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IRELAND 10 - 22 WALES
Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington - Saturday 08 October
KO: 18:00 HT: 3-10 Att: 35,787
THIS year’s Wales team had a vigour and determination not seen for many a year in the Celtic nation, and they had nothing to lose. The boys from the Emerald Isle desperately wanted to be the first Ireland team to make it through to the semi finals of the Rugby World Cup, and had in their complement a wealth of experience and talent including eight winners of the 2011 Heineken Cup.
Wales were to break Irish hearts across the globe by overpowering a side that were by no means short of opportunity, but as has been said time and again, just do not appear to have that killer instinct to finish what they start.
Wales showed their hand quickly as Shane Williams zipped over in the corner for the first try as a result of turnover ball. Referee Craig Joubert deferred to the TMO for confirmation, and Rhys Priestland kicked the first conversion. But it was also Wales who began racking up a penalty count early on, conceding six to Ireland's two in the first half alone.
For every Welsh penalty, Ireland had a golden opportunity to start putting points on the board, but instead of taking the easy option, captain Brian O’Driscoll called for the 22 lineout and drive to score 7 rather than 3 points. The plan failed miserably. In the first quarter Ireland had three penalties, three lineouts, but no matter how hard they tried, the elusive whitewash evaded them. After the third attempt, from a 5m lineout finally the pack heaved over the tryline with Sean O’Brien in possession, but the referee rightly said the ball was held up and a fourth opportunity was lost.
For much of the first quarter it was Ireland with possession and territory, but it amounted to nothing. Ronan O’Gara found himself with the ball at halfway and belted it to the corner for another lineout but this time it did not even find touch on the right side. Again they won possession, and this time it was Rob Kearney who made the break, but with no support the ball was turned over. Luckily for Ireland, Shane Williams did not release the stolen ball and another penalty came their way. Finally O’Gara kicked and crept the score up to 3-7. But it was quickly nullified as Wales forced an error on halfway and Leigh Halfpenny thumped over the penalty kick.
With just 10 minutes to go of the first half, Ireland crossed into the Welsh 22 twice more before Wales headed in the opposite direction. But the Irish defence held the Dragons back behind the 10m line, won another penalty and kicked into touch for a lineout when the ref blew the half time whistle.
So far the game had been enthralling and evenly balanced despite Wales being ahead by just a converted try. And Ireland returned to the pitch with a vengeance, recycling the ball quickly inside the Welsh 22 before Keith Earls skidded over in the corner, with Mike Philips hanging onto his tail. The TMO confirmed Earls' feet did not go into touch, and the conversion from O’Gara equalised the score.
The game was wide open for the taking with half an hour to go. And the Welsh took it.
Despite Gordon D’Arcy’s best effort, the 51st minute saw Mike Philips fly over the tryline. Again the TMO had to confirm, but this time there was no conversion. There were fresh legs for Ireland as Eoin Reddan and Jonny Sexton replaced Conor Murray and Ronan O'Gara at scrum half and fly half respectively, but perhaps to take off a game controller like O’Gara was not the brightest idea the coach, Declan Kidney had.
Almost into the final quarter, already a try clear, Priestland missed a penalty kick, but non-existent Irish defence allowed Jonathan Davies to charge across the tryline for the fourth and final try. This time Priestland’s kick was perfectly on target; Wales were ahead 22-10, and there the score stayed until the final whistle.
The remaining 12 minutes saw Ireland begin to catch up on Wales’ penalty count which in the end settled at seven each. Changes were afoot on both sides for the final 10 minutes, but no matter how hard Ireland tried, three times they ventured back into the Welsh 22, and three times Wales’ defence not only held strong but sent Ireland off in the opposite direction.
An ecstatic Wales demonstrably secured the first semi final spot and had to wait just a couple of hours to find out it was France they would face in Auckland the following Saturday night. Ireland, well yet again they failed to make their mark and were headed home far earlier than they would have liked.
15 Rob Kearney 14 Tommy Bowe 13 BRIAN O'DRISCOLL (C) 12 Gordon D'Arcy 11 Keith Earls 10 Ronan O'Gara 9 Conor Murray 1 Cian Healy 2 Rory Best 3 Mike Ross 4 Donncha O'Callaghan 5 Paul O'Connell 6 Stephen Ferris 7 Sean O'Brien 8 Jamie Heaslip BENCH: 16 Sean Cronin 17 Tom Court 18 Donnacha Ryan 19 Denis Leamy 20 Eoin Reddan 21 Jonathan Sexton 22 Andrew Trimble
SCORERS T: Earls C: O'Gara P: O'Gara
15 Leigh Halfpenny 14 George North 13 Jonathan Davies 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Shane Williams 10 Rhys Priestland 9 Mike Phillips 1 Gethin Jenkins 2 Huw Bennett 3 Adam Jones 4 Luke Charteris 5 Alun Wyn Jones 6 Danny Lydiate 7 SAM WARBURTON (C) 8 Toby Faletau BENCH: 16 Lloyd Burns 17 Paul James 18 Bradley Davies 19 Ryan Jones 20 Lloyd Williams 21 James Hook 22 Scott Williams
SCORERS T: Shane Williams, Philips, Jonathan Davies C: Priestland (2) P: Halfpenny
Referee: Craig Joubert (SARU)
ENGLAND 12 - 19 FRANCE
Eden Park, Auckland - Saturday 08 October
KO: 20:30 HT: 0-16 Att: 49,105
EXCEPT for 1991, France have always made it through to at least the semi finals of the Rugby World Cup, and at the inaugural world cup in ’87, New Zealand stole their dream of winning at the final. England have the same history; with the exception of ‘87 when Wales edged them out at the quarter final stage, England took 4th place in ’95 and reached the finals in ’91, ’03 and ’07, winning the tournament in historic fashion in 2003 in Australia’s back yard.
