RWC Semi Final wrap up - Green and Gold Rugby
Rugby World Cup

RWC Semi Final wrap up

RWC Semi Final wrap up

So the Wallabies weren’t involved but there was plenty to take from the two semi finals of RWC 2019.  Here are our five key observations

England is the real deal

Not many people saw that coming, England churned out one of the most exceptional performances in their history to end the All Blacks World Cup dynasty. It started up front with their front row of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Kyle Sinclair holding their own at scrum time and carrying hard at the NZ defensive line. Courtney Lawes was sensational in proving the doubters wrong throwing his weight around superbly. Big Billy and the Kamikaze kids proved too much to handle for the bigger NZ back row, rocking the NZ ball carriers and prvong to be absolute menaces at the breakdown.  Ben Youngs found some form combining brilliantly with George Ford who along with inspirational captain Owen Farrell topped the tackle count with 15 apiece. Manu Tuialigi was a beast in midefield while the back three of Daly, May and Watson were breaking tackles and finding space all night long. It was the complete performance from England, and if anything, the final scoreline of 19-7 flatters the All Blacks.

Ohhhhh Marooo Itojeee

Maro Itoje - Photo by Keith McInnes

Maro Itoje – Photo by Keith McInnes

Maro Itoje, has been somewhat of a golden boy since bursting onto the scene against Italy with a man of the match performance in 2016, before playing a starring role in their 3-0 whitewash of Australia. He toured with the Lions in 2017, playing in all three tests. Despite all these achievements, it felt like we were witnessing the full potential of Maro Itoje on Saturday night for the first time. The 6 ft 5′ Englishmen made an absolute mockery of NZ’s 4 lineout options, destroying Steve Hansen’s plans of attacking England at the set piece winning seven throws and pinching one from the breadbasket of Whitelock. He was everywhere in defence making 12 tackles, including a memorable bone rattler on Sam Whitelock. On top of this, he provided three turnovers at the breakdown, proving near impossible to move off the ball. He was simply a one man highlights reel and in a team full of standouts was a unanimous selection for man of the match.

Eddie Jones is a tactical genius

If he wasn’t already, Eddie Jones is now clearly the best tactician in World Rugby. What he has done in the space of four short years is nothing short of remarkable. They are now indisputably the most complete XV at this World Cup. Let’s not forget that when Jones took over the reins as England head coach, they were the laughingstock of the Rugby World. They were the first (and still only) host nation to get bundled out in the pool stages of Rugby’s showpiece event and were struggling to play with any real identity following the Sam Burgess debacle. Jones came in and installed the controversial Dylan Hartley as captain who took this side on a record-breaking 18 game winning streak. When the going got tough, and England lost a few games in a row, Jones wasn’t scared to make the tough decision, handing Owen Farrell the captaincy full time, who has taken to the role like a duck to water.  Jones has been preparing this team for the best part of two and a half years to compete with the best in Japan, and it has resulted in England handing the All Blacks their first World Cup loss since Cardiff in 2007. One last challenge awaits the great Australian and If they are to take Bill back to the Northern Hemisphere, they will have seldom deserved it, having beaten the only other three World Cup winners in consecutive weeks.

Eddie Jones runs his eye over the England warmup - Photo by Keith McInnes

Eddie Jones  – Photo by Keith McInnes

Springbox kicking

Saturday night’s game will go down as an instant classic, while Sunday night’s first half was one even the purists would have found tough to enjoy. Despite fielding a side capable of tearing a depleted Wales to pieces South Africa played caution to the win, attacking for minimal phases before Faf De Klerk would inevitably box kick downfield. Wales fed off the kicking battle, with their own Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Gareth Davies up to the territorial challenge. They went into the sheds down 9-6. The second half opened up, and in the 57th minute Springbok 12 Damien De Allende took full advantage of some poor Welsh defence to score the opening try.  With 15 minutes to go and down 16-9 Wales were handed a penalty 5 meters from the Springbok line. Alan Wyn-Jones made the inspired decision to take a scrum, and three passes later, Josh Adams was over in the corner. It was all set for a grandstand finish, and Wales managed to find good enough real estate for Rhys Patchell to have a shot at field goal, only for it to fall short. South Africa, off the back of their superior bench, was able to work their way up the field before man of the match Handre Pollard made no mistake with the winning penalty with just over four minutes to go. The men in green won the battle of the boot and thereby have booked a ticket to play off for the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first time since 2007.

Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

Springboks bench proves the difference

Despite most predictions that South Africa would waltz past Wales, with 15 mintues to go they found themselves locked in a dog fight and off the back of a well worked try, it was the Welsh who had all the momentum. The key difference in the two sides though was the calibre of players South Africa bought off the bench. Malcolm Marx made an immediate impact, slowing down Welsh ball time and time again. RG Snyman carried like a man possessed, charging over the Welsh advantage line and it was Francois Lowe who won the key penalty at the breakdown that diffused what ultimately turned out to be Wales’ last attacking foray. And whilst he didn’t do all that much last night, Frans Steyn is the only player from the 2007 victory in the current Springbok squad and his mere presence would have been enough to calm the nerves of those around him.

