The first 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-final has been chosen from two matches that couldn’t have been more different.
Here’s the vibe.
Wales can’t complain
“Bugger it boyo, lost again by that much.”
I love the Welsh – the people, the spirit, the rugby fanaticism, the fact they’re not English….but surely it’s not possible for them to feel hard done by in this Rugby World Cup. Warren Gatland has created a team that is basically a penalty meat grinder; solid defence and massive runners combined with world class goal kickers. The very idea is to boil every game down to averages and trust your penalty kicking average is better than theirs.
The problem occurs when the opposition has a spark of class that busts out of the average and suddenly you’re not within kicking distance to steal a match. This keeps happening to Wales and it’s clear that they spend all of their time practising running into people rather than moving the ball around them.
North’s breakout down the left wing in the opening minutes of the Quarter Final was a classic example (pictured above). All that was required was some simple draw and passing to finish the move with Anscome – probably a give and get back. But first North doesn’t give at the right time, then Anscome doesn’t adjust his supporting line and over-runs. Try butchered yet again by Wales.
To be fair, the Springboks couldn’t offer too much more and we saw a match in which both teams kicked 39 times from hand – for a total of 78 kicks over the 80 minutes. That’s at least two kicks per minute of ball in play, and most were aimless at best.
South Africa also didn’t light too many fires. Shalk Burger is at his best but the rest need to start timing their runs if they are to have a hope against New Zealand next week.
ABs glitz didn’t roll the French
While commentators were orgasmatronning over the offloads New Zealand was popping like smarties (in fact NZ only made one more than France), the real demolition of France was being done in the set piece.
The All Blacks re-start accuracy was frightening. I’ll get back to you on the stat, but regathering their own kick-off was the norm in this match, meaning they went from scoring the last points to being camped in the French half with regularity, ready to score some more. On top of that, if the French managed to get a penalty and some territory, New Zealand would then pick it off at their line-out and be downtown again with ball in hand.
Now the French were truly awful in these two aspects – jumpers didn’t go up at the kick off and every line-out throw was undercooked. However, this combo – re-start and lineout – is one that the Wallabies have fallen foul of in the past. HEADS UP WALLABIES.
The All Black scrum looked pretty handy too, but I haven’t run the cheat-o-scope over it yet.
Just before we all get too ga-ga over the ABs performance, here are a coupla tweets for ya.
Cynical play wins yet again
We talked about it in the podcast, Ben Yeates wrote about it and there was yet another case – a match turning-point example – in the New Zealand versus France QF where cynical first infringements are being rewarded by the over-officiating of ‘retaliation’.
At 29-13 in the 47th minute, France were barely holding on by their garlic honking finger tips. Their one player able match the All Blacks was Louis Picamoles.
France won a line-out on the half way line and got a good drive on, spurring Richie McCaw to come wandering around to the wrong side and attack the ball. He goes to ground with the ball and is pinged. Parra tries to grab the ball – most likely to keep the play going as they need tries – but McCaw won’t let go – managing to compound two cynical actions into the same play. You could argue this is yellow card behaviour.
Picamoles first reaches for the ball and then realises there’s a chance to give McCaw a facial. He does it, but unfortunately with his hand closed in a fist. There is no strike, so there is no punch, no slap, no gauge, no trip, no bite.
Nigel Owens says:
“I don’t see the fist or fingers near the eyes. I don’t see a punch. I just see a fist in the face.”
Yellow Card. French fingers prized off, mental excuse given, flood gates open.
How is this possibly a yellow card? If it is, then every shirt grabbing push and shove should result in team decimation as there are plenty of fists rubbing on jaws and faces, with no punches being thrown. Really this was a penalty reversal at most and has been for years.
HTFU World Rugby.