England and France have met every year except ’87, and England won every time except ’95 when the teams were battling for the Bronze third place position. So history was on England’s side. To add to that, France had a poor run into the quarter finals winning only two of four matches to take the runner up spot in Pool A. England had played an ugly game so far but won all four matches to top Pool B.
But to use the cliché, you just never know which France is going to turn up. Sadly for England, it was the strongly attacking, proficiently defensive side that convincingly broke poor opponents and English hearts to send them packing.
The passion oozed from every pore of the French as they sang "La Marseillaise" and tears flowed down strong cheeks of proud Gallic sportsmen. But this was preceded by the most powerful rendition of “God Save The Queen” that any stadium had heard so far this world cup. And Manu Tuilagi started as he meant to go on, making the breaks, creating space, finding the holes; unfortunately there were not many, and on more than one occasion the rest of the team just could not keep up.
The first 10 minutes both sides looked ready, eager, and went at each other at full pelt. But then France took hold of the game and ran circles around the most ineffective England side the world had seen in a long time. While England clocked up five penalties in the first half, France racked up points with 6 from the boot of Dimitri Yachvili in the first quarter, closely followed by 10 from tries courtesy of Vincent Clerc after stealing an England ball, and Maxime Médard from a 22 lineout. By half time it was 16-0 to France and all England could muster was a half-hearted poor excuse for a drop goal from Toby Flood which hardly lifted off his boot.
Both sides won all their scrums, and with 7 lineouts apiece, France lost only one and England two. And so far it was not all one way by any means. England crossed into the French 22 on four occasions, but came away with nothing. Yachvili missed 7 points by not converting a penalty nor either try.
Despite the score, history was still on England's side in that they had fought back from half time a deficit no less than seven times in the Rugby World Cup, including four times in the knock out stages. But never from 16 points down.
From the restart, again it was Tuilagi making the breaks for England; the young and massively powerful centre bulldozed his way through the French defence. But another handling error gave possession right back to the French.
Sitting on England’s bench was a heap of experience and talent in Simon Shaw, contender for man of the tournament James Haskell, formidable prop Alex Corbisiero, and even Matt Banahan. And there they remained. But Courtney Lawes was brought on to replace an injured Tom Croft.
It was not until there was only half an hour left before it dawned on the England management that the reserves should be used. Shaw and Corbisiero came on for Louis Deacon and Matt Stevens, and the impact was immediate. England appeared to acquire a touch of French flair, and excellent hands allowed Ben Foden to zip over the tryline. Jonny Wilkinson converted. Score: 7-16. Time check: 25 minutes to go.
In the meantime France transposed Yachvili with Francois Trinh-Duc, and for the final quarter both sides shuffled their teams. Dylan Hartley replaced WRC veteran hooker and comeback kid, Steve Thompson, James Haskell took over from captain, Lewis Moody; Banahan and Richard Wigglesworth replaced Wilkinson and Ben Youngs, and Stevens had to return as Dan Cole was escorted off. But all this was 20 minutes too late. Over in the other front row, Dimitri Szarzewski and Fabien Barcella were subbed on for Jean-Baptiste Poux and William Servat.
France spent much time just a few metres from the tryline, but the defence was not shying away from slowing down the ball as much as possible. While England concentrated on preventing another try, Trinh-Duc slipped back into the zone and his team redirected the ball back for him to drop a perfect goal in the 72nd minute, giving the opposition a two-try mountain to climb in under 8 minutes.
England fought for their lives for the final quarter and ventured into the French 22 another four times; three times they came away empty-handed but finally in the 76th minute, Easter set up Mark Cueto for a second England try. The TMO confirmed the try could be awarded, but Flood missed the conversion by some distance.
All Les Bleus had to do was run the clock down for the final 3 minutes and the semi final spot was theirs. They began back in the opposition 22 but England won the ball and Tuilagi fought to get out, made a few yards before being forced into touch. A final penalty on England’s 22 gave France just the opportunity they needed to see out the remaining time, deciding to kick the points which Parra attempted but the ball rebounded off the post and bounced into the deadzone.
England were heading home following an appalling performance and not particularly impressive world cup overall, where serious decisions had to be made on England's management future in particular. France had to prepare to put away a hungry Wales in the first semi final the following Saturday.
