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EDEN PARK hosted a spectacular opening ceremony with Maori displays, pyrotechnics, Jonah Lomu and a remixed version of “World In Union”. Rugby World Cup 2011 was formerly opened by IRB Chairman, Bernard Lapasset following an address to the rugby world by New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key.
And then the games began...
MATCH HIGHLIGHTS [en français]
Impressive hakas were performed by both teams before the anthems were belted out in perfect harmony by the New Zealand Choral Federation backed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. And a 60,000 strong stadium showed their immense appreciation, thousands of whom were Tongans resident in New Zealand.
New Zealand may have outshone and outscored Tonga by six tries to one, and even though there were moments of sublime skill illustrated by the host country, overall it felt a little lacklustre. The shame was that Tonga did not convincingly turn up in the first half at all, and though they made an admirable comeback in the second, the All Blacks took their foot off the gas.
Tonga’s fate was all but sealed in the first 40 minutes, with Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui each scoring two impressive tries apiece. 3 minutes saw Dan Carter score the first 3 points, and then the tries rolled in. Sonny Bill Williams played a pivotal in the first half, though was just as significant in the second, setting up his team mates to score at will. Sonny Bill even came close to scoring his own try as he slid across the corner from an offload by Dan Carter, but Irish referee George Clancy was on his game and picked up on the All Blacks crossing illegally so no try. Clancy gave a good all round performance with the exception of at the scrum, which is always the most contentious of calls to make.
Fly half Kurt Morath had an opportunity to put points on the board from a penalty kick at goal which he struck from 50m; it had the distance but fell just wide of the uprights. But this did not knock his confidence, and just before the break he thumped over another distance kick which this time found its mark, taking the game into half time at 29-3, but not before minor handbags were drawn between former classmates, Ali Williams and Aleki Lutui.
The Islanders returned to the field impassioned, and despite the All Blacks camping out on their tryline from the restart, the Tongan defence held strong until they forced a penalty. And they repeated this manœuvre again within 10 minutes. Large scale changes off the bench also made their impact.
Notable performances from the Kiwis were displayed by Isaia Toeava and replacement, Piri Weepu who came on for Jimmy Cowan. Toeava even flew over in the corner for a try, but clearly his foot was in touch and the TMO, Giul'o De Santis concurred.
As the All Blacks made more changes to their line up, quick ball off the scrum from Weepu allowed Kahui a chip kick which he deftly collected and offloaded to Jerome Kaino for a fifth try. Carter missed the conversion as time approached the start of the final quarter, and then the Tongans took over.
Tonga drove play deep into the Kiwi 22 and were only 4m off the tryline when the All Blacks conceded a penalty. Forced behind the posts, the reds attacked along the whitewash but knew not to play the ball out wide. The lack of pace saw no momentum though the Tongans were only a metre from the line. Another penalty, and Tonga had the put in at the scrum; with McCaw offside, this little charade was repeated again and again. It felt inevitable that after that many resets from collapsed scrums, the referee had to award a penalty try soon. Almost 10 minutes later, Sona Taumalolo finally powered through to score, but Clancy deferred to the TMO for confirmation of the obvious try.
Kiwi talisman Dan Carter was taken off the pitch as a precaution, and with just 3 minutes left on the clock, Ma'a Nonu crossed for the sixth try with relative ease, and replacement fly half, Colin Slade converted for the final score.
New Zealand coach, Graham Henry admitted,
"We played averagely at times and we played quite well at times. There is plenty to work on.”
Captain Richie McCaw commented,
"We did a lot of good things. Perhaps we did not make the most of our opportunities. I guess it was a start.” But interestingly his perception was the All Blacks were much improved in the second half.
Tongan coach, Isitolo Maka said on his team’s performance,
"I was very happy with the way we played the second half, we showed some good defence and we scored a try. The last time we played against a Test team they scored 100 points on us, so to score 10 points against the All Blacks I'm very happy with that.
"Some of the players looked really nervous out there. A few of the new players were probably a bit overwhelmed by the occasion.”
This is the first time Tonga have scored double figures against New Zealand, ands also Tonga's smallest loss against the All Blacks.
1 Tony Woodcock 2 Andrew Hore 3 Owen Franks 4 Brad Thorn 5 Ali Williams 6 Jerome Kaino 7 RICHIE MCCAW (C) 8 Victor Vito 9 Jimmy Cowan 10 Dan Carter 11 Isaia Toeava 12 Sonny Bill Williams 13 Ma’a Nonu 14 Richard Kahui 15 Israel Dagg BENCH: 16 Corey Flynn 17 Ben Franks 18 Anthony Boric 19 Sam Whitelock 20 Piri Weepu 21 Colin Slade 22 Cory Jane
SCORERS T: Dagg (2), Kahui (2), Kaino, Nonu C: Carter (3), Slade P:Carter
1 Soane Tonga'uiha 2 Aleki Lutui 3 Taufa'ao Filise 4 Paino Hehea 5 Joseph Tuineau 6 Sione Kalamafoni 7 FINAU MAKA (C) 8 Viliami Ma'afu 9 Taniela Moa 10 Kurt Morath 11 Siale Piutau 12 Andre Ma'ilei 13 Sukanaivalu Hufanga 14 Viliame Iongi 15 Vungakoto Lilo BENCH 16 E Taukafa 17 A Taumalolo 18 K Pulu 19 S Timani 20 S Vahafolau 21 S Fisilau 22 A Fatafehi
SCORERS T: Taumalolo C: Morath P: Morath
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
AS the sun broke out for the first time in a while in very Scottish Invercargill, Scotland began their RWC campaign against a formidable Romanian side who were in the lead with 15 minutes to go, before being clinically beaten at the end.
Scotland began well with a quick penalty kick from Chris Paterson, followed by an all too easy try from Mike Blair. A moment of hilarity showed on Paterson face as his conversion failed miserably with the ball toppling off its tee, but still, they were 8-0 up after as many minutes.
Romania opened their scoring with a penalty kick from Dan Dumbrava thanks to John Barclay being offside. This was quickly followed by a move into the Scottish 22 from the tequila sunrise-adorned Romanians, but the attempt to move forward was thwarted by a superb intercept from Richie Gray.
The Scottish lock offloaded quickly to Max Evans who in turn handed off to Simon Danielli to face a wide open goal, if only he had run in a straight line and not tried to over anticipate the response. But Joe Ansbro promptly made up for the schoolboy error with an excellent try, which Paterson converted. At the end of the first quarter, Scotland were up 15-6.
And so the problems began for the Scots, leaking penalties like it was going out of fashion. Dumbrava took 3 points for the first, but luckily for Scotland, missed the second no thanks to a gust of wind.
