By Lewis Huxley
Rugby union’s global showpiece reached the knockout stages this weekend with the world’s top eight teams competing for a place in next weekend’s semi-finals.
Photo used under Creative Commons from americanistadechiapas
Ireland’s shock victory over Australia in the pool stages split the draw into hemispheres with Six Nations rivals England, France, Ireland and Wales in one half and Argentina joining Tri Nations teams Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the other.
Brighton Lite woke up early and made a strong coffee to give you a report on a weekend which featured a stunning performance by Wales, England’s exit, a classic between Australia and South Africa and the first World Cup game for 12 years in which New Zealand failed to score a first-half try.
Wales vs France, Saturday 15th October, 09:00 (GMT), Eden Park, Auckland
Australia vs New Zealand, Sunday 16th October, 09:00 (GMT), Eden Park, Auckland
Rampant Wales too strong for Ireland
Wales (10) 22
Tries: Williams, Phillips, Davies Cons: Priestland 2 Pen: Halfpenny
Ireland (3) 10
Try: Earls Con: O’Gara Pen: O’Gara
Wales produced a powerful performance to beat Ireland and reach their first Rugby World Cup semi-final since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
Tries from Shane Williams, Mike Phillips and Jonathan Davies were enough to see off a spirited Irish side in difficult conditions in Wellington.
Ireland blew the tournament wide open by beating Australia to win Pool C but struggled to gain momentum against a committed Welsh defence.
Wing Williams gave Wales the perfect start by rounding off a flowing move to claim his 56th international try after just three minutes.
Opposite number Keith Earls responded with a gutsy finish for Ireland at the beginning of the second half but Welsh scrum-half Phillips restored his team’s lead moments later before outside centre Davies powered through a tiring Irish defence to seal the win.
Ireland will be disappointed not to reach their first World Cup semi-final in what is likely to be the last tournament for ‘golden generation’ players Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell and captain Brian O’Driscoll.
Wales are the form team in the bottom half of the draw and outstanding flanker and captain Sam Warburton will be confident of leading his team to its first World Cup final.
Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Rhys Priestland, Mike Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (capt), Toby Faletau
Replacements: Bradley Davies (for Charteris, 40), James Hook (for Priestland, 77)
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Keith Earls; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Stephen Ferriss, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Donncha Ryan (for Heaslip, 74), Denis Leamy (for Ferriss, 74), Eoin Reddan (for Murphy, 55), Jonathan Sexton (for O’Gara, 55), Andrew Trimble (for Earls, 71)
Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA)
France make England pay for sluggish start
England (0) 12
Tries: Foden, Cueto Con: Wilkinson
France (16) 19
Tries: Clerc, Medard Pens: Yachvili 2 Drop-goal: Trinh-Duc
England’s forgettable Rugby World Cup campaign ended in tatters as France came firing out of the blocks in Auckland to gain revenge for their 2007 semi-final defeat.
Scrum-half Dmitri Yachvili added two penalties to tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard as France raced to a 16-point first-half lead.
Six Nations champions England equalled the try count with three-quarters Ben Foden and Mark Cueto touching down late on, but Francois Trinh-Duc’s drop-goal put France’s victory beyond doubt eight minutes from time.
Neither team had impressed during the pool stages, with England labouring through the weakest group and France adding a humiliating defeat against Tonga to an earlier loss to hosts New Zealand.
England’s conduct off the pitch made headlines for all the wrong reasons and coach Martin Johnson will face huge pressure to keep his job.
Johnson’s decision to start his 2003 World Cup-winning team mate Jonny Wilkinson at outside-half backfired as the Toulon player put in another woeful performance.
More surprising was England’s failure to gain any advantage at the set-piece as France dominated possession from both the scrum and the line-out.
France will face a difficult task against Wales in next Saturday’s semi-final while England head back home and back to the drawing board.
England: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Toby Flood, Mark Cueto; Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs; Matt Stevens, Steve Thompson, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Tom Palmer, Tom Croft, Lewis Moody (capt), Nick Easter
Replacements: Richard Wigglesworth (for Youngs, 65), Matt Banahan (for Wilkinson, 65), Alex Corbisiero (for Stevens, 49), Dylan Hartley (for Steve Thompson 56), Simon Shaw (for Deacon, 49), Courtney Lawes (for Croft, 46), James Haskell (for Moody, 63)
France: Maxime Medard, Vincent Clerc, Aurelien Rougerie, Maxime Mermoz, Alexis Pallisson; Morgan Parra, Dmitri Yachvili; Jean-Baptiste Poux, William Servat, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape, Lionel Nallet, Thiery Dusautoir (capt), Julien Bonnaire, Imanol Harinordiquay
Replacements: David Marty (for Rougerie, 68), Francois Trinh-Duc (for Yachvili, 53), Fabien Barcella (for Poux, 56), Dmitri Szarzewski (for Servat, 56), Julien Pierre (for Pape, 65), Louis Picamoles (for Harinordiquay, 72)
Referee: Steve Walsh (AUS)
Australia sneak past world champions South Africa
Australia (8) 11
Try: Horwill Pens: O’Connor 2
South Africa (3) 9
Pens: Steyn 2 Drop-goal: Steyn
James O’Connor’s 72nd-minute penalty saw Australia knock 2007 winners South Africa out of the Rugby World Cup in a thrilling encounter in Wellington.