French captain, Thierry Dusautoir and his team had not played anywhere near their potential, but did just enough to make England look like a tier 2 nation. But the potential outcome in the final two weeks was a mouth-watering prospect; provided New Zealand beat Argentina in the last quarter final, and France could beat Wales in the semi final, there was a possibility that the host nation could face their nemesis in a spectacular showdown at Eden Park on 23rd October 2011.
15 Ben Foden 14 Chris Ashton 13 Manu Tuilagi 12 Toby Flood 11 Mark Cueto 10 Jonny Wilkinson 9 Ben Youngs 1 Matt Stevens 2 Steve Thompson 3 Dan Cole 4 Louis Deacon 5 Tom Palmer 6 Tom Croft 7 LEWIS MOODY (C) 8 Nick Easter BENCH: 16 Dylan Hartley 17 Alex Corbisiero 18 Courtney Lawes 19 Simon Shaw 20 James Haskell 21 Richard Wigglesworth 22 Matt Banahan
SCORERS T: Foden, Cueto C: Wilkinson
15 Maxime Médard 14 Vincent Clerc 13 Aurélien Rougerie 12 Maxime Mermoz 11 Alexis Palisson 10 Morgan Parra 9 Dimitri Yachvili 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux 2 William Servat 3 Nicolas Mas 4 Pascal Pape 5 Lionel Nallet 6 THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C) 7 Julien Bonnaire 8 Imanol Harinordoquy BENCH: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski 17 Fabien Barcella 18 Julien Pierre 19 Louis Picamoles 20 Francois Trinh-Duc 21 David Marty 22 Cédric Heymans
SCORERS T: Clerc, Médard P: Yachvili (2) DG: Trinh-Duc
Referee: Steve Walsh (ARU)
SOUTH AFRICA 9 - 11 AUSTRALIA
Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington - Sunday 09 October
KO: 18:00 HT: 3-8 Att: 34,914
UNFORTUNATELY for both the Springboks and the Wallabies, the man in charge of this crucial match was the infamous Kiwi, Bryce Lawrence - a most controversial referee who time and again proved he was oblivious to what was actually occurring in the same game the rest of us were glued to. The outcome was unfair, and though the Australians played good rugby –as did the Bokke– a more proficient referee could have resulted in a different result.
The Tri Nations rivals had previously met 76 times, and the record was Australia 31, South Africa 44 and one draw in 2001. In the world cup stakes, they had met before just twice, and each side had a win under their belt. This was too close to call on recent form.
First blood was drawn from a belting kick deep into Bokke territory from Quade Cooper to set up a lineout from which Wallaby captain, James Horwill scored. James O’Connor could not quite complete the conversion, but he redeemed himself moments later with a penalty to take the Green & Gold 8 points clear by the 16th minute.
The Bokke repeatedly visited the Australian 22 throughout the first half of the game, but could turn their possession or territory into points. A penalty at half way which the injured Frans Steyn would easily have converted into points had the distance from Morne Steyn, but not the accuracy. Not until 2 minutes from time did Wallaby hands put into the ruck in a position advantageous for the Springboks –which the referee actually noticed– and Steyn added 3 points to take the score to 3-8 at half time. In the 40th minute, Frans Steyn was again sorely missed as a 60m penalty kick went awry for Morne.
The first half was fast and hugely physical, as Jannie du Plessis needed attention, Schalk Burger visited the blood bin temporarily replaced by Willem Alberts, and Heinrich Brüssow had to be escorted off for Francois Louw to come on in the second row. And though the lineout was not working for Australia, they still came out on top.
The Springboks made a strong start to the second half, beginning with Patrick Lambie charging over the tryline in the 46th minute, but a touch judge deemed an earlier pass forward from Jean de Villiers and so there was no try.
As Lawrence continued to spoil the pace of the game, though not actually showing bias to either side in particular, Francois Hougaard and the world’s best hooker, Bismarck du Plessis replaced Bryan Habana and Springbok captain, John Smit. Du Plessis made his impact immediately winning a Wallaby scrum on his own 10m, allowing Steyn to set up a 22 lineout. Pat McCabe was forced off to the blood bin replaced by Berrick Barnes, and thankfully Dan Vickerman –who was not having his best game– was substituted by Nathan Sharpe.
A penalty was awarded to the Bokke and from a kick out wide, Steyn narrowed the gap to just 2 points with 25 minutes left on the clock. But then the Springboks lost an opportunity to score from deep inside the Australian 22 by having no scrum half in sight for an age. Another penalty went their way, but when the Bokke ran out of width to play, Steyn took the initiative and neatly dropped a goal to take the lead 9-8.
Alberts returned to the field for Pierre Spies, and for the final quarter, one side would have to step up to secure the semi final position. The Bokke were again in the Wallaby 22, and much as the Australians tried to escape, the Springboks continued to force them back. Eventually the Australians turned over the ball and Will Genia kicked to clear, but a charge down halted that plan.
But Jaque Fourie conceded a penalty, affording an Australian 5m scrum which they did win, but Lambie secured the ball and dropped a goal. Unfortunately it did not quite find its target.