2007 all over again…with one key difference.

So, after 46 matches and 3680 minutes of Rugby, we have two deserved finalists. It will be a repeat of 2007, and on that occasion, South Africa prevailed in a tryless Grand Final. They were coached by Jake White, who was assisted by a certain former Randwick hooker. Come Saturday night, that man – Eddie Jones, will be the one plotting against the Bokke’ and hoping to prevent the Rassie Erasmus led South Africans taking home the Webb Ellis trophy for the 3rd time in their history.

  • Ian

    I found a better pic for you to use for the world cup, this one is of it looking in a bit better condition:

  • Crescent

    I have to state, a key difference in the tempo of the semi finals was the speed of the recycle. Both AB and Eng were attacking the breakdown when it appeared they would get a payoff, whilst letting the rest go under the watch of Owens, meaning they both saw a higher proportion of fast ball availability.

    In the Wales vs Boks fixture, Garces let the breakdown become a free for all and as a result both sides saw very slow ball and rush defences leading to a higher proportion of kicking. From there it seemed neither side had the will or vision to take the risk to try and take control of the game by dominating possession. Quite frankly, the Welsh decision to take a high number of phases on attack with one out runners getting smashed back by Bok defence whilst waiting for penalty shows, for mine, they were also lacking the vision or will to really chance the arm and break open the match. Both teams contributed to making it an arm wrestle – if the Boks kick that kind of possession to England, they are going to be so far behind the scoreboard it will be embarrassing. But I suspect that Rassie is tactically wise to that risk and we’ll see a very different game plan. As long as it isn’t “run it from everywhere” – it didn’t work for the Wallabies or the AB’s and it sure as hell won’t work for the Boks.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      Spot on. With Garces in control of the final the Boks will again play a territory game and play without the ball as Garces rewards defensive teams. Let’s hope Owens get the final for rugby’s sake.

    • Patrick

      It isn’t that simple. Both Wales and the Boks very often had the ball available rapidly enough but didn’t appear to know what to do with it.

      The Boks might try and play a defensive game but I bet Eddie will have thought about how Garces referees the breakdown too and you’d have to expect that they won’t win just on that basis.

    • Wallabrumby

      Do we know when they announce the ref for the Final? I hope not Garces…or Poite. They view the ruck and the offline as a free for all.

  • Jerzy

    Has a Wallaby ever put a MEMORABLE BONE RATTLER on Sam Whitelock or Kieran Read?
    Awesome Itoje
    Awesome coach

    • Patrick

      There were nearly a dozen of them all up, it was incredible really.

  • Human

    If England win and Eddie is knighted, will he be able to keep the title when he returns to Australia?

    • Grins

      He can’t be knighted. He can get an honorary one though which means he can’t use Sir as a title unless he becomes a British citizen and it is upgraded to a full knighthood.

  • Richard Patterson

    Huge credit to Eddie Jones and his coaching staff who out-thought and out-prepared the All Blacks and to a playing squad that out-played them. Respect. I wish both sides the best of luck for the final.

  • Missing Link

    useless trivia: only 5 teams have ever played in a rugby world cup final
    NZ, Aus, Eng, SA and France

    • Wallabrumby

      Some more interesting (useless) trivia
      NZ – Played 4 Won 3, Lost 1 – 75% final win rate
      Aus – Played 4 Won 2, Lost 2 – 50%
      Eng – Played 3 Won 1, Lost 2 – 33.3%
      SA – Played 2 Won 2, Lost 0 – 100%
      France – Played 3, Won 0, Lost 3 – 0%

      England with not great form in finals, SA on the otherhand?

      • Missing Link

        yes! and it will be either England joining Aus and SA on 2 cups, or SA joining NZ on 3 cups!

        I think England look better prepared than they did in 2007, I feel somewhat like there were accidental finalists then

  • Will

    I had massive expectations for the boks this WC. Although their defence has been great, I haven’t been overly impressed with them and I expected a far more dominant performance last night. I think England have a more complete game and they look almost unbeatable at the minute. Finals can do funny things to teams but I predict the Poms by 9

    • Is it possible the Boks have one massive game in them ?
      They certainly have the cattle, they just seem a bit off their own potential.
      Could be a great game for sure..

  • I think Wales did rather well given the number of injured key players. Liam Williams would have been missed with all that kicking going on and Navidi might have had something to say with all the bashing it up the middle. Still, well done South Africa for getting a tight game over the line. Also, is it worth mentioning that Australia scored more against England than New Zealand id or is that just being a bitch ? lol

    • Who?

      We also stole lineout ball off England, where NZ struggled to win their own. Both Antipodean sides threw intercepts on their own 22 at the 78 minute mark. Though we also conceded more points.
      I actually think GeeRob got it right when she described the Wallabies game as a warm up for their NZ game…

  • MungBean

    An oddly similar game to Aus v NZ in 2003 when Jones & Mitchell were coaching those respective teams. I also think Jones sucker punched Hansen by picking Ford. That convinced the Kiwis to go with Scott Barrett to handle a long kick/lineout strategy. Didn’t work.

Rugby World Cup

A Bush League Opinionist

More in Rugby World Cup