There was no sign of even a breeze as Paterson struck a second penalty between the uprights, and then Romania attacked again. As the clock ticked past 40 minutes, play continued with a huge drive over the tryline and Mihaita Lazar deservedly scored. With no conversion, the teams went into the break 18-11.
10 minutes went by with no score, and the Oaks learned to slow down the ball to maximum effect before forcing Paterson into the corner flag. Captain Marius Tincu was offside so Scotland were afforded a penalty, but Romania forced a turnover and cleared Scotland away. Repeated offsides from the Romanians eventually resulted in a 3 point penalty against them, but the side ranked 17 in the world were not about to let up.
After numerous changes off the bench, Ionut Dimofte took the score to 21-17 off of two penalties going into the final quarter. And then the tide turned further towards the Oaks with a massive drive allowing Daniel Carpo to carry the ball over the line. Referee Dave Pearson deferred to the TMO who confirmed the try, and Romania took the lead to 24-21 with the conversion.
Paterson equalised with a penalty as the game moved into the final 10 minutes. Then finally Scotland woke up. From inside their own 22, a break allowed Simon Danielli to charge over the tryline at 75 minutes, immediately followed by a second try for the winger.
Though Paterson missed both conversions, the clock ran down and Scottish supporters the world over were relieved as the ball found touch and Scotland closed out the game 34-24.
Scotland came away with the win eventually, but Romania were resilient and threatened to cause the tournament’s first major upset.
Chris Paterson 14 Max Evans 13 Joe Ansbro 12 Sean Lamont 11 Simon Danielli 10 Ruaridh Jackson 9 Mike Blair VC 1 Allan Jacobsen 2 Ross Ford 3 Geoff Cross 4 Richie Gray 5 ALASTAIR KELLOCK (C) 7 John Barclay 8 Richie Vernon BENCH: 16 Scott Lawson 17 Alasdair Dickinson 18 Nathan Hines 19 Ross Rennie 20 Chris Cusiter 21 Dan Parks 22 Rory Lamont
SCORERS T: Blair, Ansbro, Danielli (2) C: Paterson P: Paterson (4)
1 Mihaita Lazar 2 MARIUS TINCU (C) 3 Paulica Ion 4 Valentin Ursache 5 Cristian Petre 6 Mihai Macovei 7 Ovidiu Tonita 8 Daniel Carpo 9 Lucian Sirbu 10 Marin Dumbrava 11 Madalin Lemnaru 12 Tiberius Dimofte 13 Csaba Gal 14 Stefan Ciuntu 15 Iulian Dumitras BENCH: 16 BZ Suman 17 S Florea 18 V Poparlan 19 SS Burcea 20 Surugiu 21 I Cazan 22 FA Vlaicu
SCORERS T: Lazar, Carpo C: Dimofte P: Dumbrava (2), Dimofte (2)
Referee: Dave Pearson (RFU)
THE encounter in Rotorua which saw 2007 quarter finalists, Fiji run in six tries against Namibia, began with the cibi [Fijian haka] performed by the Islanders.
It was Namibia that opened the scoring with a huge penalty kick from Theuns Koetze from his own 10m line. But Fiji retaliated with a try from Vereniki Goneva converted by Seremaia Baikeinuku.
And then Koetze showed his magic with three consecutive drop goals, reminiscent of Springbok Jannie de Beer who became famous for his five drop goals against England in the 1999 World Cup.
Namibia were 12-7 up with just 14 minutes gone thanks to Koetze’s hat trick, and a second potential upset looked on the cards. Fiji woke up, smelled the coffee and switched up a gear.
Bai began the comeback with a penalty, then orchestrated an offload to former military man Leone Nakarawa –who was forced to resign his commission to play rugby for his country in New Zealand– to secure a second try and Bai converted. Only a moment later Nakarawa gathered and offloaded to Goneva to score again, and Bai followed with a second penalty as the game moved into the second quarter and Fiji 25-12 up.
Namibia piled on the pressure in the Fijian 22, and though the Islanders temporarily forced them back, Hendrik Danie Dames hurtled along the touchline towards the 22 again and offloaded, though unfortunately straight into Fijian hands.
Koetze added his final penalty before Fiji went on the rampage again. Forced into touch on the 22, Goneva sealed the 1st half with a hat trick of tries. Bai's boot was sublime as he slid in the awkward conversion and Fiji went into the break with a convincing 32-15 lead.
Namibia came out fighting with an excellent all round effort finished by Heinz Koll scoring, but no conversion.
With half an hour left on the clock, Goneva proved unstoppable with a fourth try right under the posts. The conversion took the score to 39-20. But Namibia continued to fight back as Koetze sent Chrysander Botha over the whitewash.
Play became a little scrappy in the final quarter, but unsurprisingly since it had been such a frantic affair so far. Dames was driven over the tryline with ball in hand, but referee Nigel Owens deferred to the TMO for grounding confirmation. On replay, it was clear the ball was held up so no try.
With the benches emptied except for Jane du Toit, Bai converted another difficult penalty kick into 3 points taking the tally up to 42-25.
Napolioni Nalaga flew over in the corner unquestionably scoring for Fiji but again the decision was left to the TMO to confirm; Bai illustrated his incredible accuracy again converting the try with only 2 minutes left on the clock. Nalaga scored his first ever RWC try today following in his father, Kavekini Nalaga’s footsteps who scored in Fiji's first ever RWC match against Argentina in 1987.
Fiji closed out the game with a magnificent performance, winning against a decidedly resolute Namibia, a country with only 28 rugby clubs nationwide. Well played.
1 Campese Ma'afu 2 Viliame Veikoso 3 DEACON MANU (C) 4 Leone Nakarawa 5 Wame Lewaravu 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu 7 Mala Ravulo 8 Netani Edward Talei 9 Nemia Kenatale 10 Waisea Luveniyali 11 Naipolioni Nalaga 12 Seremaia Bai 13 Gaby Lovobalavu 14 Vereniki Goneva 15 Kini Murimurivalu BENCH 16 Koto 17 Nailago 18 Kalou 19 Qera 20 Buatava 21 Vulivuli 22 Keresoni
SCORERS T: Goneva (4), Nakarawa, Nalaga C: Baikeinuku (5) P: Baikeinuku (3)
1 Johnnie Redelinghuys 2 Hugo Horn 3 Raoul Larson 4 Heinz Koll 5 Nico Esterhuyse 6 Tinus Du Plessis 7 JACQUES BURGER (C) 8 Jacques Nieuwenhuis 9 Eugene Jantjies 10 Theuns Kotze 11 Conrad Marais 12 Piet Van Zyl 13 Danie Van Wyk 14 Danie Dames 15 Chrysander Botha BENCH 16 O'Callaghan 17 Du Toit 18 van Lill 19 Kitshoff 20 R De La Harpe 21 D De La Harpe 22 Winkler
SCORERS T: Koll, Botha P: Koetze (2) DG: Koetze (3)
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
FRANCE ran onto the park sporting their new all white change kit with determination and the likely expectancy that Japan would not give them any trouble in their opening match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. They thought wrong. The final score of 47 -21 was somewhat flattering to the French.
