Well I predicted 3 out of 4 quarter final victories and none of the margins as finally Les Bleus cut loose and slaughtered England’s tactics and defensive line with all the hall marks of flair and passion that has been sorely missing in this RWC. Before I go any further I would like to thank both Craig Joubert (Wales v Ireland) and Steve Walsh (Eng v France) for some of the best referring I have seen in ages. They both allowed for a great game to unfold and were barely noticeable. I hope both get to control the semi-finals. Nigel Owens (NZ v Argentina) was okay but Bryce Lawrence (Aus v SA) was at his worst in a display that was not acceptable at the RWC. Lawrence lost total control of the game and some of his decisions in regards of forward passes should mean that he will not take further part at the RWC.
Semi-Final 1: Wales v France
Well Wales defeated Ireland (22 to 10) and France defeated England (19-12) to get into this game. For me France played its greatest game of the RWC and at the same time they played their grand final to prove armchair critics like me wrong. I just cannot envisage the French being able to play two games like that in a row.
Wales continue to impress me. They just look complete. Great defensive patterns are strengthened by brilliant attacking runners in the centre and to complete the picture their loose forward trio provide the bench mark that the rest of their pack strive for and deliver.
I just cannot go past Wales and they will win this game by 10 and make their first RWC final.
Semi-Final 2: Aus v NZ
The wallabies tackled themselves into the ground and Pat McCabe lost a shoulder. I am exceptionally doubtful if McCabe will be fit for this match. The wallabies just snuck over the line in that game by defeating the Boks (11-9). After the free flowing rugby played in the previous two quarterfinals this game was a totally different beast. A dog perhaps. It was a knock them down grind it out, mistake riddled affair that was dominated by Pocock at the breakdown. The wallabies were without doubt their own worst enemy and as the match wore on their play degenerated after half time. The wallabies combination of a shambolic lineout and failure to control the ball in attack (with Cooper having his worst game at international level) allowed the Boks to control both the territory and possession stakes. But their defence held and held and held. I’m still stunned that the Boks didn’t win this game.
NZ defeated Argentina (33-10) but they had to rely on Weepu who controlled the game with aplomb and struck the ball with such sweetness that he nailed seven penalties. Argentina played a great game and were like a tick on a dog. They burrowed under the kiwi’s skin by upsetting them at the breakdown, having brilliant covering defence and they scored the best try in the game. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Argentina next year when they play in the expanded tri-nations as they truly deserve to be there. This is the game that NZ needed before the semi-final match as they had to dig deep and really play well to win.
Prediction I hear you say and an honest one perhaps. Well Eden Park has killed off many wallabies dreams, it will be awash in Black spectators chanting for a win and braying for Cooper’s head to be delivered on a silver platter (after he nastily picks on McCaw). The AB’s have looked good and they deserve to go into this match as the bookies favourites.
So far this year between the Wallabies and the Kiwis it’s one all. Both wins were dominated by the winning side. This game has the potential to go the same way but it won’t.
Well for a lot of the tournament the wallabies have been lack lustre and to be brutally honest they have not been able to provide a complete 40 minutes let alone an 80 minute performance. But I know they have the ability to produce and I know they can deliver a solid 60 minutes against the AB’s on the weekend. Like the Boks, the ABs hold no fear for the wallabies and the wallabies will get this one by the skin of their teeth with a man of the match performance by Cooper setting up the final scoring in the corner. Wallabies by 2.