South Africa 49 Fiji 3
The Springboks appear to be warming up nicely for what may well turn out to be a surprise quarter-final clash with Australia, after running home six tries and claiming an all-important bonus point against the Fijians.
There was no repeat of the Marseille thriller of 2007 once the South Africans got into gear and managed to combine their rock-solid defence with greater attacking prowess that saw them playing some expansive rugby, as well as some deft kicks and chips.
The game was pretty much over by half-time for the Pacific Islanders as the men in green took a commanding 21 – 3 lead. Try-scoring contributions from PUMA’s Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, Gurthrö Steenkamp and a stand-out performance from Danie Rossouw, who broke the gain line at every invitation with powerful carries throughout sealed victory for the boks.
Highlight: Tendai Mtawarira taking the ball over from five yards out to a collective chorus of 30,000+ fans shouting “Beeeeeeaaaaaassssssttttt”!
England 41 Georgia 10
England’s second visit to the Otago stadium in Dunedin brought a slightly more assured performance, but left almost as many questions for a clearly dissatisfied Martin Johnson in his post-match interviews.
Aside from a PUMA combination between Simon Shaw and Shontayne Hape resulting in a 50m sprint to the line to open England’s account, the half was strewn with simple errors at the breakdown and the English were fortunate that the Georgian kicker missed three penalties in the first half alone.
Georgia’s position as the best European Test team outside the Six Nations became clear and England’s supporters wouldn’t have been surprised to see the 80% Georgian territory statistic flash up on the big screen after thirty minutes.
Despite Georgian pressure, England maintained their lead and scored again through Shontayne Hape after building play through the phases and wearing down the Georgian pack. The deficit was reduced to seven points from a 5 metre scrum on the stroke of half-time as England were left with 14 men after a sin bin for hands in the ruck.
England returned after the break with more purpose, and the effects of two physical games in less than 96 hours took their toll as Georgia’s energy waned and the England backs began to run riot. Three tries from England wingers and a third career try for PUMA’s Manu Tuilagi settled the contest.
Australia 6 Ireland 15
Declan Kidney may well reflect on Ireland’s abject World Cup warm up performances and feel there may have been some higher purpose for suffering that would lead them to greater glory on the 17th September 2011 in Auckland. He could also have been forgiven for mistaking Eden Park for Ireland’s Dublin home; such was the magnitude of noise emanating from the Green Army inside the stadium.
The manner of Ireland’s victory was just as impressive as their support, sending shockwaves through the tournament that will inspire other nations and give bookmakers headaches in the days to come. Ireland played out of their PUMA skins and dominated Australia at the scrum and in the forwards.
No tries were scored in the game, but excitement was rife as Ireland wore down the Wallabies in every area of the field with immense tackling alongside a well-retained shape from Ireland’s old guard centre pairing.
Ireland’s passion was epitomised by PUMA’s Mike Ross scrumming the life out of his opposite number and drawing penalties that were duly converted. Tommy Bowe nearly crowned the victory with a 90 yard break at the death, though his legs gave way under the weight of exhaustion.
The win marks Ireland’s first victory over a side from the southern hemisphere in the southern hemisphere and will no doubt be celebrated by their 16th man in downtown Auckland for many days to come!!
Elsewhere, Argentina brought out the sunshine in Invercargill dominating Romania and scoring six tries to complete an impressive 43 – 8 victory to keep their Pool B qualification hopes alive. The Pumas began to show some of the attacking flair that led them to finish third in 2007 with contributions from PUMA’s Gonzalo Camacho, Manuel Carizza and Gennaro Fessia who closed proceedings with a fantastic 50 yard gallop to the line. The victory sets up a must-win encounter with Scotland on Sunday.
Do you think Ireland can go all the way?