Les Bleus began with a spectacular try from Julien Pierre from a solid team effort with excellent ball recycling. Dimitri Yachvili quickly converted, and following a failed penalty attempt at goal by Japan’s James Arlidge, a brilliant intercept from François Trinh-Duc just outside his own 22 allowed him to belt unhindered across the whitewash to take a 14-0 lead.
By the start of the second quarter, Arlidge had opened the scoring for Japan with a penalty –he went on the score all his sides points– but France reciprocated with a penalty kick of their own from Yachvili. Japan were not taking this game lying down, and despite the 17 point deficit approaching the half hour mark, the Cherry Blossoms took the game to Les Bleus with verve.
A fortuitous bounce off a French torso in their 22 allowed Arlidge to charge across the tryline to score. Though he did not convert, he redeemed himself just before the break with a penalty. But in the meantime, Yachvili deftly propelled Aurélien Rougerie forward and an offload to Vincent Clerc gave France their third try. Half time score: 25-11.
Immediately from the restart, Les Bleus headed straight into Japan’s 22, and Imanol Harinordoquy took the ball over the tryline. New Zealand-born but Australian referee Steve Walsh rightly deferred the decision to the TMO, as even Harinordoquy looked sheepish and did not celebrate knowing full well the ball had been held up. From the 5m scrum, Lionel Nallett did score, but the TMO ruled no try.
A tenacious Japan continued attacking, and eventually were rewarded with a second try 10 minutes into the second half from the Hamilton-born, New Zealand Maori-capped, Japan-qualified, Nottingham fly half James Arlidge right next to the posts. With a conversion under his belt this time, and a third penalty taking the scoreboard to a very close 25-21, coupled with dogged defence, Japan was causing a real and serious upset to the French.
After 20 minutes of being a proverbial thorn in France’s side, Les Bleus finally took back control of the game, with successive tries from Nallett, Pascal Papé and Morgan Parra, and two penalties and two conversions from Yachvili to win.
Despite a determined effort, Japan could not break their long-standing drought of no wins at the world cup, but John Kirwan’s side has definitely begun the transformation to a truly improved side. Hopefully by 2019 when the 'Land Of The Rising' Sun hosts the Rugby World Cup, they will be a serious contender.
As for France - it was typically unpredictable, with moments of sublime inspiration and others of abject horror. And if they are to cause the upset they have in the past at the RWC to the hosts, coach Marc Lièvremont will have to seriously rethink his game plan.
1 Fabien Barcella 2 William Servat 3 Nicolas Mas 4 Julien Pierre 5 Lionel Nallet 6 THIERRY DUSAUTOIR (C) 7 Imanol Harinordoquy 8 Raphael Lakafia 9 Dimitri Yachvili 10 Francois Trinh-Duc 11 Maxime Médard 12 Fabrice Estebanez 13 Aurélien Rougerie 14 Vincent Clerc 15 Cédric Heymans BENCH: 16 Szarzewski 17 Poux 18 Pape 19 Bonnaire 20 Parra 21 Skrela 22 Marty
SCORERS T: Pierre, Trinh-Duc, Clerc, Nallet, Pape, Parra C: Yachvili (4) P: Yachvili (3)
1 Hisateru Hirashima 2 Shota Horie 3 Kensuke Hatakeyama 4 Luke Thompson 5 Toshizumi Kitagawa 6 TAKASHI KIKUTANI (C) 7 Michael Leitch 8 Ryukoliniasi Holani 9 Fumiaki Tanaka 10 James Arlidge 11 Hirotoki Onozawa 12 Ryan Nicholas 13 Koji Taira 14 Kosuke Endo 15 Shaun Webb BENCH: 16 Y Aoki 17 N Fujita 18 H Ono 19 I Taniguchi 20 At Hiwasa 21 M Williams 22 A Tupuailai
SCORERS T: Arlidge (2) C: Arlidge P: Arlidge (3)
Referee: Steve Walsh (ARU)
TEARS of pride ran down Argentinean faces at the anthems, while England were just fierce and vocal –with the exception of Jonny Wilkinson and Toby flood– in all black in what appeared to be a fairly hostile environment.
From the outset it was understood that this would be a brutal encounter, with both teams claiming silver and bronze at the last world cup, and it would be nothing if entertaining. But such an ugly 80 minutes was not so expected.
Argentina took the lead early on and did not relinquish it until the final quarter when England finally found the whitewash in the 67th minute. But sadly for the Pumas, though they crossed the tryline 5 minutes in, the dubious Kiwi referee, Bryce Lawrence called them back for a penalty, and three was all they could muster throughout the game.
Despite the final score, the Pumas had England on the back foot for the majority of the game, and were far more composed than their counterparts, though the final statistics bore out that the teams were on an equal footing on every level except missed tackles, where England missed 18 to Argentina’s 5. Even the shock factor of Jonny Wilkinson missing 5 of 7 penalties was matched by the Pumas with only 3 of 9 converted to points.
The bruising encounter had Argentina deep in England territory far more often than the reverse, and the huge tackles from the men in black saw the Pumas leading men picked off one by one, starting with Felipe Contepomi. The Captain and fly half had to be replaced with a suspected rib injury by Marcelo Bosch, just after Martín Rodríguez slotted over a second penalty to take the score to 6-3 at the start of the second quarter; Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe took over the captaincy. Next to go was Gonzalo Tiesi with a sprained medial ligament in the knee just before half time, and RWC debutant Juan Imhoff came on to earn just his fifth Argentinean cap. Heading into the final quarter, Mario Ledesma Arocena was replaced by Agustín Creevy; though he walked off the pitch, earlier he had been taken out by Courtney Lawes and left dazed.
By half time, Argentina had not capitalised on any opportunities despite considerable ball retention in the England 22, and Jonny failed to equalise with his penalty kick. The teams went into the break 6-3.
No doubt after a proper rollicking from England coach and former RWC winning captain, Martin Johnson, the teams returned to the paddock, but England’s appalling disciplinary record did not improve. Quickly Rodriguez increased the Pumas score to 9-3 from a penalty, and the penalty count continued to rise for both teams, finally settling at Argentina 15, England 11.
England improved considerable from the 50th minute when Ben Youngs finally returned to international duty following a longer than expected injury layoff from his knee operation, replacing Richard Wigglesworth. The front row was bolstered by Matt Stevens and Dylan Hartley, on for England, Lions and world cup veterans, Andy Sheridan and Steve Thompson in the final quarter. Though both sides were being pinged regularly now, the referee passed off Gonzalo Camacho upending Delon Armitage as just a penalty offence.
