Monday, September 21, 2015

RWC Roundup

2015 RWC: Opening Weekend

First kick to host country, England, as they tested Fiji at Twickenham on Friday evening (local). The Men of the Rose did not disappoint their faithful with 35-11 victory over the South Seas island nation. However it was a one-try lead only, at 18-11 well past the hour, after Ben Volavola’s penalty sticksplitter made for anxious moments for homeboys. Then Owen Farrell’s reply in the 68th minute saw the Men of the Rose ahead by more than one score at 21-11 and a late brace of groundings (71’ & 80+’) and their subsequent conversions by Mr. Farrell (73’ & 80+’) made for England’s joy and 35 and 11 the sig-figs.
Georgia v Tonga
Statistics indicated a much different outcome than the tallies at end of day, with Ikale Tahi showing 72% possession and 74% of territorial advantage, yielding a 396-204 meters-gained advantage to Tonga; but Georgia’s Lelos were far better in defense than their Southern Hemisphere adversaries with a 92% tackles-made ratio, while Tonga counted only 77% success. Tonga had only one lineout toss judged not-in-straight, and it was profound infraction; with Georgia down a man, Tonga resurgent in the dying moments, the Tongan lineout was thrown directly to the jumper; penalty to Lelos, kick-to-touch, won lineout and boot to touch and that was the match with the record at 17-10, Georgia.
Ireland v Canada
Ireland were darn near as good as it gets in their demolition of Canada. The Irish ran into the halftime tunnel in front 29-0, and despite a second half grounding by DTH Van Der Merve, who’ll be joining current Guinness Pro12 leader Scarlets (from 2015 GP12 champs Glasgow Warriors) at the conclusion of Cup play; Canada went down to 50-7 defeat at the hands of the Men in Green; seven dots for Ireland at the end of the day.
South Africa v Japan
Gotta wonder about this being one big huge surprise to Springboks who might have been looking past Brave Blossoms, and if that were the case, woe betides the SA squad as they are now thrashing about stormy, wave tossed pool, and one from which they may not emerge unto the knockout stages of RWC. The Japan XV’s Test efforts in the Pacific Nations Cup run-up to RWC looked less-than-promising, but fullback Ayumu Goromaru’s 21-point haul on a try, a brace of penalties and one handful of conversions, plus an heroic grounding at the death by New Zealand-born replacement wing, Karne Hesketh, meant a titanic rising by the Rising Sun at the ref’s last blast, and a record of 34-32 for Japan.   
France v Italy
Les Bleus, ever-ready to ride the mercury, were hot behind 19 points on account of flyhalf Fred Michalak, looking very much the bright talisman of the Gauls; France ran to halftime up 15-3, and closed out the Azurri 32-10 at full time.
USA v Samoa
Eagles difficulty in securing own ball at set pieces, a “given” that must be got, rendered staging platforms mythical and enabled much front-foot action by Samoa for a record of 25-16 at day’s end.
Wales v Uruguay
Their recent spate of injuries to prominent players posed no problem for Wales against the South Americans in the Welsh 54-9 triumph over Uruguay at Millennium Stadium.
Argentina v New Zealand
Pumas took a first-forty lead through nearly the hour mark, with New Zealand principals Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith each mandated a ten-minute respite, partially co-incident, but it was there for Kiwis in the last twenty as they regained advantage and rode the tumultuous action well for a final record of 26-16 in the New Zealand opening shot at sold-out Wembley in the last match of the weekend.

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