Kurtley Beale cleared the Bokke back, turned over the ball and set up a lineout. James Slipper replaced Sekope Kepu in the front row, and as Stephen Moore threw into the lineout, Danie Rossouw was pinged for pulling down Radike Samo. The replay looked to me like the Springbok did nothing of the sort and it was his own man that dropped Samo. But what Lawrence and touch judge Romain Poite saw was different, and Australia had the penalty.
Only 9 minutes were left as O’Connor lined up a kick at goal...and was perfectly on target to take Australia back in front. There was still enough time for the Springboks to come back, but I am unconvinced the penalty should have been awarded in the first place.
Samo was then replaced by Ben McCalman, and Anthony Faingaa came on for Beale. A penalty was conceded but it took Lawrence an age to decide who was the culprit; eventually he gave it to Australia and Genia kicked from half way, only for Lambie to collect, touch down in goal and clear. Offsides, high tackles and players going over the top in rucks continued to be ignored all round.
With just 2 minutes left, the Springboks turned over the ball outside their own 22 and steadily headed over half way, being stupendously careful not to give a penalty as the ball swung across the width of the pitch, but ‘Lawrence the Blind’ made a final death call for the Springboks as both Burger and Rossouw clearly passed backwards before the ball went loose...backwards, claiming it went forward - even though it did nothing of the sort.
The Springboks had 76% territory, 56% possession, won their 7 scrums and 14 lineouts, conceded only 4 penalties and made 11 handling errors. The Wallabies lost 1 of 14 scrums, lost 5 of 13 lineouts, made 147 tackles, missed 13, and conceded 6 penalties. A competent referee may well have created a very different result.
The incumbent champion Springboks were heading home not being fairly beaten, but not to take anything away from Australia, the 2011 Tri Nations champions progressed to the semi final against New Zealand, which they were to discover 3 hours later.
Worthy Springbok captains John Smit and Victor Matfield today ended their international careers with South Africa. Controversial Pieter de Villiers hijacked Australia's thunder by announcing he is stepping down as coach at the post-match press conference.
15 Pat Lambie 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana 10 Morné Steyn 9 Fourie du Preez 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp 2 JOHN SMIT (C) 3 Jannie du Plessis 4 Danie Rossouw 5 Victor Matfield 6 Heinrich Brüssow 7 Schalk Burger 8 Pierre Spies BENCH: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 CJ van der Linde 18 Willem Alberts 19 Francois Louw 20 Francois Hougaard 21 Butch James 22 Gio Aplon
SCORERS P: Steyn (2) DG: Steyn
15 Kurtley Beale 14 James O'Connor 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 1 Sekope Kepu 2 Stephen Moore 3 Ben Alexander 4 Dan Vickerman 5 JAMES HORWILL (C) 6 Rocky Elsom 7 David Pocock 8 Radike Samo BENCH: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau 17 James Slipper 18 Nathan Sharpe 19 Ben McCalman 20 Luke Burgess 21 Berrick Barnes 22 Anthony Faingaa
SCORERS T: Horwill P: O'Connor (2)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZRU)
NEW ZEALAND 33 - 10 ARGENTINA
Eden Park, Auckland - Sunday 09 October
KO: 20:30 HT: 12-7 Att: 57,912
IRB ranked no. #7 Argentina had impressively come second in Pool B and had a battle on their hands to knock world no. #1 All Blacks out of the competition to proceed in this year’s Rugby World Cup. The two nations had met previously on 17 occasions, but save a draw in 1985, New Zealand had always triumphed over Los Pumas, the newest nation soon to be joining the southern hemisphere’s Tri Nations. It was a tall order.
Though Argentina started immensely strongly, not allowing the All Blacks to cross their tryline until the final quarter, eventually the home side took the lead in the 35th minute and did not relinquish. It was a magnificent battle of David and goliath, and yet again the world, and the Kiwis in particular underestimated this proud rugby nation who took Bronze in the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The match began and ended with All Black Mils Muliaina being congratulated on winning his 100th cap for New Zealand, a rare feat where he joined the only other centurion, Richie McCaw who crossed the same milestone two weeks earlier against France. And following the not so traditional kapa o pango haka, it was game on at Eden Park.
Welsh referee Nigel Owens took the reins, and the inimitable All Black sensation, Sonny Bill Williams broke first, offloading to Cory Jane before knocking on and handing over control of the first scrum to the Pumas on their own 22. The Pumas won the setpiece but the kick failed to find touch; a game of aerial football ensued before settling midfield for an All Black lineout.
Early on the Pumas bore down heavily on the All Black tryline but Conrad Smith saved them and Dan Carter replacement, Colin Slade cleared them back, only for Santiago Fernández to attempt a drop goal; the top spin dropped it just under crossbar and the TMO confirmed Owens’ suspicion.