No longer relying on Jonny’s boot, England set up a 5m line out and Ben Youngs deftly ran circles around the defence to score behind the uprights, much to the relief of every Englishman on the planet. It was an impossibility that Jonny could miss this conversion, and England finally went ahead 10-9. But there were still 12 minutes to go.
England continued in the same vein, and from an improved scrum won a penalty just outside the 22 which Jonny struck with perfection, taking the England lead to 13-9. This followed with the men in black attacking the tryline again with just 2 minutes on the clock, and a quick pass from Youngs to Delon Armitage sent him hurtling down the touchline, only to be bundled into touch at the corner.
The Pumas fought back valiantly over the next 4 minutes to get out of their own half. Eventually they made it to England’s 10m line before conceding a final penalty, and Jonny kicked to touch for the win.
Entertaining moments in the match were firstly, England hard man, Steve Thompson kissing Ledesma Arocena in the middle of fisticuffs to calm the situation, and in the second half the tournament’s first streaker took to the pitch.
All in all, it was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination; Argentina played well but could not close out their advantages, and England were scrappy and uncoordinated, but mission achieved.
1 R Roncero 2 M Ledesma 3 J Figallo 4 M Carizza 5 P Albacete 6 J Farías Cabello 7 J Manuel Leguizamón 8 J M Fernández Lobbe 9 N Vergallo 10 FELIPE CONTEPOMI (C) 11 H Agulla 12 S Fernández 13 G Tiesi 14 G Camacho 15 M Rodríguez BENCH: 16 A Creevy 17 M Scelzo 18 M Galarza 19 A Campos 20 A Lalanne 21 M Bosch 22 J Imhoff
SCORERS P: Contepomi, Rodriguez (2)
15 Ben Foden 14 Chris Ashton 13 Manu Tuilagi 12 MIKE TINDALL (C) 11 Delon Armitage 10 Jonny Wilkinson 9 Richard Wigglesworth 1 Andy Sheridan 2 Steve Thompson 3 Dan Cole 4 Louis Deacon 5 Courtney Lawes 6 Tom Croft 7 James Haskell 8 Nick Easter BENCH: 16 Dylan Hartley 17 Matt Stevens 18 Tom Palmer 19 Tom Wood 20 Ben Young 21 Toby Flood 22 Matt Banahan
SCORERS T: Youngs C: Wilkinson P: Wilkinson (2) Dan Cole
ON the final day of the opening weekend of the Rugby World Cup 2011, Tri Nations champions, Australia took on the minnows of the Six Nations, Italy, in Auckland. Having never beaten the opposition, the perception was the Azzurri would get a routing from the Wallabies. But all did not go to plan, and at half time the score was a surprising level 6-6. Not until the second half did Australia kick it up a gear to produce a result worthy of serious world cup contenders.
The rain poured, the wind squalled, and according to a local poll, the most hated man in New Zealand, Quade Cooper missed his first penalty amidst most ungentlemanly booing and jeering at deafening levels. Italy crossed into the Wallabies 22 and looked threatening before Cooper forced touch in the corner.
Italy defied all logic forcing turnovers and winning penalties, and with nothing to lose they put up strong opposition. Young Fabio Semenzato making only his fifth test appearance for the Azzurri made a most notable contribution. But with Mirco Bergamasco pulling his first penalty attempt wide of the posts, with quarter of the match gone, neither team had scored.
Cooper’s second attempt succeeded despite the racket from the stands, and by the half hour mark, another penalty from Italy afforded Australia a 6-0 lead off of Cooper's boot from inside the 22. But from a Cooper penalty for holding on, followed by Dan Vickerman offside, Bergamasco this time added his own 3 points to the board.
A final offside manœuvre from the Wallabies set Bergamasco up for a neat penalty kick just outside the 22, and the winger equalised going into the break.
Despite formidable defence from the Azzurri, Australia came out fighting as expected, waltzing straight into Italy’s 22 before Anthony Faingaa dropped a clanger. He redeemed himself slightly before being replaced by young but magical James O’Connor, and then the game took off.
Skilful teamwork and deft recycling allowed prop, Ben Alexander to score the first try of the match 10 minutes into the second half. O'Connor missed this conversion, but the Wallabies had hit turbo boost, and between the 49th and 59th minutes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and O'Connor shimmied over the tryline; O’Connor converted both. Into the final quarter, Australia led 25-6.
Changes were made off the bench on both sides, and then, from a perfect scrum in the 22, the ball was offloaded by Luke Burgess to Cooper to Digby Ioane to score magnificently. With the conversion, the Wallabies led by 26 points clear; 12 minutes to go.
Italy threw the kitchen sink at Australia, and fought valiantly but were thwarted by the Wallabies at every turn both in their own and the opposition’s 22. The last of the replacements were brought on with only Tommaso d'Apice left in reserve.
Italy won one more penalty as Kurtley Beale could not resist back chat at referee Alain Rolland, but with only a minute to go, there was nothing to be done. Australia took a convincing 32-6 win and the bonus point.
It must be noted that Alain Rolland was somewhat overzealous and pedantic at the breakdown, which did stifle play in the first half and was at least partially responsible for the lack of Australian initiative. But far more importantly, what this first weekend of world cup rugby proved was that with coaches of the calibre of Nick Mallett (Italy) and John Kirwan (Japan), the emerging nations are making a considerable impact on the world stage.
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 9 Will Genia 10 Quade Cooper 11 Digby Ioane 12 Pat McCabe 13 Anthony Faingaa 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper 15 Kurtley Beale BENCH: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau 17 James Slipper 18 Rob Simmons 19 Ben McCalman 20 Scott Higginbotham 21 Luke Burgess 22 James O'Connor
SCORERS T: Alexander, Ashley-Cooper, O'Connor, Ioane C: O'Connor (3) P: Cooper (2)
1 Andrea Lo Cicero 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini 3 Martin Castrogiovanni 4 Carlo del Fava 5 Cornelius van Zyl 6 Alessandro Zanni 7 Robert Barbieri 8 SERGIO PARISSE (C) 9 Fabio Semenzato 10 Luciano Orquera 11 Mirco Bergamasco 12 Gonzalo Garcia 13 Gonzalo Canale 14 Tommaso Benvenuti 15 Andrea Masi BENCH: 16 Tommaso D'Apice 17 Lorenzo Cittadini 18 Marco Bortolami 19 Paul Derbyshire 20 Edoardo Gori 21 Riccardo Bocchino22 Luke McLean
SCORERS P: Bergamasco (2)
OF course it was all about the rugby, but this was also 9/11, the 10 year anniversary of the day the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City were brought down in a terrorist attack, and so due deference was paid to the rugby community who lost their lives in this tragedy. A moment’s silence was observed, and then it was back to business.
