar converted.

It would not last long and Scotland came back strongly, bossing for most of the first half. They pulled level after a fantastic try, a good move was capped by Finn Russell sending a perfectly weighted kick that Tommy Seymour caught and grounded. Greig Laidlaw scored the conversion and added two more penalties before the interval, while Biggar added one more for the home team leaving it 10-13 at the half way point.

In the second half Wales found their feet again and Biggar tied things up with his second penalty. It came after a great run from George North, who impressed throughout. Laidlaw kicked a penalty to retake the lead for the visitors but Wales were starting to dominate.

The Scots defended admirably but under sustained pressure they seemed doomed to break at some point. The breaking turned out to be a smashing as Jamie Roberts got the ball and crashed through a couple of Scottish players for the second Welsh try of the afternoon.

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Roberts crashes over

With ten minutes left North struck again and with a burst of speed left everyone behind him and touched down to extend the lead. It was a great moment as Wales found their groove. Biggar converted both and it stood at 27-16.

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North runs for the line

Scotland nabbed a late try to narrow it to 27-23, but Wales deserved the win due to their strong passing game and strength of character in coming back from the deficit. Scotland meanwhile exhibited the same frailties as they often had and when things started going against them looked shaky.

The final match of the round was today’s showdown in Rome as Italy welcomed England. Discussing Italy always runs the risk of slipping into “plucky underdogs” cliche, and they must loathe it, but at times it fit. They ran France close in their opening match and for forty minutes they contained England.

They threw in some big hits and didn’t back down, getting on the board first through a Carlo Canna penalty and it was tit for tat for a while. Owen Farrell replied, Canna got his second and then George Ford equalised once more for England. Ford kicked as Farrell received attention for a head injury, but he returned to the field.

Ford the scored the first try, but the conversion was missed. Canna struck another penalty five minutes from the break and they went in at 9-11. Italy had impressed and seemed to be making it into a contest.

This lasted for around ten minutes of the second half before players had to be switched out and England piled on the pressure. Jonathan Joseph finally managed to find breathing room having been contained in the first half and he was soon causing problems.

He seized a sloppy pass and turned on the pace to go under the posts. When Joseph gets moving he leaves most other players for dead and the scrambling Italians never looked likely to stop him. Farrell kicked the conversion.

Five minutes later Joseph struck again as Danny Care sent a kick across the ground behind the blue line. Joseph showed grace under pressure and scooped it up and went over once again. It was brilliantly taken and Joseph made it look easy.

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Joseph shone for England

Now Italy came utterly undone, they gave away a penalty which Farrell converted and the scoreline was distinctly one sided at 9-28.

Worse was to come as Joseph rounded off his hat trick as he muscled over following more English pressure. Farrell struck the post but would redeem himself with six minutes remaining as Jamie George offloaded to him and he grounded under the posts. This time he didn’t miss and got the conversion leaving the scores at 9-40.

It was a deserved victory as England were strong throughout and ruthless in putting the Italians to the sword. The scoreboard told the story and Italy’s weaknesses came to the fore, they lack the depth of squad to deal with injuries and only a few players can hold their own against the other teams.

England and Wales emerged victorious this weekend because both teams seem able to respond well to pressure and have powerful backs who are hard to keep contained for the full eighty.

England remain top of the table, their points margin here putting them comfortably ahead of France. Wales hover at third, one spot above the Irish. Scotland and Italy meet in a fortnight, and that game looks as though it could be the wooden spoon decided.

Round 3 Predictions (Current score- 3/6)
Wales vs France
Italy vs Scotland
England vs Ireland

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


6 Nations 2016 Part 1: Don’t you know who I am?

It’s that time of year again! The Six Nations is far and away my favourite sports tournament and Wales got their campaign underway today in Dublin.

It did not start well as the Irish built up an impressive 13-0 lead and things got worse when Dan Biggar had to retire from the field and Rhys Priestland took his place.

Priestland is my least favourite Welsh player. His kicking at posts is average but and from the hand he’s woefully inconsistent, the worst part is I’ve seen him turn in great performances at club level and can’t understand why when he puts on a Wales jersey he falls apart. Nerves? The pressure?