Rodrigo Roncero offside offered Piri Weepu –who assumed the kicking duties– the first opportunity to put an easy 3 points on the board in the 12th minute. The All Blacks then headed up to the 22 again, but no matter how hard they tried, the Pumas defence just would not let them cross the line, and the ball continued to come out from the breakdown at a snail’s pace. Eventually the ball went out wide and No. 8 Kieran Read celebrated what he considered to be the first try, but his foot was clearly in touch, and the replay confirmed it for the TMO.
By this point it was the Pumas who looked very strong though captain, Felipe Contepomi knocked on to hand over a penalty, resulting in a neat chip kick into their 22, saved by scrum half Nicolás Vergallo. The clearance did not go to plan and afforded the All Blacks another kick at goal which Weepu swiftly kicked over. And it was Contepomi who could not quite translate the Pumas first scoring opportunity at the posts into points.
Slade cleared the Pumas back momentarily, but only long enough for them to gather and offloading smartly, Julio Farias Cabello found the whitewash to actually score the first try on the half hour mark. Contepomi added the extras and the All Blacks were left watching as the Pumas stepped ahead.
Surprisingly, Colin Slade was taken off the field for what later transpired was groin injury, so 21 year old Aaron Cruden, headed onto the paddock for only his 7th cap. This was quickly followed by Owens penalising Contepomi –wrongly– for an alleged high tackle on Cruden; in fact the tackle was perfectly fine but Cruden slipped so the captain was pinged. Weepu took the All Blacks into the lead.
Owens and the touch judges were really not having the best game, and as Ma’a Nonu carried the ball up to the 22, the Kiwis repeatedly dived over the ruck illegally but this went entirely unnoticed. The Pumas, however, were penalised and Weepu took the score to 12-6 at half time.
Seconds before half time, formidable Leicester Tigers prop, Marcos Ayerza replaced Rodrigo Roncero who had got a knock early on in the game. At the start of the second half, centurion Muliaina did not return following a serious shoulder injury and saw Isaia Toeava take his place.
A knock on from Nonu afforded Marcelo Bosch a most difficult penalty kick from out wide on halfway against the wind, but it flew right through the posts to reduce the deficit to just 2 points. But a return penalty allowed Weepu to cancel out the gain quickly. With half an hour to go, the All Blacks led 15-10.
The game continued to be thoroughly exciting as play went from end to end, changes were affected and the All Blacks were all over the Pumas tryline. Vergallo returned from the blood bin only to be sent to the sin bin, and Richie McCaw was convinced he had scored by grounding the ball against the posts. Too many bodies hid the evidence, and the TMO confirmed no try, so Weepu had to be satisfied by adding just 3 points.
Into the final quarter and more reserves were brought on, the Pumas cleared the All Blacks out of the danger zone on more than one occasion before finally they found their rhythm, and excellent hands put Read over for the Kiwis’ first try of the night, but it remained unconverted, though any hopes of a Pumas win began to slip away. Weepu then added another penalty in the 73rd minute before he was replaced by Jimmy Cowan.
The last chance for the Pumas was a lineout in All Black territory, but by not securing the ball, Jane made the break that lead to Brad Thorn scoring the last try of the match in the 77th minute. Cruden proved his worth with the conversion, and with the ball carried into touch by Puma hands, the All Blacks secured the final semi final spot against Australia the next Sunday back on the same park.
The Pumas were magnificent, and for country that has no professional rugby, they will be even more dangerous opponents once they bed into the Four Nations in 2012. The Kiwis were saved from an early exit in their own back yard, and set up a mouth-watering Tri Nations replay for a place in the RWC 2011 Final.
15 Mils Muliaina 14 Cory Jane 13 Conrad Smith 12 Ma'a Nonu 11 Sonny Bill Williams 10 Colin Slade 9 Piri Weepu 1 Tony Woodcock 2 Keven Mealamu 3 Owen Franks 4 Brad Thorn 5 Sam Whitelock 6 Jerome Kaino 7 RICHIE MCCAW (C) 8 Kieran Read BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 John Afoa 18 Ali Williams 19 Victor Vito 20 Jimmy Cowan 21 Aaron Cruden 22 Isaia Toeava
SCORERS T: Read, Thorn C: Cruden P: Weepu (7)
15 Martín Rodríguez 14 Gonzalo Camacho 13 Marcelo Bosch 12 FELIPE CONTEPOMI (C) 11 Horacio Agulla 10 Santiago Fernández 9 Nicolás Vergallo 1 Rodrigo Roncero 2 Mario Ledesma Arocena 3 Juan Figallo 4 Manuel Carizza 5 Patricio Albacete 6 Julio Farias Cabello 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamón 8 Leonardo Senatore BENCH: 16 Agustín Creevy 17 Martín Scelzo 18 Marcos Ayerza 19 Alejandro Campos 20 Alfredo Lalanne 21 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino 22 Juan Jose Imhoff
SCORERS T: Cabello C: Contepomi P: Bosch Nicolás Vergallo
Referee: Nigel Owens (RFU)
Eden Park, Auckland - Saturday 15 October
KO: 21:00 HT: 3-6 Att: 58,629
France battled to a place in the final of Rugby World Cup 2011 with a 9-8 win over a brave Wales side, who never recovered from the first-half sending-off of their inspirational captain Sam Warburton.