What ended up as a 22-10 win for Ireland did not begin so well. In this four part drama, Tommy Bowe began as the villain of the first and second acts delivering two unnecessary penalties and a near miss at the tryline, but was then granted absolution by scoring two of the three tries. The third came from Rory Best for Ireland, but the USA Eagles played their part admirably with a final flourish, and, like all the underdogs so far in the tournament, gave the Irish a run for their money.
Fly half Jonny Sexton also had a bad day at the office, missing all but one penalty –two in the first half– before finally putting 3 points on the board a quarter of an hour into the game. A hugely unstructured game did not lend itself to Ireland’s inclusion in the top tier of the rugby echelons for at least the first 40 minutes.
The USA handed over their fair share of penalties with 13, but Ireland did not skimp and offered up 9 of their own. Ireland conceded 15 turnovers to the Eagles’ 6. And where Ireland missed 4 of 5 penalties, the Eagles missed only 1 of 2. Overall the teams were not that far apart in the first half, with both crossing into the others 22, each disrupting the others game, and both missing try scoring opportunities. Until the 39th minute, when Bowe snuck over the tryline right next to the upright, making the conversion simple for Sexton. The half time score of 10-0 was not particularly reflective of the game so far.
So the teams returned and Sexton missed a penalty again. And whilst captain Todd Clever had his hand tended to, the enthusiasm from the Eagles bench was reminiscent of an NFL game, no doubt encouraged by the man at the helm, affectionately known as Captain America for his similarity to a Marvel Comic book hero, and added some distraction in the miserable conditions.
An unexciting 10 minutes passed before the much warranted Ronan O'Gara and Eoin Reddan replaced Jonny Sexton and Conor Murray. The Eagles, meanwhile, burrowed deep into the Irish 22, eventually having to settle for a penalty rather than 7 points, which James Paterson had no issues with, putting deserved 3 on board, all the more notable since he was second choice kicker after Chris Wyles was injured prior to the match. Ireland 10, USA Eagles 3.
The changes had the required impact; Ireland retaliated with a try from hooker Rory Best in the corner, but no conversion. And moments later, Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll fed the ball to Tommy Bowe to score his second try. This time O'Gara did convert, and the Irish now led 22-3.
More changes were made on both sides, and another excellent passage of play emerged from O'Gara to D'Arcy to Earls to O'Driscoll in the 22, but the Eagles stopped them in their tracks, giving the opposition a scrum on their own 22.
Possession changed hands repeatedly over the final 10 minutes, and eventually tempers frayed as the Eagles continued to slow the ball and ruin Ireland’s chances of scoring again, twice, whilst in their 22.
A final line out close to the half way line for Ireland in the 79th minute should have been the last passage of play before finding touch to close out the game. And the line out was good, but as the ball was offloaded, Paul Emerick appeared from nowhere, intercepted the pass and charged downfield leaving Ireland stumped and almost immobile, before scoring under the posts in the 80th minute. James Paterson converted taking the final score to 22-10 to Ireland, but the Eagles left the field with their heads held high.
15 Geordan Murphy 14 Tommy Bowe 13 BRIAN O’DRISCOLL (C) 12 Gordon D’Arcy 11 Keith Earls 10 Jonathan Sexton 9 Conor Murray 1 Tom Court 2 Rory Best 3 Mike Ross 4 Donncha O'Callaghan 5 Paul O'Connell 6 Stephen Ferris 7 Shane Jennings 8 Jamie Heaslip BENCH: 16 Jerry Flannery 17 Tony Buckley 18 Donnacha Ryan 19 Denis Leamy 20 Eoin Reddan 21 Ronan O'Gara 22 Andrew Trimble
SCORERS T: Bowe (2), Best C: Sexton, O'Gara P: Sexton
1 Mike MacDonald 2 Phil Thiel 3 Shawn Pittman 4 John van der Giessen 5 Hayden Smith 6 Louis Stanfill 7 TODD CLEVER (C)8 Nic Johnson 9 Mike Petri 10 Roland Suniula 11 James Paterson 12 Andrew Suniula 13 Paul Emerick 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya 15 Blaine Scully BENCH: 16 Chris Biller 17 Matekitonga Moeakiola 18 Scott LaValla 19 Pat Danahy 20 Tim Usasz 21 Nese Malifa 22 Colin Hawley
SCORERS T: Emerick C: Paterson P: Paterson
WELLINGTON - 9/11 - South Africa were to face Wales for the 26th time in 105 years, and for the first time in Rugby World Cup history. In 1970, the teams drew at Cardiff Arms Park; in 1999 Wales beat the Springboks at the newly-built Millennium Stadium at Cardiff, a year that saw the Celtic nation win 10 of it 14 test matches. But that was all. On 23 occasions the Bokke beat Wales. This was to be the 24th.
History is one thing, but so far this year, Wales had won 5 of the 9 matches played, and were determined to make this the 6th. Conversely, the incumbent Rugby World Cup champions had played only 4 matches and lost 3, beating only the #1 team in the world, the All Blacks. This was the teams’ first encounter in the history of this tournament. And so it began.
By the 3rd minute from kick off, Frans Steyn charged over the whitewash in the corner, and though there was little doubt, referee Wayne Barnes deferred the decision to the TMO before awarding the try. All the stories of the new ball being a hindrance on the previous day were quashed as Morne Steyn struck a perfect conversion. Wales had not yet touched the ball.
James Hook took 3 points for a penalty half way through the first quarter, and with the Bokke gifting a second quickly, he struck the ball again; though it appeared to pull back in after drifting wide, both touch judges deemed the penalty off target, and despite protestations to the contrary, the referee did not defer this decision to the TMO.
Morne Steyn kicked his only penalty just as the match came to the end of the first quarter, and the Springboks lost centre Jean de Villiers to injury, replaced by Butch James. By the half hour mark, the score remained at 10-3; play was unattractive and scrappy, but Wales looked to be the more aggressive side, attacking at every given opportunity and testing the Bokke defence to the core.
A series of pointless penalties, first from John Smit –whose position as captain had been in question from the outset since arguably the world’s best hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, was sat on the bench– who did not throw straight into the line out, then ‘The Beast’, Tendai Mtawarira was pinged for pulling down the scrum, though the replay showed it was in fact Adam Jones, and finally Schalk Burger did not roll away from the breakdown giving Wales another opportunity just outside the 22. James Hook deftly kicked this one over to reduce the gap to just 4 points.
A drop goal attempt from Morne Steyn 2 minutes from the break went awry. This was swiftly followed by one from Rhys Priestland at the opposite end, but it also went the same way. And so the score remained at 10-6 at half time.
Early in the second half, when the Springboks needed to return with a fire in their belly to prove their status as champions, they looked more like a tournament-weary team who were lethargic from week in week out of being battered. It was not obvious that this was South Africa’s opening match. And to add to the misery, Victor Matfield –Man of the Match in the 2007 RWC Final– was forced off with an injury which at the time of writing was deemed a serious concern, and replaced by Johann Muller.
