What a RWC it has been already !
After all of the build up day was one of the most entertaining days of rugby we’ve seen in years.
Japan vs Russia
They say Japan had 4 years to build up to this RWC opener vs Russia and at the start of the match you could see the early nerves. with Russia taking the early lead through a hashed take under the high ball from Tupou.
Japan rallied back and eventually in the second half took over with a 30-10 win.
To be fair it wasn’t the most entertaining matches, but it was grea to see Russia with their fighting spirit.
I hope Vladimir Putin was watching this match to see the type of potential this Russian team has, and you never know what a bit more investment could do for Russian rugby in the future….
Wallabies vs Fiji
This game did not disappoint !
Fiji were up for it and made very carry, every tackle count.
Lead by inspirational captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Reece Hodge probably thought ‘why is everyone picking on me with a few bump offs from the Fijians, but you have to give Reece credit, he kept running great lines and carrying the ball with confidence even if it meant being smashed around a bit, he always stepped up and never backed down.
Fiji went into the half ahead and with all of the momentum.
At halftime, the Wallabies realised ‘Mate we should just hold onto the ball so these big bruising Fijians stop hurting us’ and they did exactly that.
The Wallabies starved the Fijians of the ball for 6-8 minute periods, and when they did turn the ball over the Wallabies suffocated the Fijians on defence.
They deflated the Fijians and the momentum had all but fizzed away in the 2nd half, after all of the tackling they had to do they had nothing left in the tank.
The Wallabies rolling mauls were a saviour for the team and showed how can it can be a weapon for teams that face big sides, get low, drive the legs and control the ball – tick, tick and tick.
The Fijians showed a lot of promise and will look back at that match as the one that got away.
There’s something about the Wallabies that pacific island nation teams seem to exploit, we’ve seen it over the years and even in recent weeks with their final RWC warm up match vs Manu Samoa.
It’s not an arrogance, because the Wallabies aren’t that type of team, but almost a soft underbelly thats always exploited by teams from the islands.
In comparison, the All Blacks seem to be the big bogey team for teams such as Fiji, Manu Samoa and Ikale Tahi Tonga, but vs the Wallabies they seem to grow and arm and the confidence soars.
It’s a culture change that the Wallabies will want to work on as one day it could prove costly at another RWC.
France vs Los Pumas
It was always going to be a massive match between these two teams, in the in nicknamed “pool of death”.
France did what France do, they live for World Cups. The first half they took over the game and were all over the Pumas.
Romain Ntamack (9) and Antoine Dupont (10) kicking games were on point and constantly putting the Pumas under the pump.
You had to scratch your head on what the actual game plan was for the proud Argentinean team in the first 40.
The second half was a different story, I have no doubt Mario Ledesma let his side know to go back to the basics and hold onto the ball.
With ball in hand, the Pumas made their intentions known by storming back from 20-3 at halftime to 21-20 in the 68th minute.
But you could just sense this wasn’t enough against the French.
For some reason, the Pumas started putting the ball in the air to try put the French under pressure when all they needed to do was play the ball inside the French half and centre the game in front of the posts draw potential penalties which would no doubt come via French frustration.
The French came back deservedly to win the game, you’ve got to admire how the French just seem down and out, but they hang in there and strike at the perfect time.
This is going to send cries all over Argentina, but Nicholas Sanchez is not the man who’s going to steer the nation to their first RWC Title.
The game management just isn’t there and is what is needed for the Pumas, little chip kicks and constantly turning to the referee and asking for penalties does nothing for the team.
I would’ve like to see Jaguars 10, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, be rewarded for a great season with the Super Rugby side and get a chance to shine at the RWC. He can distribute, he runs the game well and proved he can step up vs South African, Australian and New Zealand Super sides.
All Blacks vs Springboks
I spent most of the time yelling at the TV in excitement and nervousness….
The first 15 minutes it was all the Springboks, they were playing with such confidence and everything they touched turned to gold.
The All Blacks just weren’t in the game and you felt this could be the Springboks game to lose. Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett fittingly went “not on my watch” and the two playmakers started orchestrating & fixing the All Blacks attack with some pinpoint kicking and putting players into space.
It’s as if you blinked and the All Blacks were 0-3 to 17-3 in a matter of minutes.
In the second half, the Springboks shot off to a strong start and at 17-10 in the 47th minute and then came on the changes, which had both teams going pound for pound, big hits, big carries, trading penalties and points ‘titt-for-tatt’.
Eventually, the All Blacks pulled through with the win adapting their game on the run, and the leaders like Ardie Savea making crucial turnovers and stifling any potential momentum swing back to the Boks.
Interesting selections for the All Blacks over the last few months and with this week leaving certain names out of the squad for the game, but I’ve noticed the All Blacks from the Richie, DC, Nonu, Snakey, Kaino era has evolved. Those players were the most reliable players you could ever ask for, you knew what they were going to do, you just didn’t know how to stop it.
Now, the All Blacks have a different balance, they have mix of workers with their tight 5 and Sam Cane at 7, they now look to have two game drivers in the backs with Mo’unga and Barrett (something that has to be credited back to the British Lions in 2017 with Sexton and Farrell) and players who will work but also the X-Factor to break a game open, with Reece, Bridge, and Ardie – throw in the best passing 9 in the modern game, Aaron Smith, and this All Blacks team looks pretty good to create history with a three-peat, only time will tell.