The 23-year-old flanker was given his marching orders after 18 minutes for a tip tackle on wing Vincent Clerc.
Until then his team, playing their first semi-final for 24 years, were in command, despite the earlier loss through injury of veteran prop Adam Jones, and well worth their three-point lead.
But after their skipper’s departure they were unable to halt the march of the French, who slowly built an unassailable lead through the boot of Morgan Parra.
Although a try on the hour by scrum half Mike Phillips gave Wales hope, France, playing in their fifth successive semi-final, were able to withstand a spirited fightback.
After a heavy shower minutes before kick-off, handling was difficult and there were several errors in the opening minutes.
Wales opened the scoring when Hook, standing in for injured fly half Rhys Priestland, kicked a penalty from out wide on the left after seven minutes.
Shortly after they lost prop Jones, playing in his 75th Test for his country, to a calf injury. He was replaced by Paul James.
But the scrum held firm and produced a penalty in front of the posts in the 10th minute, only for Hook to slip on the greasy surface in the act of kicking and the ball sailed wide of the posts.
Wales centre Jamie Roberts breached the French line in the 15th minute but as he crossed the opposition 22-metre line his attempted pass flew into the face of midfield partner Jonathan Davies.
Warburton, bidding to lead Wales into their first Rugby World Cup final, got his marching orders from referee Alain Rolland for the tackle on France wing Vincent Clerc.
As the Wales scrum came under pressure Parra converted a penalty to draw the scores level after 21 minutes.
He was on target with another penalty 12 minutes later for a 6-3 lead at the interval.
After the restart, France attempted to assert themselves but an early drop-goal attempt by Parra went wide.
In the 45th minute Wales replaced Hook with Stephen Jones, playing his 103rd Test for his country, as they attempted to use his experienced boot to counter France’s numerical advantage.
But a third Parra penalty stretched the lead to 9-3 and France seemed happy to rest on that slender advantage before Wales suddenly struck.
After a determined build-up by his forwards, scrum half Mike Phillips pounced from a breakdown, bursting the tackle and sprinting 20m for a try, which fly half Jones was unable to convert.
Trailing just 9-8, Wales sensed an historic victory and pushed forward again. But their depleted pack was struggling at the lineouts and being squeezed at the breakdown.
Full back Leigh Halfpenny was just inches short with a penalty attempt from the halfway line with only five minutes remaining.
Although Wales desperately tried to get into a position for a drop goal at the death, the France defence held firm.
1 Gethin Jenkins 2 Huw Bennett 3 Adam Jones 4 Luke Charteris 5 Alun Wyn Jones 6 Danny Lydiate 7 SAM WARBURTON (C) 8 Toby Faletau 9 Mike Phillips 10 James Hook 11 Shane Williams 12 Jamie Roberts 13 Jonathan Davies 14 George North 15 Leigh Halfpenny BENCH: 16 Lloyd Burns 17 Paul James 18 Bradley Davies 19 Ryan Jones 20 Lloyd Williams 21 Stephen Jones 22 Scott Williams
SCORERS T: Philips P: Hook Sam Warburton
15 Maxime Médard 14 Vincent Clerc 13 Aurélien Rougerie 12 Maxime Mermoz 11 Alexis Palisson 10 Morgan Parra 9 Dimitri Yachvili 1 Jean-Baptiste Poux 2 William Servat 3 Nicolas Mas 4 Pascal Pape 5 Lionel Nallet 6 THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C) 7 Julien Bonnaire 8 Imanol Harinordoquy BENCH: 16 Dimitri Szarzewski 17 Fabien Barcella 18 Julien Pierre 19 Louis Picamoles 20 Francois Trinh-Duc 21 David Marty 22 Cédric Heymans
SCORERS P: Parra (3)
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRE)
Eden Park, Auckland - Sunday 16 October
KO: 21:00 HT: 6-14 Att: 60,087
New Zealand will meet France in the RWC 2011 final after beating Australia in the second semi-final on Sunday 20-6.
The All Blacks dominated vast tracts of the semi-final and continued to chip away and increase the lead, but only scored the one first half try, and increased the lead by just six points in a second half in which they got a stern test from the Wallabies.
After Piri Weepu had put the All Blacks ahead 17-6 in the 42nd minute, Australia had a prolonged period on attack, recycling the ball and trying to find a chink in the New Zealand defence, before finally coughing the ball up. The play was fast and furious again with Australia enjoying plenty of territorial advantage, but making too many mistakes.
Weepu, the hero of New Zealand's quarter-final win over Argentina, was replaced by Andy Ellis in the 57th minute and looked ill on the sideline. His time there lasted just 12 minutes because Ellis was had his face bloodied by a front on tackle and had to leave the field.
And it was Weepu who had the final say in the match, kicking a 35 metre penalty in the 72nd minute.
Meanwhile Quade Cooper, who had a wretched beginning to the game, was growing in confidence and was causing the All Blacks a few problems with some good runs and some confident kicks.