The Wallabies had won five of the last six meetings between the two teams but were on the back foot for most of the game as South Africa controlled territory and possession.
But the Springboks failed to turn pressure into points as Australia’s dogged defence limited the Pool C winners to two penalties and a drop-goal from Morne Steyn.
The game’s only try came against the run of play when Pat McCabe pounced on a loose ball to send his captain James Horwill crashing over.
South Africa continued their superiority after the break and only a forward pass from Jean De Villiers prevented Patrick Lambie’s touchdown from levelling the scores.
Unpredictable Australian outside-half Quade Cooper made some glaring errors but his team rallied to keep their hopes of a third World Cup triumph alive.
Peter De Villiers announced after the game that he will step down as South Africa’s coach. His tenure has not been short of controversy but he led the Springboks to a Tri Nations championship and a series victory over the British and Irish Lions in 2009.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane; Quade Cooper, Will Genia; Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Dan Vickerman, James Horwill (capt), Rocky Elsom, James Pocock, Radike Samo
Replacements: Berrick Barnes (for McCabe, 52), Nathan Sharpe (for Vickerman, 54), Tatafu Polota-Nau (for Moore, 63), James Slipper (for Kepu, 68), Ben McCalman (for Samo, 72), Anthony Fainga’a (for Beale, 74)
South Africa: Patrick Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jacques Fourie, Jean De Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Fourie Du Preez; Guthro Steenkamp, John Smit (capt), Jannie Du Plessis, Danie Russouw, Victor Matfield, Heinrich Brussouw, Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies
Replacements: Francois Louw (for Brussouw, 19), Francois Hougaard (for Habana, 49), Bismarck Du Plessis (for Smit, 49), Willem Alberts (for Burger, 63)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)
New Zealand worked hard by determined Argentina
New Zealand (12) 33
Tries: Read, Thorn Con: Weepu Pens: Weepu 6, Cruden
Argentina (7) 10
Try: Cabello Con: Contepomi Pen: Contepomi
Hosts and favourites New Zealand were made to earn every point against Argentina, who couldn’t match the quality of the play they produced in finishing third at the 2007 World Cup.
The All Blacks were expected to win comfortably but found themselves behind after half an hour as Julio Farias Cabello took advantage of sublime handling by the Argentinian backs to dive over in the corner, with Felipe Contepomi adding the extras from the touchline.
New Zealand were without star outside-half Dan Carter who was ruled out of the tournament this week with a groin injury but outstanding scrum-half Piri Weepu kept the scoreboard ticking with six penalties.
The Pumas became the first side for 12 years to prevent New Zealand scoring a try in the first half of a World Cup match but forwards Kieran Read and Brad Thorn added gloss to the scoreline as Argentina tired at the end of the game.
All Blacks’ coach Graham Henry will be concerned that his second choice outside-half Colin Slade pulled up injured after a nervy start, though 22-year-old Aaron Cruden was an able replacement.
There were tears for Argentinian hooker Mario Ledesma as the 38-year-old’s international career ended in defeat but the Pumas can be proud of their performance against the world’s best team.
New Zealand are still to face a serious test in the tournament but can now look forward to playing arch-rivals Australia in a repeat of the 2003 semi-final.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams; Colin Slade, Piri Weepu; Tony Woodcock, Kevin Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read
Replacements: Aaron Cruden (for Slade, 33), Isaia Toeava (for Muliaina, 40) Ali Williams (for Whitelock, 52), Kevin Hore (for Mealamu, 54)
Argentina: Martin Rodriguez, Gonzalo Camacho, Marcelo Bosch, Felipe Contepomi (capt), Horacio Agulla; Santiago Fernandez, Nicolas Vergallo; Rodrigo Roncero, Mario Ledesma, Juan Figallo, Manuel Carizza, Patricio Albacete, Julio Farias Cabello, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Leonardo Senatore
Replacements: Marcos Ayerza (for Roncero, 39) Alfredo Lallane (for Vergallo, 49), Juan Jose Inhoff (for Agulla, 50), Martin Scelzo (for Figallo, 59), Alejandro Campos (for Carizza, 60), Agustin Creevy (for Ledesma, 70)
Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)