Welcome to the Top 5. I feel a bit drained after the roller coaster of a week, between weather, cancelled matches and watching an absolute cracker of a match on Sunday night, it’s all been a bit much and I need a few days off. This week we look at how teams finished up and where to next, look at how the Wallabies fared during the pool stage of the Cup, check in with the NRC, look at the good, bad and ugly from the weekend and indulge ourselves a bit with some good rugby.
POOL TIME IS OVER
The pools stage is over and its down to the business end of proceedings. All four pools were topped by an undefeated team, however only two teams are going through to the quarter finals with four wins under their belt, Wales and Japan. New Zealand and England both have a draw recorded due to the typhoon, so while they are undefeated, have won one less game.
Here’s how the pools looked after the final match was played on Sunday night.
|New Zealand (Q)||4||3||1||0||157||22||+135||2||16|
|South Africa (Q)||4||3||0||1||185||36||+149||3||15|
Looking back at the records from all previous World Cups, the Cup has never been won by a team who has lost a match during the pool stage. Is this the year when that record is broken? Can South Africa, France, Ireland or Australia make it all the way? Of all of those teams, I see South Africa to be the most likely, followed by Ireland (which is a tough ask as they play New Zealand this weekend).
Or will one of the teams who went through undefeated win? New Zealand and England are both playing well, Wales haven’t been as convincing, and who knows just what Japan can do. They have shown they have the skills and desire – is it really likely that they could do it?
Saturday 19 Oct
6:15PM – England vs Australia
9:15PM – New Zealand vs Ireland
Sunday 20 Oct
6:15PM – Wales vs France
9:15PM – Japan vs South Africa
** Times are in AEDT
What happens after that? Well there are a few possibilities. The winners of England vs Australia and New Zealand vs Ireland will play off, as will the winners of Wales vs France and Japan vs South Africa.
So in Semi 1 we could have England v New Zealand, England v Ireland, Australia v New Zealand or Australia v Ireland.
In Semi 2 we could have Wales v Japan, Wales v South Africa, France v Japan or France v South Africa.
It is unfortunate that England, Ireland and New Zealand are all on the same side of the finals draw as I think they are three of the top teams. South Africa, if they get past Japan, should then go on to make the final on their side as it appears to be an easier side of the ladder.
My prediction? This weekend the winners will be England, New Zealand, Wales and South Africa.
WALLABIES BY THE NUMBERS
With all the line-up changes it’s always going to be hard to get a good read on how a team is really performing. The stats numbers are always only an indicator, but it does give us some clues as to how the Wallabies are performing.
Looking at the Wallabies stats at the end of the pool stage, the stats look pretty good overall. Run metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten all look pretty healthy. But the numbers do suggest that maybe we should have more reward for the work being done. A long-standing issue that seems to haunt the Wallabies attack is the amount of work for little return.
The stats from the Wales game best illustrate the point. We are on the positive side of the ledger for possession and territory, run metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten but looking at the return on the scoreboard the work does not seem to translate to points. The other numbers that support this are that the Wallabies are ranked 3rd in scoring 7 tries less than the South Africa (and 2 behind the Kiwis who have played one less game) but we lead total runs comfortably by nearly 60 over Ireland and 143 more runs than top points scorers South Africa.
Turnovers conceded gives an indication of where the problems start. Wales turned us over 11 times with the majority of them in the Wallabies half. The Welsh also used their kicking far more effectively gaining an extra 260 meters off the boot compared to the Wallabies.
On defence our tackle success seems fairly decent but the turnovers are a real concern noting that aside from Wales the other teams should not have been putting too much pressure on us to force that amount of errors, so I would suggest that the the majority of errors are of our making.
Looking at some of the other numbers:
Dane Haylett-Petty is out top scorer with 15 followed by Christian Lealiifano.
Pocock leads the tackle count with 29, Followed by Salakaia-Loto on 22, then Toomua, Rodda and Coleman all on 21 tackles.
The Wallabies are currently ranked 3rd for points scored and tries behind South Africa and New Zealand.
The Wallabies are also in are joint second in the yellow card stats.
Well, didn’t that last round of the NRC throw us a bit of a curve ball! Two teams that looked like they were going to make the top four dropped out of the finals, replaced by two teams which seemed less likely to feature in the finals.
The Force and the Vikings were clearly the top two teams, with the Force only dropping one match all season, to the Eagles. They are a tough opponent, and it will be tough for any team to topple them in the finals.
The Vikings lost twice, to the Force and Queensland Country. They are hard to beat at home, where they didn’t drop a game this season. They confirmed second place on the ladder with a convincing win over the Eagles. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they didn’t get a single point out of the match. If they had scored one more converted try, they would have got a losing bonus point and their for and against would have put them above Brisbane City.
The Drua needed to beat Queensland Country to make it into the top four, and they left it as late as they could to do so. A last-minute try saw them beat Queensland, and while Country got a bonus point it wasn’t enough to keep them in the top four.
Last week I said Brisbane City needed other results to go their way to make the finals. Well those other results did go their way. The Eagles losing without a BP and Queensland Country losing to the Drua meant that City jumped both of them, right into fourth place.
So this weekend we have our semi-finals. On Saturday the Force will host Brisbane City. Their previous meeting was a close game, with the Force winning by just two points. On Sunday, the Vikings will play the Drua for the second time at Viking Park. Last time they met, the Vikings won convincingly, 41-28.
Saturday 19 Oct 3:00PM – Force vs Brisbane City
Sunday 20 Oct 3:00PM – Canberra Vikings vs Fijian Drua
** Times are in AEDT
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Good – We have a few things in the good column this week.
First off, I bet there weren’t too many rugby fans outside of Scotland who didn’t have a big smile on their face on Sunday night (to be fair, I have seen a lot of Scottish fans on Social media praising the Japanese so they are taking it pretty well). Not only was it history making for Japan – the first time they have ever made it past the pool stages – but how pretty was the rugby they played? The passing, offloading, running, kicking … it was so good to watch. They showed skills that I would love to see the Wallabies play with.
While the cancellation of the Canada v Namibia game doesn’t fit in the ‘good’ category, this was great to see from the Canadian team. Their match was cancelled, but instead of staying at the hotel or heading home early, they decided to pitch in and help with the clean-up in the aftermath of the storm.
Following the cancellation of their match in Kamaishi, @RugbyCanada players headed out to help with recovery efforts, showing the true values of the game.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 13, 2019
Finally, we have heard so much negative stuff about the refereeing this World Cup. Admittedly, it hasn’t been fantastic, even World Rugby has said it was below par. But it was good to see a lot of positive comments about Aussie ref Nick Berry during and after the Ireland v Samoa match. He controlled the game well, was getting himself into good positions on the field and communicated really clearly with the players. Lots of calls on social media for him to take charge of one of the knockout matches – we will have to wait and see if he does.
Bad Well don’t say we didn’t warn you. A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about what would happen in the unlikely event that a typhoon hit during the World Cup. At the time I really didn’t think it would actually happen, but it did and it was a bad one. Really bad. Yes, we were all a bit upset that matches were cancelled, but in the bigger picture there are things far worse than a few cancelled rugby matches.
Ugly With all of the focus on head high shots, the multiple cards dished out and the near constant talk of the “framework” I have to wonder how this was missed in Sunday night’s match. Does it not count as a high shot because the player is lying down? It wasn’t a tackle, so is that a mitigating factor? It was only shown briefly during the telecast, with maybe one or two replays, so I don’t know if the officials just didn’t see it.
Because it made us smile, was awesome to watch and … well because I wanted to.
— Oliver Trenchard (@OliverTrenchard) October 12, 2019