Welcome to the second week of the finals and our second typhoon. Or at least the remnants of one. Teams are lucky that neither of the games was scheduled for Friday as it was teaming down on our bus ride from Odawara to Tokyo. Even the bus driver was concerned.
I feel for those poor buggers who are still recovering from Typhoon Hagabis. More rain was not what they needed. It has been good to see the moments silence being observed at the last few matches.
So, to the games. What happened to the Wallabies? Oh, that’s right they went home. Should we discuss the state of affairs in RA? Maybe not….. or later.
Semi-final 1 – England v New Zealand
In the lead up to this game, I was so conflicted. I so dearly wanted the All Blacks beaten just to wipe some smirks off some Kiwi faces, but…… ANYONE BUT ENGLAND! Oh well, let’s just enjoy some good rugby. And what a game it was.
The crowd seemed evenly split. There were large groups of English and large groups of darkness. Some of the Aussies had turned black overnight but equal numbers were sporting the underdog’s colours. And I don’t care what you all say, the English were the underdogs. Honestly, who would have thought a week ago that the All Blacks would be, could be beaten?
You knew it was going to be on when the All Blacks formed up for the haka, and the English team spread out in a V. The refs tried in vain to get some of the forwards back behind the half-way line, and Owen Farrell had the smirk to end all smirks. Something was definitely afoot…..
While we are on the subject. Why are opposition teams not allowed over the halfway line when the haka is being performed? My understanding of the haka is that it is a challenge, so why can’t you challenge it?
It took less than a minute for the All Black chant to start in the crowd. It took less than two for England to score their first try. In my notes from the game I have:
- ABs a bit out of sorts for the first ten minutes.
- Check that – 18 minutes. They seem very flat and not very cohesive.
- Or at least weren’t expecting England to come at them like they did.
- So who exactly was spying on who?
No, really, Eddie made a big thing about their training being filmed, but looking at what was happening in this game, the film was certainly not shown to the All Blacks. Whatever the hell was happening, something had spooked the New Zealanders and I was starting to feel a bit sorry for them……. A little bit. For a short minute.
You would have thought that the speed of the game would have played right into the All Blacks hands, but they just weren’t themselves. There was one passage of play in the second half that went something like this – turnover, counter turnover, counter counter turnover, kick, return kick, intercept, counter intercept, turnover, penalty. I am sure Nigel just blew the penalty so that he knew who had the ball. (I am sure that is not true, but I appreciated not having to keep up for a minute or two.)
But let’s face it, it was a great game. Be disappointed if you like, if your side lost, but appreciate a great game of rugby played with intent by both sides. There have been a few games this RWC that we can look back on with joy for just being able to watch them.
Semi-final 2 – South Africa v Wales
I didn’t make it to attend this game in person. (Migraines are bastards of things, followed closely by the drugs you have to take.) From all reports, the atmosphere in the stadium was just as boring as the game. That was really interesting to hear as I have always liked watching the rugby in the presences of the Welsh supporters.
So, from the safety of my hotel room (and the angels on the bathroom walls, see above reference to drugs), my random thoughts -:
Oh. A french ref. *This is going to be fun. (*Engage sarcasm font.) I could not understand the debate when the Welsh back caught the ball and landed outside the field of play. It hadn’t crossed the plane of touch before he caught it, so he took it out. Can anyone who could hear the refs or had English commentary fill me in? Seemed pretty obvious to me.
Let the kicking duel commence. I am not sure which side was trying to avoid playing rugby the most, but it took 56 minutes before a try was scored. The longer the game went on the longer it seemed to take for the Welsh to sort out what they were doing. This seemed to play right into the hands of the Saffas as they had the time to reset their defence at every ruck.
I don’t like the yellow stripe down the back of the Springbok jerseys. Just seems to lend itself to some snide remarks about their bravery. Not that you would ever say that about Faf. I had a bit of a giggle at him taking on Ball, who had to lift him up to give him a partial Liverpool kiss. Bloody scrum-halves! (Codicil – Having recently seen Faf in the flesh, he ain’t that small…)
So brings the Semi-finals of RWC 2019 to an end. Next week we have the Bronze final (New Zealand v Wales) on Friday and the bug dace on Saturday, England v South Africa. Let’s see if England revise their plan from the game against the ABs and actually bring some excitement into the final.
Oh. And as for the state of affairs in RA. I heard of the “disagreement” between Coach and CEO a couple of weeks ago. This is just a symptom of what I think has been plaguing Australian rugby for many many years. Egos and self interest are governing decisions that are meant to in the best long term interest of the game.
Another disappointing thing about this episode is that reportedly it was left to a past player, with no official role within RA, to get the protagonists to move the discussion out of earshot of sponsors and guests. Surely there were other members of the board present that should have stepped in earlier. Did they not see or hear, or are they playing a game for their own benefit?
I have banged on for a long time that, in my humble opinion, the problems that Australian rugby is facing are all of a direct result of poor decisions made in the administration of the code as a whole. And that these poor decisions are compounded at lower levels because proper direction, support and guidance is lacking. If board members are happy to stand and watch other senior figures in the organisation tear each other apart in public, then it does not bode well for where the organisation is headed.