Again Wales attacked, but the Bokke escaped this time with just 3 points against them rather than 7. But a try from Toby Faletau 2 minutes later compounded the Springbok misery, and with Hook’s conversion, Wales took the lead of 16 points to 10.
It was not until almost the final quarter that the somewhat delusional coach, Peter de Villiers, thought it wise to make wholesale changes to his team, following Faletau almost scoring a second try. Finally, Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Willem Alberts and Gurthrö Steenkamp replaced Smit, Habana, Spies and ‘The Beast’.
The game changed shape almost immediately, and suddenly it was Wales on the back foot, defending for their lives. Hougaard raced over the tryline within a couple of minutes of the Springboks entering the Welsh 22. Morne Steyn converted, and the Bokke were back in front by a single point with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Play became frantic as Wales arrived in the Springbok 22 yet again, and Priestland attempted a second drop goal, which went the same way as the first - nowhere near the uprights. All Hougaard’s good work almost came undone as, by not releasing the ball, he gave Wales another penalty. For the Springboks good fortune, Hook missed his second kick at goal and time was running away from the Celtic nation.
The Springboks returned to the Welsh 22, adding to the pressure on the opposition by slowing the ball and taking their time to run the clock down. A final penalty gave Wales the scrum, but the Bokke turned it over for Fourie du Preez to kick into touch and take the 17-16 win, no matter how slight and messy.
Wales displayed tenacity and put on a promising performance, but next face a huge task in Samoa, who recently beat Tri Nations champions, Australia. But of more concern is the starting line up for South Africa against Fiji, who they beat in the quarter finals in 2007. If the Springbok coach does not adjust his thinking to accommodate the fact that he simply cannot have his younger, more talented, driven and purposeful players sitting idly on the bench, the Springboks will lose. And Fiji are already ahead of them in the pool table.
15 Frans Steyn 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana 10 Morné Steyn 9 Fourie du Preez 8 Pierre Spies 7 Schalk Burger 6 Heinrich Brüssow 5 Victor Matfield 4 Danie Rossouw 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 JOHN SMIT (C) 1 Tendai Mtawarira BENCH: 16 B du Plessis 17 Steenkamp 18 van der Linde 19 Muller 20 Alberts 21 Hougaard 22 James
SCORERS T: F Steyn, Hougaard C: M Steyn (2) P: M Steyn
15 James Hook 14 George North 13 Jonathan Davies 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Shane Williams 10 Rhys Priestland 9 Mike Phillips 1 Paul James 2 Hugh Bennett 3 Adam Jones 4 Luke Charteris 5 Alun Wyn Jones 6 Dan Lydiate 7 SAM WARBURTON (C) 8 Toby Faletau BENCH: 16 R Bevington 17 L Burns 18 B Davies 19 A Powell 20 T Knoyle 21 S Williams 22 L Halfpenny
SCORERS T: Faletau C: Hook P: Hook (3)
FOLLOWING yet another magnificent display from an Island state, this time the siva tau, Samoa began their bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 in earnest with a strong win over Namibia and topping Pool D.
Kahn Fotuali'i scored the fastest try yet charging down the touchline before the first minute was up. And with a perfect conversion from Tusi Pisi from almost as far out as the touchline, Samoa set a precedent that was to remain for 80 minutes, and also the highest scoring result so far in the tournament.
Namibia put on a brave performance, and had more possession, won more own lineouts, made more tackles, more clean line breaks and fewer handling errors. But they had less territory, lost more scrums, missed more tackles, offloaded less, conceded five more penalties and scored only two tries to Samoa’s six.
The outstanding partnership for the Samoans was that of Alesana Tuilagi and Seilala Mapasua who time and again headed into the Namibian 22, and twice resulted in 5 pointers in just the first half. And although the sibling contingent of the six rugby-playing Tuilagis is down to just one for Samoa, with the youngest, Manu representing England, this deficit has been replaced by the Pisi brothers, Tusi (29) at fly half and George (25) at outside centre. Samoa felt the loss of Tusi to a hamstring injury just before the half hour mark.
By the end of the first half, Samoa had nailed three tries, two conversion and two penalties to lead 25-0. Namibia meanwhile only managed to cross into Samoa’s 22 a couple of times, retained the ball for a short period which resulted in handbags, and were generally outplayed on every front, even though Samoa was not firing on all cylinders yet. But all was not so rosy in the Samoan garden as full back Paul Williams was harshly pinged in the 39th minute and sent off to the sin bin.
Samoa started out the second half a man down, but once Williams returned after 9 minutes, they went on to score a further 17 points in 12 minutes including the hat trick for Tuilagi, while Namibia could do nothing but concede penalties and watch. After changes were effected on both sides including two thirds of the Namibian front row, at the start of the final quarter, captain Jacques Burger instigated a turnover from a Samoan lineout in his own 22, offloaded to Wally Winker who in turn ran in to score the side’s first try.
Almost immediately, Namibia gifted a further penalty courtesy of Rohan Kitshoff –a last minute promotion off the bench before kick off for injured Jacques Nieuwenhuis– who was summarily dismissed with a yellow card. Samoa moved into the 22; Namibia pushed referee Romain Poite too far which resulted in a penalty try for the Islanders, simply converted by Williams with just 9 minutes left on the clock.
Namibia fought right until the end, and just 2 minutes from time, hat trick drop goal scoring [against Fiji] Theuns Koetze ran in under the posts. The TMO Graham Hughes confirmed the consolation try and Koetze added the conversion.
Samoa belted the ball into touch on the 80 minute mark and were satisfied with the win.
1 Sakaria Taulafo 2 MAHONRI SCHWALGER (C) 3 Anthony Perenise 4 Daniel Leo 5 Kane Thompson 6 Taiasina Tuifua 7 Maurie Faasavalu 8 George Stower 9 Kahn Fotuali'i 10 Tusi Pisi 11 Alesana Tuilagi 12 Seilala Mapusua 13 George Pisi 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau 15 Paul Williams BENCH: 16 Ti'i Paulo 17 Census Johnston 18 Joe Tekori 19 Ofisa Treviranus 20 Junior Poluleuligaga 21 Eliota Sapolu Fuimaono 22 Tasesa Lavea
SCORERS T: Fotuali'i, Tuilagi (3), Williams, PT C: T Pisi (2), Williams (3) P: T Pisi (2), Williams Paul Williams
1 Johnnie Redelinghuys 2 Hugo Horn 3 Raoul Larson 4 Heinz Koll 5 Henk Franken 6 Rohan Kitshoff 7 JACQUES BURGER(C) 8 Pieter Jan van Lill 9 Eugene Jantjies 10 Theuns Kotze 11 Llewellyn Winkler 12 Piet van Zyl 13 Danie van Wyk 14 Danie Dames 15 Chrysander Botha BENCH: 16 Bertus O'Callaghan 17 Jane du Toit 18 Nico Esterhuyse 19 Renaud van Neel 20 Ryan de la Harpe 21 Darryl de la Harpe 22 TC Losper
SCORERS T: van Wyk, Koetze C: Koetze Rohan Kitshoff
Referee: Romaine Poite (FFR)
THE day began at Whangarei with a haka from Tonga before play got underway. Tonga sat 12th in the IRB World Rankings at the start of the week, and Canada 14th. The two sides had met on five previous occasions; Tonga had won in 1974 and 1999, but Canada already had the upper hand winning three times including twice at the ’87 and ’03 world cups. Despite the history, Tonga looked the stronger side, especially after their performance against Namibia at the weekend.
