Japan’s dream run continues at RWC
Rugby World Cup 2019 has passed the midway stage with a number of teams having achieved their mission of securing a World Cup play-off spot. Their focus now shifts to surviving the quarter-finals, signalling the start of the psychological warfare between the coaches and their staff.
Who would have dreamt that Japan would lead Pool A after three games when they stunned Samoa in scoring three second half tries, winning 39-19 and earning a valuable bonus point. All focus will now be on Ireland’s matchup with Samoa on Saturday and Japan against Scotland on Sunday to determine the group’s quarter finalists. Just three days prior to their Japenese encounter, Scotland plays Russia on Wednesday and will be looking to win with a big score plus a bonus point. I’m going with Ireland and Scotland to win through to the quarter finals.
The Springboks will now be in full preparation for the knock out stages after their dramatic beating of a dismal Italian team, 49-3. The Azzurri suffered tremendous pressure from the Bok front row in the early part of the game with the intense scrumming of Beast Mtawarira seeing the Azzurri front row collapse and their tight head prop leaving the field injured.
Reverting to uncontested scrums, the Italians demise continued when their loose head prop, Andrea Lovotti was shown a red card for his part in a tip tackle on Duane Vermeulen. How referee Wayne Barnes left substitute loose head prop Nicola Quaglio unpunished for his role in this incident will long be debated. It was clearly a double red card offence.
The Boks scored seven tries of which Handre Pollard converted only 4, this is a major concern as every point in the knock out stages will be vital. Mbongeni Mbonambi, Eben Etsebeth and Lood de Jager all put in stellar performances as did the resilient number eight Duane Vermeulen. Cheslin Kolbe was again the star amongst the backs, scoring a brace.
The team will need to lift their game to get through the quarter final stages. Pool B’s quarter finalists are a certainty with New Zealand and South Africa expected to have convincing wins this week over Canada and Italy respectively.
In Pool C England go through to the quarter finals after an improved second half performance saw them run out comfortable winners over Argentina, 39-10. Reduced to 14 men early in the game, Argentina’s lock forward Thomas Lavinini was red carded for a high tackle on England captain, Owen Farrell. Referee Nigel Owen overlooked three tackle offences by England and penalised Argentina for having their hands in front of their try line when they were on desperate defence. It seems the referees are a “law unto themselves”.
France is second in the pool after narrowly beating an impressive Tonga, 23-21. Having predicted England and France to advance, the battle for pole will be decided when these giants clash on Saturday.
Australia trounced Uruguay scoring seven tries to win 45-10 in Pool D. Wales and Australia are expected to win their last pool encounters against Fiji and Georgia respectively and thus qualify for the quarter finals.
The final pool game of RWC ‘19 is set to be a humdinger with Japan (fondly known as the Brave Blossoms) up against Scotland. The Brave Blossoms could bloom, sending either Ireland or Scotland packing for home.