The pool phase is nearing it’s conclusion at the Rugby World Cup, with only two teams assured of a quarterfinal place. So who’s looking good and who’s catching an early flight home…
20. Canada (-1)
After shipping 48 points against Italy, the last sight the Canadians needed to see was the All Blacks coming into view. Defeat was assured within 10 minutes with the gap in class evident as the All Blacks ran up the score. Canada did try to take the game to New Zealand but struggled with their own set pieces as they failed to contain the World Champions. In the second half Canada couldn’t get close to their opponents and were breached after just 41 seconds for the fifth of nine tries, as the tournament’s most one sided game to date ended 63-0. Next up it’s South Africa in Kobe.
19. Namibia (-1)
Its 175 points conceded in just two games for Namibia, who were blown away by South Africa in Toyota City. A pair of yellow cards made a difficult job impossible for Namibia who saw their local rivals cross the try line 9 times with just an early Cliven Loubser penalty to show for their efforts in a 57-3 thrashing.
Next up came New Zealand and a resilient first half performance saw Namibia match the All Blacks and trailed just 10-9 after half an hour, thanks to three penalties from Damian Stevens. However as the game progressed Namibia were inevitably worn down by the World Champions who ran up 54 second half points to secure a dominant 71-9 victory. Things will at least be easier in the Pool B wooden spoon match against Canada, with Namibia hopeful of securing a first ever World Cup victory.
18. Russia (-2)
After a lengthy break Russia returned to the fray on Thursday against a wounded Ireland. Russia let an early Irish try slip past them and it seemed the floodgates would open, but Russia defended well and succeeded in slowing the pace of the game with fly-half Ramil Gaisin kicking well. However they allowed Ireland too much territory in the first half and the penalty count was high throughout, with two Russian players entering the sin bin in the 35-0 defeat. Russia haven’t crossed the try line for 236 minutes, they’ll aim to improve on that in their closing match against Scotland.
17. USA (+3)
The US were forced into changes after their bruising encounter with England and against France the same problem of missing tackles saw France open them up inside of 6 minutes. This time, however the US took the game to their opponents with AJ MacGinty orchestrating the attack and winning the Eagles a foothold inside the French 22. The Americans were able to stay in the game through the boot of MacGinty and some stout defending, after 65 minutes they trailed just 12-9. However they struggled to find a true cutting edge in and France eventually pulled away. This was however a much improved performance.
16. Samoa (-4)
A dreadful first half against Scotland, highlighted by horrendous kicking and awful line-out play saw Samoa go 20-0 down. Frustration built up in the second half as the penalty count rocketed, Ed Fidow was red carded, two penalty tries were conceded and a failure to find touch with a free kick summed up an abysmal performance.
Samoa gave a more composed performance against hosts Japan but found their aggression matched by Japan. Henry Taefu’s late try gave Samoa hope of an upset. However for all Samoa’s fight, Japan’s high tempo proved too much and Samoa fell to a second defeat of the week.
15. Georgia (-1)
Georgia brought Uruguay back down to earth in Kumagaya City. Georgia built pressure methodically with their dominant scrum and Otar Giorgadze gave them an early 12 point lead they never looked like relinquishing. A similar story unfolded in the second half through Georgia’s dominant set piece and they added another 3 second half tries for a 33-7 win.
Then came the ultimate clash of styles between Georgia’s powerhouse pack and the flamboyant Fijians. After a tight first half Georgia struggled to contain Fiji’s ball carriers in the second half and found themselves 17-3 behind. Mainman Mamuka Gorgodze bulldozed over the try line to give Georgia hope but Georgia’s defenders were pulled the full width of the pitch by Fiji’s quicksilver attack and were overwhelmed 45-10.
14. Uruguay (-3)
After their fairytale win over Fiji, it was back to reality against Georgia. With just 4 days to prepare, Uruguay were unsurprisingly jaded and struggled to cope with Georgia’s pack throughout. Uruguay continued to show spirit and try out of nothing from Andres Vilaseca scored a try to give, but Georgia’s power proved too much.
To face Australia, Uruguay made 9 changes and despite showing the incredible spirit that has made them so popular, Uruguay slipped to a hefty defeat with Manuel Diana’s late try providing some consolation in a 45-10 loss.
13. Tonga (+4)
A bad start against Argentina saw Tonga concede 4 early tries. Tonga fought back as they finally got their offload game working and began to stretch Argentina’s defence. They were eventually rewarded with Telusa Veainu adding 2 tries as Tonga made the final score a more respectable 28-12.
Then against France, Tonga were under the pump early as France went 17-0 ahead. However Tonga revived memories of that memorable win over the French in 2011 with an amazing fightback. They pinned France back in the second half as Malietoa Hingano’s determined run reduced the deficit to 17-14. A late touchdown in the corner from Zane Kapeli had Tonga within striking distance before France saw out a nervy 23-21 win.