But Canada thoroughly upset the Tongan party and outscored the Islanders three tries to two; that was the only difference and it was all that mattered. As Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’ boomed out across the stadium, the South African referee, Jonathan Kaplan, with all his previous history, blew the starting whistle.
Nothing much occurred for the first 12 minutes apart from badly refereed scrums in both 22s, until Jebb Sinclair muscled his way over the tryline for Canada to open the scoring. Australian-born full back and kicker for the Canucks, James Pritchard –whose grandfather was Canadian– slotted over the conversion and the Canadians were ahead 7-0.
The biggest distraction apart from the upset caused by the Canucks was the bearded beasts adorned with the maple leaf, who frankly looked like something from the 1970s when Gillette has obviously not yet reached the shores of Canada. The only thing missing was vile green tomato coloured bell-bottoms and floral shirts.
But back to the rugby, and Tonga’s fullback and kicker, Kurt Morath had the opportunity to play catch up, but twice in 5 minutes he managed to push the ball wide of the uprights. After 25 minutes, Canada upped their score to 10 with a penalty from Pritchard in front of the posts.
Not until the 39th minute did it finally comes together for Tonga when Siale Piutau ran circles round the Canuck defence to score. A perfect conversion from Morath took the teams into the break 7-10. This Tongan team looked very different to the team that overpowered Namibia due to the eleven changes to the starting line up.
On their return, Morath equalised for Tonga with a penalty made all the easier now the wind was with them. Replacements were brought in off the bench on both sides, and quickly Pritchard regained the lead with a 3 pointer.
There was much improved play from Tonga as Siale Piutau slipped through the imposing black defensive wall across the 22 to score his second try. With the conversion from Morath, Tonga finally took the lead, but this was no time for complacency.
Heading for the final quarter, a chip kick through behind the Canadian tryline was too strong and the ball flew into the dead zone promptly followed by Viliami Helu slam into the boundary wall, but Tonga had the penalty regardless. They opted for a 5m scrum but eventually just came away with just 3 points. Tonga 20, Canada 13.
The final 15 minutes were the most exciting as both sides fought desperately for supremacy. Canada charged in for a try from Aaron Carpenter, narrowing the gap to just 2 points, but Pritchard could not convert. 10 minutes to go...
More changes were made and, 2 minutes later, Phil MacKenzie scored the third try to take the lead back. Pritchard added the extras; Canada were 5 points ahead, and just had to hold out with 5 minutes remaining.
In the 78th minute, Tonga secured a penalty in the Canadian 22; they set up a 5m lineout, but excellent defence from the Canucks gave them the scrum. As the clock moved to full time, all that was left was to kick to touch and Canada savoured their third Rugby World Cup win against Tonga.
1 Alisona Taumalolo 2 Ephraim Taukafa 3 Kisi Pulu 4 Sione Timani 5 Tukulua Lokotui 6 FINAU MAKA (C) 7 Sione Vaiomounga 8 Samiu Vahafolau 9 Thomas Palu 10 Taniela Moa 11 William Helu 12 Alipate Fatafehi 13 Siale Piutau 14 Fetu'u Vainikolo 15 Kurt Morath BENCH: 16 Aloisio Ma'asi 17 Soane Tonga'uiha 18 Halani Aulika 19 Viliami Ma'afu 20 Sione Kalamafoni 21 Viliame Iongi 22 Alaska Taufa
SCORERS T: Piutau (2) C: Morath (2) P: Morath (2)
1 Hubert Buydens 2 PAT RIORDAN (C) 3 Jason Marshall 4 Jebb Sinclair 5 Jamie Cudmore 6 Adam Kleeberger 7 Chauncey O'Toole 8 Aaron Carpenter 9 Ed Fairhurst 10 Ander Monro 11 Phil Mackenzie 12 Ryan Smith 13 DTH Van Der Merwe 14 Ciaran Hearn 15 James Pritchard BENCH: 16 Ryan Hamilton 17 Scott Franklin 18 Tyler Hotson 19 Nanyak Dala 20 Conor Trainor 21 Sean White 22 Nathan Hirayama
SCORERS T: Sinclair, Carpenter, MacKenzie C: Pritchard (2) P: Pritchard (2)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (SARU)
A wet, miserable and very Scottish Invercargill was the scene of a lacklustre performance from both Scotland and Georgia, the latter just starting out on their RWC 2011 journey. The Scottish fans were properly in the spirit of things with much fancy dress, and (bag)pipers piping.
Scotland beat Georgia quite unconvincingly 15-6, in a match that was entirely made up of six penalties, a drop goal and not much else. Very little positives can be drawn of both teams, as both battled the rain, though there was little wind to speak of. One would expect Scotland to be used to it and not use it as an excuse, but to be fair, this became more of an issue in the media rather than the players or management complaining.
All the points from this match came from the fly halves, Dan Parks and Merab Kvirikashvili. The stand out player on the Scottish side was Allan Jacobsen who, surprisingly for a prop, appeared to be everywhere, but it was Kelly Brown who took Man of the Match
Possession was tight with just 2% between the sides, but Scotland held 59% of territory. Both teams won all their scrums, and lost just 2 lineouts each. Georgia made a very respectable 109 tackles against Scotland’s 74, but the losing side missed 16, and conceded 14 penalties.
The match started out with a drop goal attempt from Kvirikashvili which did not quite find its mark. But it was Georgia that drew first blood with a long penalty that had both the distance and accuracy to take the lead after 16 minutes.
Not until the second quarter did Dan Parks manage to actually put points on the board, having already missed an earlier penalty. He then missed the third goal kick as time approached the half hour mark.
It could be argued that Irish referee, George Clancy, did not help the ebb and flow of the game by over-penalising the Georgians at every step, and allowing Scotland the benefit of the doubt on more than one occasion. After warning the Georgians of their high penalty count, Parks took advantage and added 3 points.
