It’s a dominant England to face the Boks
By Mike Godfrey
England coach Eddie Jones touted his team’s semi-final clash with the All Blacks, “About between two heavyweights slogging it out.” Who would have thought it to be the team in white with the red rose on their chests coming out as victors?
Steve Hansen’s All Blacks were simply not up to standard on the day. Conceding a well-worked try in the first five minutes, centre Manu Tuilagi dotted down for a dream start for England.
A further penalty by England’s George Ford saw the All Blacks down by 10 at half time and a tough battle looming to get back into the game. New Zealand’s hopes continued to dwindle in the second half as Ford kicked over another penalty.
Capitalising on an error at a line out, the All Blacks finally got on the board through flanker Ardie Savea. With the conversion successful and the deficit now just 5 (13 – 7), thoughts of New Zealand claiming the ascendancy proved to be only fleeting.
England’s Man of the Match, Maro Itoje was colossal in his carries as he ran at brilliant angles and also dominated at the lineout time. A further two penalties converted by Ford put the game beyond reach for the devastated antipodean team. This was their first loss after a sixteen game winning streak on the Rugby World Cup stage as they bowed out of RWC ‘19 with the final score at 19 – 7.
The second semi-final on Sunday between the Springboks and Wales proved to be a dour affair as both teams reverted to the kicking game and failing dismally.
With neither side having crossed the whitewash by the close of the first half, South Africa held the advantage with three converted penalties to Wales’ one. The second half saw a rejuvenated Bok team with a number of changes have come off the bench. Centre Damien de Allende created the game’s highlight when he finished off a brilliant phase of play, bursting through defenders to go over for the first try of the game and extend the Boks lead to 16 - 9.
Moments later Wales’ Josh Adams struck back after his captain, Alun Wyn Jones cleverly chose to scrum when awarded a penalty right in front of the poles knowing that the Boks loose forwards are too slow and committed to strumming. Winning the ensuing scrum, Adams was easily fed the ball out wide to cross over for his sixth World Cup try making him the top try scorer of RWC ‘19.
At 16 all and four minutes left on the clock, sublime skills from Francois Louw over the ball saw French referee Jerome Garces award the Boks a penalty. Handre Pollard sent Bok supporters into a frenzy as he calmly banged the ball straight through the middle, edging his team ahead by 3.
A moment of brilliance by Faf De Klerk closed the game out when he pinned the Welsh back in their ‘22’ with a superb touch finder. In a moment of weakness, Alun Wyn Jones knocked the ball forward at the lineout and the resultant scrum got penalised in the Boks favour. Pollard’s quick tap and booting the ball into touch further sent his team’s fans into delirium.
New Zealand now face Wales for the bronze medal encounter to be played on Friday and South Africans will be glued to their screens on Saturday as the Boks take on England.