To be fair he did quite well, landing a penalty and converting after Taulupe Faletau muscled over for a try. Wales’ “good for an hour” tradition continued as they got back into things and closed the gap to 13-10 at the break.

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Faletau goes over

After the break Priestland added another penalty and Wales began to take control. They attacked impressively but the Irish defence was superb, holding their line phase-after-phase and stalling a Welsh push at the 22.

Even as a Welshman I felt for them as they succeeded in winning the ball only to give away a sloppy penalty that Priestland scored to give us a 16-13 lead.

Ireland came back almost immediately as Jonathan Sexton kicked a fine effort and despite both team’s attempts it ended a draw. This was probably the fairest outcome as neither team deserved to lose and a last minute winner would have been a painful finale.

The Priestland problem became apparent when on two different occasions Wales passed back for a drop goal attempt. It was like the men in red kept forgetting Biggar was off as they threw the ball to Priestland who kicked well wide of the posts.

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Biggar showing how it's done againat South Africa

You hope that they learn from this and stop expecting him to do something he clearly can’t manage. You got the feeling that Priestland himself was looking at his teammates and asking “have you forgotten who I am?”

They need to recognise his limitations and try a different approach.

I’d say I was disappointed but I expect so little from Priestland that for me this counts as his strongest showing wearing the three feathers.

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Another player meeting low expectations was England’s Owen Farrell. There was a needless shove on a Scottish player, a petulant, unsportsmanlike moment and I thought “Who the hell did that?” And then saw it was Farrell who I expect nothing more from.

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It’s a shame as he’s a decent player but his discipline is atrocious and he seems the embodiment of the arrogance that makes English rugby so unlikable to the outsider, or this outsider at least. Also his pre-kick ritual reminds me of a gormless Terminator. He contributed five of his side’s fifteen points as they beat a stuttering, shaky Scotland by six.

This was a blow for the Scots and the majority of neutrals who wanted the Scots to have a good match to make up for the injustice of their World Cup exit. Having been robbed by the referee after a solid match it would be nice to see them do well.

Unfortunately, sport and life is often unfair and the Scots find themselves holding up the table, just behind the Italians who made the French work for a 23-21 win.

Round 2 predictions (current score 1/3)
France v Ireland
Wales v Scotland
Italy v England

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


RWC 2015: Heroes and Villains

The tournament is over, but it was a gripping one. So, looking back I’ve picked the best and worse of the tournament.

Heroes- Japan

The tournament’s first major incident came in the Japanese’s giant killing of South Africa. In a tough performance the underdogs snatched a late victory, and their joy was a feel good moment for everyone. Well, apart from South Africa.

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Japan celebrate

Villain- Craig Joubert

If Japan’s win was the feel good zenith then Joubert provided the nadir. After a superb performance the Scots found themselves mere seconds from the semi-finals. In this kind of situation every decision matters and Joubert made a terrible one. He gave a penalty to Australia which was duly converted by Bernard Foley.

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Joubert ignores Scottish appeals

Now refereeing mistakes are going to happen but in the TMO Joubert had nowhere to hide. Going upstairs would have led him to give a scrum and Scotland could have won. Some felt he was hung out by his bosses, but there was no excuse. I’d avoid any holidays in the Highlands if I was him.

Villain- Bernard Foley

This may be a tad harsh but bear with me.

There are some kickers that strike dread into a fan’s heart. You know that anything in range is a guaranteed three points against you and your heart sinks at every penalty.

Foley is not one of those kickers. In a way he’s worse, because he can be painfully erratic and then click just when he needs to. He was far from perfect against Scotland but then pulled off a kick under considerable pressure to win the match.

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Foley- Erratic

Hero- Dan Biggar

When Leigh Halfpenny got injured before the tournament Welsh hearts sank. With a consistent and reliable points machine how would we cope?

Enter Dan Biggar, the twitching genius who kicked superbly. He played well throughout and his pre-kick ritual could be overlooked because it clearly worked.

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Villain- Owen Farrell

After England’s early exit the main targets for criticism were coach Stuart Lancaster and captain Chris Robshaw, with Farrell escaping the blame he deserved.

Sure, he played well and got lots of points, but he let his team down badly. Australia were keeping England at bay, but the hosts were gaining some momentum. This stalled however as Farrell was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle. They lost their best attacking asset and let Australia score another penalty, and after that it was all over.