One element of the game where the Georgians were highly proficient was charging down ball after ball each time Rory Lawson tried to clear it out. Parks slipped in a quick drop goal just before half time, and Scotland went into the break 9-3 up.
So far the game had been uninspiring, and unfortunately this was not going to change in the second half. As expected, the Georgians –many of whom ply their trade in the French Top 14– hit hard and fast making huge tackles, probably the only interesting aspect of the game.
Replacements began to file onto the paddock, and Kvirikashvili misses a drop goal attempt, but there was still half an hour left.
Into the final quarter and Parks has another opportunity to add to the tally, but he missed by a country mile. Play veered from one end of the pitch to the other, but neither side managed to gain much except for giving up penalties.
With just 10 minutes left, Scotland secured a kickable penalty and Parks did not miss this time. But they reciprocated by handing Georgia 3 points on a plate which Kvirikashvili gladly took.
More changes from the reserves for Georgia, but they gave up one final crucial penalty to put themselves out of contention with even a converted try-scoring, and Parks took the score to 15-6 with just under 5 minutes to go. Scotland then simply procrastinated to run down the clock, and secured their second win and 9 points to take the lead on the board. The rest of Pool B are yet to play a second game.
1 Allan Jacobsen 2 Ross Ford 3 Euan Murray 4 Nathan Hines 5 Jim Hamilton 6 Ally Strokosch 7 Ross Rennie 8 Kelly Brown 9 RORY LAWSON (C) 10 Dan Parks 11 Sean Lamont 12 Graeme Morrison 13 Nick De Luca 14 Max Evans 15 Rory Lamont BENCH: 16 Dougie Hall 17 Geoff Cross 18 Alasdair Dickinson 19 Richie Gray 20 Richie Vernon 21 Chris Cusiter 22 Chris Paterson
SCORERS P: Parks (4) DG: Parks
1 David Khinchagishvili 2 Jaba Bregvadze 3 David Zirakashvili 4 Levan Datunashvili 5 Vakhtang Maisuradze 6 Shalva Sutiashvili 7 Mamuka Gorgodze 8 Dimitri Basilaia 9 IRAKLI ABUSERIDZE (C) 10 Merab Kvirikashvili 11 Alexander Todua 12 Tedo Zibzibadze 13 David Kacharava 14 Irakli Machkhaneli 15 Revaz Gigauri BENCH: 16 Akvsenti Giorgadze 17 David Kubriashvili 18 Giorgi Chkhaidze 19 Viktor Kolelishvili 20 Bidzina Samkharadze 21 Lasha Khmaladze 22 Malkhaz Urjukashvili
SCORERS P: Kvirikashvili (2)
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
A determined looking Russia ran out at the Stadium Taranaki to take on the USA Eagles in their first ever Rugby World Cup appearance. The debut was important enough for the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Alexander Zhukov to attend in New Zealand.
This was the sixth meeting of the two sides, first in 1988 and most recently at the Churchill Cup this summer. Russia had previously only won twice before in the early years, and that was not to change today, but what a physical spectacle it was to see them go head to head in a match that saw solitary try from the Eagles.
The battle of the superpowers began with Russia hurtling directly into the Eagles 22 with such verve, and getting out quick ball at the breakdown. The only element they missed was to play the ball out wide where they could well have scored even quicker than Fotuali'i for Samoa the previous day. But all was not lost and Yuri Kushnarev slotted over a penalty to take the lead before 2 minutes were up.
The Eagles looked flustered from the off, whereas Russia appeared calm, composed and in control, but it took only 6 minutes before a bout of fisticuffs broke out led by the Eagles. Referee Dave Pearson had a quiet word with the offending Americans, and awarded Russia the penalty, but from out wide and almost on half way, Kushnarev could not quite hit his mark.
The USA did not see points until the 11th minute from a penalty awarded for Russia being offside. Chris Wyles struck his target perfectly to square up the scoreboard. The Eagles quickly headed back towards the 22, but an offside allowed Russia to belt the ball downfield, only for USA to steal a second lineout, leaving everyone wondering if the American spies had cracked the Russian lineout code!
The only try of the match was finished by Mike Petri shooting under the posts but began with an impressive break from Chris Wyles offloading to the Suniula brothers to the scrum half, confirmed by the TMO –though why it was referred to him is a mystery– and Wyles added the extras.
The start of the second quarter the Eagles spent camped out in the Russian 22, but the opposition defence held up most admirably, thwarting USA at every opportunity, phase after phase. The ball went back and forth with turnovers and penalties flying all over the pitch but not another point was scored before the break, felt no doubt deeply by the Eagles when Wyles missed a close range penalty.
By the time of the half time whistle, the USA looked exhausted already. Subs were brought on either side of half time but even with fresh legs, there was no score until the almost the final quarter when Wyles put over another penalty to take the score to 13-3, having already missed another, but there was still one more miss to come along with a mis-judged drop goal.
Both fly halves were below average, as were most of the stats. Possession and territory were almost 50-50, both teams won most of their scrums and conceded a similar number of penalties. In fact, the USA made more handling errors, but Russia lost 6 of their 12 lineouts.
The second half was a fairly uninspiring affair, with both sides missing opportunities and not quite able to close off promising passages of play.
Kushnarev missed a simple kick at goal with just 9 minutes left on the clock, but Konstantin Rachkov doubled Russia’s score in the 77th minute. Russia fought valiantly in the closing minutes but it was not to be.
1 Sergey Popov 2 Vladislav Korshunov (C) 3 Ivan Prishchepenko 4 Alexander Voytov 5 Denis Antonov 6 Artem Fatakhov 7 Andrey Garbuzov 8 Vyacheslav Grachev 9 Alexander Shakirov 10 Yury Kushnarev 11 Vladimir Ostroushko 12 Alexey Makovetskiy 13 Konstantin Rachkov 14 Vasily Artemyev 15 Igor Klyuchnikov BENCH: 16 Valery Tsnobiladze 17 Vladmimir Botvinnikov 18 Alexander Khrokin 19 Adam Byrnes 20 Alexander Yanyushkin 21 Victor Gresev 22 Andrey Kuzin
SCORERS P: Kushnarev, Rachkov
1 Mike MacDonald 2 Chris Biller 3 Matekitonga Moeakiola 4 John van der Giessen 5 Hayden Smith 6 Louis Stanfill 7 Todd Clever (C) 8 Nic Johnson 9 Mike Petri 10 Roland Suniula 11 James Paterson 12 Andrew Suniula 13 Paul Emerick 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya 15 Chris Wyles BENCH: 16 Phil Thiel 17 Shawn Pittman 18 Scott LaValla 19 Pat Danahy 20 Tim Usasz 21 Nese Malifa 22 Blaine Scully
SCORERS T: Petri C: Wyles P: Wyles (2)
Referee: Dave Pearson (RFU)