12. Fiji (+3)
After their shock defeat to Uruguay, Fiji needed to rebuild against Georgia in a rain soaked Osaka. Fiji got off the mark with an unusually simple try from Waisea Navyacalevu. In the second half Fiji found their mojo and a powerful left wing run from Semi Radradra set up Frank Lomani to cross the line with Josua Tuisova then breaking down the right to add a third try. Radradra added a brilliant fourth to secure the bonus point win and Fiji cracked out the party pieces as they rolled in another trio of tries in a 45-10 win. That should be enough to guarantee third place in Group D and automatic qualification to France 2023, but they promised so much more.
11. Italy (-3)
Italy picked 6 forwards on the bench to face South Africa, a sure sign they were expecting an arm wrestle of a contest in the scrum. But the loss of not one but two Italian tighthead props saw the scrum abandoned. Italy struggled to breakdown the Springboks in the first half and found themselves 17-3 behind. However a strong break to start the second half seemed to have Italy rolling, until a moment of madness saw Andrea Lovotti red carded for stupidly upending Duane Vermeulen.
The man advantage was ruthlessly exploited and a simple try from Cheslin Kolbe put South Africa out of sight, as Italy’s 14 men were left chasing shadows in Shizuoka night. Italy are guaranteed third place in Pool B, but only a first win in 15 attempts against New Zealand will keep their quarter-final hopes alive. Good luck!
10. Argentina (Stay)
Argentina will be heading home early from Japan after a moment of madness ended their hopes. The week started well for the Pumas thanks to an inspired first half display against Tonga, with hooker Julian Montoya crashing over for 2 tries from the line-out. Then Santiago Carreras snaffled a turnover for a third, before Montoya finished his hat trick on 26 minutes. But Argentina struggled maintain their dominance and the concession of two tries narrowed the final score to 28-12.
Then came the key clash with England and in a pent up atmosphere, Argentina sprang out of the blocks to take an early lead. As England started to gain the ascendancy Tomas Lavanini’s ludicrous high tackle on Owen Farrell earned a red card after just 17 minutes and Argentina were staring down the barrel. They defended gamely enough, but England’s power was always going to make their numerical advantage count as Argentina were pummelled 39-10.
9. Scotland (+4)
It took them 110 minutes of play but Scotland finally got their first try of the tournament against Samoa. After an attritional opening half hour, Finn Russell provided some craft with a perfect kick for Sean Maitland to chase and score the opening try. The confidence seeped back into the Scots with Russell and Stuart Hogg dictating play and Hogg adding a textbook drop goal for a 20-0 halftime lead. The second half was fractured but a pair of penalty tries won Scotland the bonus point, as their disciplined defence shut Samoa out 34-0. Next up it’s Russia with 5 points needed to set up a monumental clash with Japan in Yokohama.
8. France (-1)
After their Jekyll & Hyde display against Argentina, this week was a case of groundhog day for France, but it was enough to secure progress from Pool C. Against the USA, France impressed in the early stages as they threw the ball around and a Camille Lopez chip sent Yoann Huget in for the early try and when Lopez sent across a perfect kick for Alivereti Raka, France seemed to be pulling away. However a frustrating, penalty strewn second half performance saw France struggle to put the phases together and only Gael Fickou’s 65th minute try ensured the win, with two late tries adding gloss to a 33-9 win.
Then it was on to face Tonga and the outstanding Raka made one try and scored another to give France an early 17-0 lead. Yet again the French laboured and saw their lead trimmed to 17-14. They were slightly unfortunate to see 2 tries chalked off and where reliant on the boot of Romain Ntamack to eek out enough of a lead to survive a late Tonga try. The win was enough to secure a quarterfinal berth ahead of their Pool C summit meeting with England.
7. Ireland (-5)
Ireland’s campaign hit the rocks against Japan in Shizuoka. It started so well with stand-in fly-half Jack Carty opening up Japan with precision kicks to get Garry Ringrose and then Rob Kearney in for early tries as Ireland assumed a 12-3 lead. However they were ponderous from their own ruck as they conceded 6 pens at the breakdown. Japan’s waspish attack constantly frustrated Ireland and eventually the pressure told as Ireland’s defence was breached to send the home crowd into raptures.
Johnny Sexton returned to the fold against Russia and Kearney scored early to settle Irish nerves. Sexton then dinked through for Peter O’Mahoney to maintain the early initiative. But Ireland again looked sluggish in possession and although Ringrose’s brilliant late try rounded out a 35-0 win, this wasn’t the performance Ireland needed to bounce back. Nevertheless a bonus point win over Samoa this week will guarantee Ireland’s passage to the quarterfinals.