But it was in the forwards where the All Blacks were dominant, with the scrum strong and the pack quick to pounce on Wallaby errors and winning several penalties as the Australian bodies buckled.
In the 76th minute replacement wing Sonny Bill Williams was yellow carded for not using his arms in a tackle and Australia spent much of the final minutes on desperate attack on the All Blacks line.
A furious first half between Australia and New Zealand in the second semi-final of RWC 2011 at Eden Park saw the All Blacks go into the break 14-6 ahead.
New Zealand dominated the half and scored the only try, from Ma'a Nonu in the sixth minute.
The tone was set early. Cooper kicked out on the full with the first kick of the game and from the scrum Weepu kicked to the corner perfectly, which launched a furious few minutes of attack.
After six minutes with the All Blacks continually in the Wallabies half, Israel Dagg made his second scything run and, just before being put into touch, passed inside to Nonu, who had an unchallenged run to the line. Weepu missed the conversion.
Three minutes later a Weepu penalty, after Australia's David Pocock was penalised, hit the upright and bounced back to the All Blacks.
Aaron Cruden made a fine run and at the tackle Pocock was again penalised for not supporting his weight at the ruck. This time Weepu was successful with the kick for 8-0.
From the kick-off Australia went into the New Zealand half for the first time and wing Digby Ioane produced a powerful run with seemingly half the All Blacks hanging off him, before Jerome Kaino finally halted him centimetres from the line.
Richie McCaw was penalised soon after and James O'Connor reduced the deficit to 8-3.
Weepu, so accurate against Argentina a week ago, missed his third penalty after Sekope Kepu collapsed the scrum, but 22-year-old Cruden made amends after 22 minutes with a 40-metre drop goal to make the score 11-3.
The Wallabies gradually grabbed some territory and hammered away at the All Blacks line. After getting nowhere with the forwards, scrum half Will Genia passed back to the beleaguered Cooper, who slotted a drop goal to make it 11-6.
In the 36th minute Adam Ashley-Cooper was caught offside from Dagg's up-and-under and Weepu goaled to bring the score to 14-6.Two minutes after the start of the second spell, Pat McCabe did not release the ball after being tackled and Weepu kicked the penalty for 17-6.
15 Adam Ashley-Cooper 14 James O'Connor 13 Anthony Faingaa 12 Pat McCabe 11 Digby Ioane 10 Quade Cooper 9 Will Genia 1 Sekope Kepu 2 Stephen Moore 3 Ben Alexander 4 Dan Vickerman 5 JAMES HORWILL (C) 6 Rocky Elsom 7 David Pocock 8 Radike Samo BENCH: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau 17 James Slipper 18 Nathan Sharpe 19 Ben McCalman 20 Luke Burgess 21 Berrick Barnes 22 Rob Horne
SCORERS P: O'Connor DG: Cooper
1 Tony Woodcock 2 Keven Mealamu 3 Owen Franks 4 Sam Whitelock 5 Brad Thorn 6 Jerome Kaino 7 RICHIE MCCAW (C) 8 Kieran Read 9 Piri Weepu 10 Aaron Cruden 11 Richard Kahui 12 Ma'a Nonu 13 Conrad Smith 14 Cory Jane 15 Israel Dagg BENCH: 16 Andrew Hore 17 Ben Franks 18 Ali Williams 19 Victor Vito 20 Andy Ellis 21 Stephen Donald 22 Sonny Bill Williams
SCORERS T: Nonu P: Weepu (4) DG: Cruden Sonny Bill Williams
WALES 18 - 21 AUSTRALIA
Eden Park, Auckland - Friday 21 October
KO: 20:30 HT: 6-14 Att: 53,013
BOTH Wales and Australia would have to be content with 3rd or 4th place from the Bronze Final since neither had played well enough to battle their way into the final - despite ‘that’ red card. And history was not on Wales’ side. In 31 games to date since 1908, the Dragons had won only 10, drew 1 and lost 20 matches to the Wallabies. At the RWC, the two sides had met on four occasions, and in ’91, ’99 and 2007 Australia had trampled all over them. But in 1987, in Rotorua, New Zealand Wales took on the mighty Wallabies and won by a single point. Could this be the turning point?
The atmosphere was that of a final at Eden Park, even though the stadium was 7,000 fans short of a full house, and Wallaby Nathan Sharpe ran out ahead of the teams on the milestone occasion of his 100th cap. But despite Wales making a vast improvement in the second half, it was to be Australia's day and Bronze medals all round to the Green & Gold.
Australia began proceedings by heading directly into the Welsh 22, staying in opposition territory like a stubborn mule, determined to come away with something. In touching distance of the tryline, the Wallabies rushed play and ended up spilling the ball forward and simultaneously lost Kurtley Beale to a recurring hamstring injury, but eventually they regathered and Berrick Barnes flew over to open the scoring. O’Connor added the extras and Australia had laid down the gauntlet.
Wales replied with a penalty from the boot of James Hook just as the end of the first quarter was in sight, but this was to be his one and only successful attempt; his missed kicks, along with one from Halfpenny a minute from half time could have made all the difference. But it was not to be.
