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26 OCT 2015

Finally we’ve reached the Rugby World Cup final and to be honest, the top two sides have made it. Saturday’s quarter-final was a tight affair, and Sunday saw Australia prove to have too much quality for the entertaining Argentines to cope with.

South Africa tested New Zealand to the limit, forcing penalties at the breakdown, but New Zealand displayed impressive maturity in the second-half; not looking for the perfect try, not getting excited or ahead of themselves, using every drop of their experience. The All Blacks were five points behind at half-time with a man in the sin-bin as four penalties from Pollard cancelled out Kaino’s early try. A drop-goal and a try from Barrett put the champions ahead. South Africa replied with two penalties but a Carter effort in between secured victory despite ferocious South African defence.

No team has ever retained the Webb Ellis trophy, but the All Blacks will be favourites to do so when they meet Australia next Saturday after finding their way through a brutal encounter. The conditions were in the favour of the Boks’ and their initial tactic of testing Milner-Skudder with high kicks, blitzing the breakdown and attacking the New Zealand scrum earned them the lead. They did lack experience in other areas, but by 2019, Handre Pollard, Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel will be a formidable midfield three to take South Africa to the next step.

On Sunday, Australia held off an Argentina fight-back to win another fantastic semi-final. A three-try first half, helped the Wallabies into a 13-point lead. Argentina refused to give up and Sanchez’s great kicking saw them trail by seven points with 26 minutes to go. But Ashley-Cooper completed a hat-trick of tries late on to secure victory.

The Pumas tried to recreate the form in which they burnt Ireland early on the week before. This time it burnt them instead and, what’s more, required them to continue playing with fire for the rest of the game. At one point their chances looked fair, but they needed everything to fall for them if they were to have any chance; unfortunately it didn’t. Pocock returned for this semi and was a menace at the breakdown, complementing the busy forays of Hooper. Fardy was a blood-soaked, all-action hero, turning his hand to almost every skill of this multi-faceted sport you can think of. Lineouts, carries, tackles, turn-overs, blood; it was quite a performance from the least heralded of yet another world-class back row at this tournament.

 

Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2015

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