6. Australia (Stay)
Australia desperately needed a better start against Wales than they managed against Fiji. However they were again sluggish with Adam Ashley-Cooper’s try the only highlight of a disastrous first half. Facing a 26-8 deficit Australia swung into life with David Pocock’s brilliant offload setting up Dane Haylett-Petty and skipper Michael Hooper crashing over as the Wallabies reduced the deficit to a single point. This time however Australia couldn’t complete the comeback and they went down to a narrow defeat.
Against Uruguay the Wallabies’ tackling was yet again the subject of controversy with 2 yellow cards. However the Wallabies always had enough in the tank and in Christian Lealiifano, the Wallabies might just have found the fly-half they desperately need. The powerful running of Tevita Kuridrani was instrumental in the win that was capped off by a first try for Prop James Slipper on his 94th cap as Australia pulled away to a 45-10 win.
5. Japan (+4)
Japan are one win from the knockout phase after a sensational win over Ireland. It started poorly with Ireland exploiting Japan with the high ball, but the introduction of national hero Michael Leitch inspired a comeback. Japan hounded Ireland through the second half with half-backs Yu Tamura and Fumiaki Tanaka controlling the tempo, but it was the introduction of Kenki Fukuoka that proved decisive as he crossed the line to give Japan a famous win.
Next up were Samoa and Japan were forced to depend on the kicking of Tamura to build a slender 26-19 lead. In a tight pool Japan needed to secure the bonus point and got it through late tries from Fukuoka and finally in the 84th minute star man Kotaro Matsushima. It means Japan hold all the cards in a tight Pool A but they still have to face Scotland.
4. South Africa (+1)
The Springboks took the frustration of defeat to New Zealand out on neighbours Namibia. A much changed ‘boks team dominated from the outset with a lethal combination of power and dynamism finishing off Namibia inside 17 minutes. In all they ran in 9 tries including a brilliant double for winger Makazole Mapimpi with Schalk Brits slipping over the line from the unfamiliar hooker position.
Next up were Italy and yet again it was Cheslin Kolbe who lit up proceedings with a typically slippery run down the wing to get South Africa on the scoreboard. Being forced to play uncontested scrums was a frustration but hardly an impediment to the Springboks who drove forward and saw Mbongeni Mbonambi score his third try of the week to give them a 17-3 halftime lead. After Italy’s red card South Africa were off the leash and began to throw the ball around adding 5 more tries for an emphatic 49-3 win. The red card early in the second half adds a caveat to this performance, but South Africa were impressive in defence in the first half and clinical in attack through the second.
3. England (Stay)
There will be no repeat of the embarrassment of 2015 for England, who became the first team to reach the quarter-finals with a 39-10 thrashing of Argentina. Johnny May grabbed his first try of the tournament before Argentina were reduced to 14 men. From then on England played smart rather than spectacular rugby to wear down Argentina with Sam Underhill driving Argentina deeper into the ground whilst Elliot Daly and Ben Youngs crossed the whitewash.
George Ford secured the bonus point shortly after halftime and Jack Nowell made a timely return from injury to wriggle free for the fifth try. Luke Cowan Dickie rounded out the win when he bludgeoned over for his third try of the tournament. England are growing into this tournament and will face France to decide who tops Pool C.
2. Wales (+2)
Wales grabbed their first World Cup win over a Southern Hemisphere heavyweight since 1987. Wales made a lightning start against Australia with Dan Biggar grabbing a drop goal in the opening minute and then setting up Hadleigh Parkes for a try and 10-0 lead. An injury to Biggar didn’t derail Wales with Rhys Patchell picking up the baton at fly-half and Gareth Davies’ brilliant interception giving the Welsh a 23-8 halftime lead. After Patchell extended their lead, the Welsh suddenly found themselves on the back foot as the Wallabies stormed back. Captain Alun Wyn Jones, making a record breaking 130th cap steadied the Welsh defence and Patchell’s late penalty saw off the comeback and secured a morale boosting 29-25 win.
1.New Zealand (Stay)
The All Blacks who picked all three Barrett brothers were tipped to break 60 points against Canada, but got the early breakthrough via a fortunate penalty try. Then however the floodgates opened as Jordie Barrett added a simple second as New Zealand got their offload game going. Sonny Bill Williams rolled back the years to run the show as New Zealand dominated. They picked up in the second half where they’d left off as all three Barrett brothers crossed the line as the All Blacks ran in 9 tries.
Against Namibia the All Blacks were held in check for half an hour before they found their fluent best. Jordie Barrett accounted for 21 points alone from fly-half with Ben Smith, Sevu Reece and Anton Lienert-Brown all scoring twice as New Zealand ran in another 11 tries.
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