The first half of the match was mediocre for both teams, with messy setpieces, unforced errors, and not impressive handling. But it was Australia conceding fewer penalties, retaining possession for longer periods, and generally looking the more superior of the two sides. However, at no point did this look like the team that won the Tri Nations less than two months ago, and O’Connor missed an opportunity to widen the gap on the scoreboard with a 40m penalty which found the upright and bounced right off it.
Another huge blow came in the 21st minute for the Wallabies as Quade Cooper gave Wales the penalty as his knee gave way, and he had to be helped off with a suspected ruptured anterior cruciate ligament which would see him out of the game for at least six months. Both sides also suffered losses to the blood bin with Scott Higginbotham and George North needing temporary replacements in Radike Samo and Stephen Jones. And these were not to be the last. At half time, the score stood at 3-7.
The teams returned with no changes for the final 40 minutes of their world cup. Wales appeared far more determined as they cleared the Wallabies out from their own territory and wrestled into the opposition’s half. Only 4 minutes in and Hook again had a chance to narrow the gap almost from in front of the uprights, but he missed.
The Australians returned to the Welsh half and piled on the pressure, but again and again the Dragons turned over ball at the breakdown. Sharpe left the paddock to a standing ovation, replaced by Rob Simmons, and the Welsh magnificently stole the ball again, but a massive forward pass from Hook should have sent referees’ arms flailing and whistles blowing. Instead, Romain Poite, the touch judge in line with the pass and referee Wayne Barnes both chose to ignore it allowing Shane Williams to kick the ball down the wing all the way to the tryline to take the lead. And again Hook missed his target so no conversion. Finally this prompted the Welsh management to replace Hook with Stephen Jones after 52 minutes of missed kicks, fumbled handling, forward passes and unimpressive play all round.
The referee’s assistant, Poite, continued in the same vein, this time pinging O’Connor for an alleged forward pass which clearly was not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, Mike Phillips attempted to start something with receiver, Higginbotham. But Australia kept their cool, and as a number of red shirts went over the top at the breakdown, O’Connor got his vengeance with an excellent penalty kick from just inside halfway to reclaim the lead.
After taking the lead, the Welsh took precisely 6 minutes to hand over 6 points to the Wallabies with two consecutive penalties. With just the final quarter to go, Australia led 13 points to 8, and the reserves were beginning to be pulled off the bench in their droves.
A number of phases began to be strung together by Wales, but they were unable to capitalise, and conceded yet another penalty giving O’Connor the chance to take them two scores clear. But from almost halfway, the ball just fell short of the crossbar. The ball then stayed in play just long enough for star of the show, Berrick Barnes to drop a massive goal almost from the 10m line. Wales 8, Australia 16.
Only 10 minutes were left on the clock when Stephen Jones converted a penalty into points, and the next 5 minutes Wales had possession and opportunity, hindered only by painfully slow ball coming out from the breakdowns. O’Connor broke from halfway, offloaded to Faingaa twin Anthony to Adam Ashley-Cooper who flew over the tryline as North ripped the ball from his possession. Other twin, Saia Faingaa threw into the lineout inside the Welsh 22 following a short clearance kick from Stephen Jones, and the Australians finished the manœuvre with a superb try from Ben McCalman. Even without the conversion, the Wallabies led 21-11 with just 3 minutes on the clock, and nothing short of miracle could help Wales now.
Determined to retain some pride, the Welsh side finally put together over 30 continuous phases before Halfpenny found the gap to run over the whitewash for a final try in the 84th minute. Stephen Jones added a conversion and Wales closed the game out 18 points to 21. It was without doubt their best phase of play but it was far too little much too late.
1 GETHIN JENKINS (C) 2 Huw Bennett 3 Paul James 4 Bradley Davies 5 Luke Charteris 6 Danny Lydiate 7 Toby Faletau 8 Ryan Jones 9 Mike Phillips 10 James Hook 11 Shane Williams 12 Jamie Roberts 13 Jonathan Davies 14 George North 15 Leigh Halfpenny BENCH: 16 Lloyd Burns 17 Ryan Bevington 18 Alun Wyn Jones 19 Andy Powell 20 Lloyd Williams 21 Stephen Jones 22 Scott Williams
SCORERS T: Shane Williams, Halfpenny C: S Jones P: Hook, S Jones
1 James Slipper 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau 3 Salesi Ma'afu 4 JAMES HORWILL (C) 5 Nathan Sharpe 6 Scott Higginbotham 7 David Pocock 8 Ben McCalman 9 Will Genia 10 Quade Cooper 11 Digby Ioane 12 Berrick Barnes 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper 14 James O'Connor 15 Kurtley Beale BENCH: 16 Saia Faingaa 17 Ben Alexander 18 Rob Simmons 19 Radike Samo 20 Luke Burgess 21 Anthony Faingaa 22 Robert Horne
SCORERS T: Barnes, McCalman C: O'Connor P: O'Connor (2) DG: Barnes