The drama of the 2015 Rugby World Cup shows no signs of abating. Home nations dreams lie in tatters after an incredible round of quarter-finals, but the tournament still offers plenty of entertainment going forward.
After navigating their way past England and through their dreaded ‘pool of death’, Wales were faced with the task of taking on South Africa. The Springboks are two-time winners and had won their last three matches in a row. However, their incredible defeat to Japan still left question marks over how far they can push the top nations. It was perhaps the most surprising defeat in World Cup history but Wales couldn’t replicate Japan’s inspiring underdog win. They were beaten 23-19 after a late try wiped away the work of a fantastic performance. Despite their disappointment, they will ultimately take a lot of positives from this difficult and injury-hit campaign.
New Zealand were the early favourites to win the tournament and went into their quarter-final in scintillating form. However, their opponents were France, always a strong team despite a disappointing pool stage. You may then have expected, as I did, a competitive match-up that New Zealand would ultimately prove too skilful to lose. Instead, the All Blacks stormed past the French in breathtaking fashion. 62-13 was the final score, the biggest win ever at this stage of a World Cup. The scoreline was frightening, but the ease with which New Zealand scored their 9 tries, and with which Julian Savea cruised to a hat-trick, was even scarier. It would take a brave fan to bet against the All Blacks lifting the trophy.
Ireland’s optimism was quickly dashed by Argentina racking-up a 17-point lead in their match. The Irish went in as favourites and hoped to reach their first ever semi-final. Despite mustering a rousing comeback and bringing the match back to with 3 points, they ultimately ended up on the end of a 20-43 defeat. Perhaps, ultimately, the injuries Ireland had suffered and their draining battle with France meant they simply had to start well. Unfortunately for them, the Argentine’s were out to silence the crowd and sap their spirit as quickly as possible. Argentina were in devastating form and this performance will challenge anyone to write them off as also-rans in the semi-final.
By the time Scotland walked out for their quarter-final they were the only home nation, in fact the only Northern Hemisphere side, remaining in the tournament. They went into their match with Australia as the clear underdogs, but you’ve never have guessed this from their performance. They raced into the lead and by the 79th minute looked set for a place in the semi-finals. Enter a questionable call by the referee and a penalty executed by Bernard Foley. Suddenly Scotland were down 35-34, with next to no time to mount a comeback. If you needed one game to sum up the cruelty of sport, you’d need look no further than this one.
The tournament has been incredibly entertaining so far. The remaining fixtures- with the latest odds on their winners from Betway in brackets- are South Africa (3/1) vs New Zealand (30/100) on October 24th, then Argentina (21/10) vs Australia (4/9) on October 25th. If the remaining games are anything like what we’ve seen so far, you won’t want to miss them!