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Farrell is sent off

Hero- This guy

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Sorry, English readers, but it made me laugh.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


RWC 2015: And now the thrilling conclusion…

Often a final can be a disappointment, but thankfully after a cracking tournament, New Zealand and Australia delivered a satisfying final act for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The first half saw the All Blacks on the attack, forcing some magnificent defending from the Australians. It was frustrating the New Zealanders and the question was who would crack first. Would the Australians hold out? Or would New Zealand start to lose momentum?

Dan Carter got the first points from a penalty, which was soon cancelled out by Bernard Foley. Carter added more but they couldn’t break through for a try until the end of the first half, when a brilliant sequence of passes lead to Nehe Miner-Skudder getting over. New Zealand led 16-3 at the break and it was looking like it was turning into a one sided affair.

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This looked even more likely two minutes after the interval when Ma’a Nonu cut through the Australian defence. He sliced through and then left everyone for dead, it was a sensational break and the man in black made it look embarrassingly easy

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Nonu scores after a sensational run

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The All Blacks celebrated and though Carter missed the conversion their 18 point lead looked like a mountain their neighbours would struggle to climb.

Thankfully for the neutrals, Australia got a chance to get back into it. Ben Smith tip-tackled and went without protest to the bin, leaving New Zealand a man down. The Wallabies used their advantage well, driving from the line out to close the gap to eleven. And just before Smith returned they bagged a second try, after Kuridrani muscled over.

Foley’s kick left them a mere five points behind as the match returned to fifteen-a-side. With ten minutes to go Dan Carter hit a superb 43 metre drop goal. It was a sublime strike under pressure and capped a wonderful tournament for Carter.

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Carter hits the drop goal

ter.

Four minutes later he added another penalty to his haul and New Zealand were in control. Australia tried to get back into it, but time was against them and a loose knock on let the ball to Ben Smith. As Australian players swarmed towards him he placed a perfectly weighted kick beyond them and the fresh legs of Beauden Barrett told and he shinned it forward before going for the try. t

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Barrett leaves everyone behind as he gets the final try

It was a gripping end to a tournament which has been full of great games and incident. New Zealand, strong throughout were deserving champions and outplayed the Australians, who nonetheless should be applauded for getting back into it and defending well in the early stages.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


RWC 2015: Black and yellow, black and yellow

I was all ready for a fantastic match as two of rugby’s heavyweights went head to head in the first semi final but South Africa vs New Zealand turned out to be a disappointment. It just seemed to be that neither could get the space to really get going.

New Zealand struggled initially, and in the first half gave away far too many penalties, which Handre Pollard successfully turned into a 12-7 half time lead. Kiwi try scorer Kaino wound up in the bin after the ref tired of repeated warnings to the men in black.

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Kaino is sent to the bin

Whatever was said at the break seemed to work, as New Zealand came back in far better shame. They held their nerve to take control of the match, thanks in large part to the sensational work of Dan Carter, who racked up ten points on his own.

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Carter about to score yet again

A second try in the second half and the Springboks lost ground, and only managed six points in the second half. The All Blacks lacked the flair they’d shown against the French but did display a lot of mental strength and force of will. Going behind is tough, and it was clear that they were edgy, but they got themselves under control, got their game working and got the win they just about deserved.

It was hard not to feel bad for the South Africans, but they paid the price for failing to effectively kill off the match.

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Final whistle reactions

The second semi saw Australia take on Argentina. The Argentinians had done magnificently against Ireland while the Australians squeaked a victory against the Scots at the very death of their quarter final, thanks to an awful refereeing decision.

They started strong here however, getting a try on the board in the first minute after second row Rob Simmons intercepted an obvious pass and darted for the line.

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Simmons seizes his opportunity

The Australians controlled the game and stopped their opponents getting the space to attack. With their threat neutralised the Argentinians had to rely on the boot of Nicolas Sanchez who got all their points. Three Sanchez penalties meant they trailed 19-9 at the break, Adam Ashley-Cooper added a brace of tries to Simmons’ opener, the second being the better as a long, high wide pass from Matt Giteau found the winger in space.

