The world watched with baited breath hoping Japan could match their heroics against South Africa. Michael Leitch again got through more work than a prostitute struggling to pay rent and Ayumu Goromaru proved he’s more than a place-kicker with a seismic, try-saving tackle on Tommy Seymour. But despite hammering the Scottish tryline for large parts of the game, the Brave Blossoms fell to a clinical 2nd-half performance by the Scots in which they ran in five tries.
France played Romania and the best bit of the game was watching Philippe Saint-Andre’s changing room tirade during the half-time break, a scene that has been spectacularly played out on YouTube:
It’s an age-old coaching adage that you can only win a game of rugby if you have possession of the ball. Never is this more true of course than when facing New Zealand, so bearing in mind Namibia were only able to scrape together 30% of possession and territory at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, it is testament to the minnows that the 58-14 scoreline didn’t come close to their record 142 point deficit against Australia in 2003.
In fact, despite the All Blacks’ nine tries, they didn’t really get going as Namibia – well mainly Jacques Burger – made life difficult for the Kiwis, proved by the fact that Namibia won 6 turnovers to New Zealand’s 5.
In the same way that Burger led his nation’s charge against the metaphorical Goliath, Georgia’s inspirational captain Mamuka Gorgodze was at the centre of his country’s fight against Argentina … that is until he was sent to the sin-bin early in the 2nd half. The Pumas scored a whopping 21 points in his 10 minute absence.
Canada gave Italy a scare but the Azzurri held out in front of a vocal Leeds crowd, whilst in Birmingham an electric performance from Tim Nanai-Williams and his Samoan team-mates’ big tackling wasn’t enough to prevent the Springboks racking up a bonus point win in Pool B. Bryan Habana scored his 11th RWC try to close in on Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 but in not-so-good news for the Bokke, captain Jean de Villiers left the field with a fractured jaw and has since announced his retirement after 109 caps. Habana shared this tribute on Twitter:
In my eyes, one of the most skilful, resilient, genuine and best to have played the game. It’s been a privilege cap👊🏽 pic.twitter.com/skVOdubrqY
— Bryan Habana (@BryanHabana) September 27, 2015
Australia eased to a bonus point win over Uruguay and Scotland did the same against USA but only after coming back from a 6-13 half-time deficit. We didn’t see Vern Cotter’s half-time chat with his team but we imagine it was something like PSA’s.
And just in case you’ve been living under a rock, England lost to Wales. That’s bad enough in itself but it smacks more that it was at Twickenham and that we could now be the first host nation not to reach the group stages.
The media – including the colossally self-righteous, dimple-chinned Will Carling – have blamed Chris Robshaw’s decision to go for the win in the dying minutes rather than “Take The Three”. But this blog doesn’t think the call to go for the lineout when three points down and with three minutes to go was the wrong one. However, the execution was: a throw to the front of the lineout is the easiest to defend and Wales proved this by blitzing the drive and bundling the English pack into touch.
England’s failing was their inability to close off the game. On a number of occasions England were ten points ahead but persistently gave away mindless penalties which allowed Dan Biggar to keep Wales in check with the boot.
With ten minutes to go England could have absorbed the Welsh attack – as they had done effectively for 70 mins – but a too-narrow rush defence enabled Lloyd Williams to streak down the wing and put in a deft chip for scrum-half Gareth Davies to pounce on.
There’s also been a lot of Sam Burgess bashing but he did what he was put in the field to do. He carried strongly, broke the gains one and his inclusion largely nullified the threat of Jamie Roberts. It’s no surprise, though, that Jonathan Joseph is called back into the starting XV to face Australia.
Hero of the weekend:
Dan Biggar – 7 from 7 with the boot. So much for ‘missing Leigh Halfpenny’.
Villain of the weekend:
The idiotic Springbok fan who ran onto the pitch to help at a breakdown. If you’re going to streak at least take your clothes off.