This was a tough old armwrestle that was in the balance until the last 10 minutes. Credit to the Poms, who for the third big game in a row dug deep and and put themselves within a decision or two of defending their title.
But the accolades rightly go to the Springboks, who showed they had the class in the tank to take the Gambler’s bet and raise it when it really mattered. And the winning of the game was a familiar story: up front. Credit to the boks’ tight five who just about held the scrum but then well and truly dominated the line-out. The Boks stole 7 of Englands 19 throws. Most importantly, the whole 8 refused to be dominated at the break down, just tipping the balance enough to force England into actions that they were lucky not to be treated more harshly for.
The turning point that will be remembered was the Cueto disallowed try, when following a lightning break from Matthew Tait (how well he stepped up to the mark in this match, does this mean he gets another game?) the wingers toe was adjudged to clip the whitewash before he dotted down the ball. The bitch-tits commentators had thought they’d found a scapegoat until post match in the studio, where to his credit, Martin Johnson immediately acknowledged the truth when he saw it. A ballsy call from the TMO Stu Dickenson who took an uncomfortable amount of time to make it.
For mine though, there were two other turning points in the first half that England were lucky to ride. The first was when Lewis Moody tripped a player and was called for it. He was rightly penalised, but by law isn’t this instant yellow? The other call that to me was even clearer was when the South Africans had run about 5 phases on the England line and were persistently professionally fouled. They got the three, but considering how the rest of this world cup has been reffed, this was pretty puzzling. Rolland didn’t even warn the poms. A yellow in either of these occasions would have drastically changed this match.
The deserved man of the match was Victor Matfield who again demonstrated why he is the worlds best second row, even throwing in a deft cross field kick behind the England line for good measure. Franz Steyn played a blinder with his straight running and 47m penalty goal – what a player this guy is already at 20. Percy’s dead-eye kicking was faultless with 4/4, despite playing half the match with a limp (perma-tan build up), and games like this were made for Butch James who stepped up to the mark and took the pressure.
For the poms, as mentioned the pack had another good day, they all played equally well but were missing that extra oomph that for the last 30 when the points weren’t behind them. Catt had a good tactical kicking game until coming off for being too old, and Cueto also looked sharp. All is not well with Johnny Wilkinson though, and when the forwards didn’t make him look quite so good, his game couldn’t make up for it. His kicking from hand was surprisingly poor.
But a big congrats to the Boks; they backed themselves throughout this World Cup and had the breadth in game plan and depth in players to take on whatever came their way. I wonder if Jake will pass his job application?
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