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Ashley-Cooper flies in for his second

In the second half Sanchez traded penalties with Bernard Foley, and the South Americans were only seven points behind with twenty minutes left. But they couldn’t find a way through the Australians who kept up the pressure.

With less than ten minutes it was all over as Ashley-Cooper bagged his hat trick. The try came as a result of a phenomenal run from the other winger Drew Mitchell. In a magnificent display of individual skill Mitchell darted and dodged almost the width of the pitch avoiding numerous tackles to gain ground. When the pressure on him built he resisted the urge to try and go for solo glory and instead fed the ball to Ashley-Cooper, who had an easy run in.

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Mitchell turns it on and leaves the Argentinians floundering in his wake

The Argentinians were devastated, their coach in tears, but it was hard not to be impressed that by the men from down under. They may not have deserved the win in the quarters and benefitted from luck, but here their victory was well earned and all of their own work.

It sets up a New Zealand vs Australia final, and I’m going to go with the All Blacks, with South Africa getting the third place consolation. I’m currently 4/5 on my predictions.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


RWC 2015: An Inch or a Mile, Winning is Winning

As I start typing this Ireland are teetering on the brink of elimination, trailing 33-20 to Argentina. This is quite a turn up, the Argentinians are a good team, but Ireland were favourites.

It would be kind of nice for an upset, especially as the first two Quarter Finals stuck to the script.

Wales were knocked out by South Africa in a tight, enthralling match. I’d already made peace with the fact Wales were unlikely to win and only hoped we’d put on a good show. In that respect we definitely did.

Having missed the start I arrived to see Dan Biggar kick a conversion and the scores were close, with Wales leading 10-9. It didn’t last long but Wales kept in it, thanks to some solid defending and Biggar’s kicking.

South Africa looked strong but Wales kept them contained, and just before the break Biggar hit a drop goal for Wales to lead 13-12.

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Biggar gets the drop goal

In the second half it was more of the same with the teams trading scores and there was only a point in it as they entered the last ten minutes. With six minutes left South Africa broke from a scrum and a beautiful pass from Duane Vermeulen, set captain Fourie De Preez  on course to dive for the line.

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De Preez scores, breaking Welsh hearts

The conversion mixed Wales only needed a score to win, but South Africa dug in and repelled them. On balance South Africa deserved their win, but Wales had played well and pushed them, and it was a respectable performance and I was proud of our players.

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Wales go out, but can hold their heads up after some solid performances

Ireland are out! A fantastic last try rounded off a strong Argentinian performance and they deserved their win. 43-20.

Scotland are the last Northern Hemisphere team in the tournament!

If the first quarter final was close the second was a different affair. I’d thought New Zealand would win, but anticipated the French putting up a solid resistance. However, this didn’t happen.

It started slowly, with the All Blacks doing some great running but the French looking like they could hold on, but on their first real mistake New Zealand capitalised with an opportunistic, but well taken, try. Brodie Retallick charged down a hesitant clearance, caught it off the bounce and raced for the line.

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Retallick goes over

If the first was lucky and scrappy, the second was smooth and effective, with fantastic passing and running leading to Nehe Miner-Skudder dashing away from everyone to score. The third was just a work of art, Dan Carter threw a beautiful one handed pass to Julian Savea, who showed power and speed to score.

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Savea goes for her first

Fence pulled a try back, but their joy was short lived as Savea bagged his second two minutes later and at the interval they led 29-13.

In the second half France looked even shakier, and their I’ll discipline started to show. Nigel Owens sent Louis Picamoles to the bin after a fracas, and the All Blacks added another try.

With just over twenty minutes to go Savea completed his hat trick and it was now a question of how big a margin would New Zealand get.  They were clearly having fun, passing and running with almost effortless skill. MWF was mightily impresses, marvelling at their physicality and skill.

It was amazing to watch, a very different entertainment to the close first match, this was one team running rampant, and while one sided matches can be boring or seem cruel it was hard not to enjoy the All Blacks in full flow.

Kieran Read touched down under the posts and Tawera Kerr-Barlow grabbed a brace and it finished a resounding 62-13 win. South Africa vs New Zealand should be a hell of a match, and I’m leaning to New Zealand to win.

I’m currently 2/3 on predictions, I’m off to see if Scotland surprise me or if Australia stay on script.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.