CHRIS ASHTON BEING his irritating self, Les Bleus setting some powerful running alongside mystifying defensive lapses and Wales serving up a thriller: this morning’s action from the Rugby World Cup was a case of the European sides reverting to type.
If you were up late celebrating yesterday’s result against Australia or just getting some shut-eye in preparation for this afternoon’s All-Ireland Final, here’s a quick summary of what you missed.
Wales 17-10 Samoa
How it happened: With South Africa expected to qualify comfortably as group winners, this encounter was billed as having no less than a berth in the quarter-finals at stake.
Elaborating on one of the tournament’s central themes, the match came to be defined more by the place-kicking opportunities spurned by both teams than the points they actually succeeded in scoring. A try from Perenise gave the Pacific Islanders a 10-6 lead at half-time, but after the second half devolved into an attritional dogfight, it fell to Shane Williams (who else?) to break the deadlock and nudge Wales over the line.
Read our liveblog here.
What this means: A Wales victory may have placed them in the driving seat as far as qualification from the group stage is concerned, but they didn’t succeed in denying Samoa a losing bonus point, a fact that may yet prove crucial in deciding their fate.
Post-match reaction: Wales manager Warren Gatland sounded pleased with his team’s performance, even if he wasn’t sure exactly where it left them:
“We have Namibia next and a tough one back here against Fiji. But if you look at the group at the moment you are looking at Australia in the quarter-final … sorry, Ireland in the quarter-final.”
England 41-10 Georgia
How it happened: Like Samoa, Georgia were playing their second game in a matter of days and struggled to the physical pitch at which their more illustrious opponents were content to conduct proceedings. England eventually succeeded in running in six tries, including a brace from a swallow-diving Chris Ashton.
Read out liveblog here.
What this means: Having improved upon their sluggish performance against Argentina, England look on course to qualify at the head of Pool B, but their progress hasn’t come without a cost. Both Lewis Moody and loosehead Matt Stevens failed to emerge unscathed. Yet to replace Andrew Sheridan, the Six Nations champions will likely have to call on two loosehead replacements.
Post-match reaction: The aforementioned Moody admitted that England “made it hard for [themselves].” “We gave away a lot of penalties, a lot of mistakes at the breakdown. Fair play to Georgia. They were physical as we knew they would be.” Pundit Matt Williams was unimpressed with England’s conduct, noting that
“you can accuse England of a lot of things, but humility is not one of them.”
France 46-19 Canada
How it happened: Vincent Clerc returned to something approaching his best form with a hat-trick of tries against the Canucks, ensuring a comfortable (and entirely expected) bonus-point victory for Les Bleus. Impressive though the final 27-point margin was, the French performance was marred somewhat by a number of defensive lapses.
Read our liveblog here.
What this means: As anticipated, France’s meeting with the All Blacks look certain to decide the outcome of Pool A. With Ireland’s victory over Australia looking certain to consign all the Southern Hemisphere giants to the same side of the draw, there has been talk of New Zealand fielding a weakened side for the encounter.