Showing posts with label RWC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RWC. Show all posts

Saturday 24 October 2015

RWC: quarters and a semi

More "off topic" rugby shite here.

I meant to write something midweek about my experiences with the quarter finals weekend, and predict what would happen in the semis. Well one semi is done, and - spoiler alert - I'm glad this article is not entitled "FFS", and include only a link to the match report of South Africa beating New Zealand. Cos, thankfully, that didn't happen.

But let's wind back a week first.

Last weekend I promised myself a quiet Friday because I had a huge mission on Saturday. So I went to the pub and caught-up with a coupla mates I'd not seen for a bit, and downed a pint or two too many (I think it was six. I was aiming for 2-3). So Saturday started not with a hangover, but with a bit of a malaise. And I needed to meet my mate Lloyd and traipse up to the All Blacks v France quarter final in Cardiff. Anything involving Lloyd also involves a lot of beer. That said, if Lloyd was writing this, he'd be saying "anything involving Cameron...", so fair enough.

We met at the pub at Paddington and basically worked out how all the matches would go, except for the ABs v France once. It was cut and dried. And we had a single pint. Mine was named for NZ rugby hero Zinzan Brooke, and it was actually pretty good: Zinzan’s World Cup Drop (from Windsor & Eton Brewing).

I stuck to my guns and thought Wales could tough it ought against an ordinary South Africa, and no-one outside South Africa would ever will the Springboks to win anyhow. Then Ireland would clean-up a keen but under-qualified Argentina, and Aussie would sort out Scotland.

The train to Cardiff seemed to take an age, and our two-cans-each (me: Guinness-via-widget; Lloyd drinks lager) didn't last. A third covered the rest of the trip.

Cardiff cannot handle the number of people that were there. It had not earlier occurred to me that as well as the ABs v France match on Sat, Ireland was playing Argentina there on early Sunday afternoon as well. So the entire city was full of Kiwis, Frogs and Irish (and occasional but rare Argentine). Oh, and a few Welsh, but they were mostly in London for their own foray against South Africa.

All the pubs were absolutely full already (and I mean all the pubs), so we settled on a restaurant with a bar area, and - key - no TVs. Ergo no rugby mob. We got our pints and used ITV Player to stream the match on my phone (Nexus 5... OK screen but not great). We quickly accumulated four French fellas and a coupla Channel Islanders (supporting bloody France!!!) around our huddle. This is the good thing about rugby camaraderie, btw... the oppo is not the enemy; they're our mates. We had a great time with the lads (and one girl), watching Wales... not win... against South Africa. It got pretty close at a point, but Wales were outplayed and the best they could do was to get close to South Africa. 23 - 19.

So we knew that if the ABs beat France (big "if"), we'd have the Saffers the following week. First things first: we needed to sort-out the French.

We headed off to the ground, trying to find an intermediary pint with little luck. By the time we got in an served anywhere, we had to actually show up for the match. I ended up sneaking a pint out of the pub we got into (and served at after about 20min), only to be caught with it 10min later at the gate of the stadium. I abandoned it.

Our seats were close to the corner again (similar to the Namibia match), and not too bad. As it turned out we saw a lot of traffic down there in the second half. I've enjoyed being at Millennium Stadium in the past, but it was way too manic this time. The queues for beer were at least half an hour long, and... we didn't arrive with 30min spare. There's no way a sports stadium should have any more than a 10min queue for anything. Rugby with no beer. Hmmm.

62 - 13

Sixty-two to bloody thirteen. The All Blacks blew the bleu and the rouge off Les Tricolores, leaving only their traditional blanc on their flag. They're used to waving that standard. What a fricking monstering. We scored nine tries to their one. We destroyed them. I hasten to add that my fairly churlish reaction here is not epicaricacy, but relief. France have always been the team we fear. Not South Africa (in my era of watching rugby, anyhow), not Aussie, not England. France. This was the first time we had beaten them in a play-off match in the elimination stage of the World Cup. Sure we've beaten them twice in the final, but in '99 they thrashes us in the semi, and in 2007 they also sent us packing in the quarters.

Saturday 17 October 2015

RWC: down to the pointy end of things

In about an hour I'm heading off to Cardiff to watch something happen between the All Blacks and France. I have no idea what the result will be, as... well... France is a tricky prospect, and they seem to be playing OK so far in the RWC. NZ hasn't really had much of a chance to test their legs yet, other than that early unconvincing 26-16 victory over Argentina. The other pool games for NZ were perfunctory affairs, in which the ABs won, but not particularly spectacularly. I can only hope they are holding back. And unleashing today.

I don't get actually wound-up by much in this world, but this sums up my gut feeling at the moment:

It's been a bloody good World Cup so far - with some unexpected results (but, in all honesty: not that many) - and I hope the only "unexpected" result today is Wales beating South Africa. The Saffers are a bit ordinary this year, but Wales have had a lot of injuries and will need to play a blinder to match the opposition. Still: they could do it. I would really prefer to be playing Wales next week in the semis than the South Africans. Of course I'd prefer either of those to France being the ones to be taking one of those teams on. I shall not think about that.

Am pretty pleased that it's Wales playing South Africa and not England though. My sense of epicaricacy was well fed when England fell short against Wales, seemingly crushing their spirit in the process, meaning they really didn't show up against Aussie. Aussie look bloody good though.

I reckon the rest of the matches this weekend will go according to plan for the match favourites. So we'll see Ireland v Aussie in the other semi final. I dunno if Ireland can beat Aussie now: they've lost too many key players. And by that I mean Paul O'Connell really. I see Sexton is back in the starting XV for the Pumas match, which is good.

I'm still hoping for a NZ v Ireland final.

But we gotta get there first.

And I gotta get to Cardiff. Well: I need to get to the pub at Paddington to meet my mate before heading up there first...

[grimaces with anxiety]


Wednesday 23 September 2015

RWC: don't forget to watch Scotland v Japan

After Saturday's f***ing amazing World Cup upset in which Japan beat South Africa (the Guardian describes it "Japan beat South Africa in greatest Rugby World Cup shock ever"), I think we should all be paying attention to how Japan continue to fare against the other teams in their pool. Ostensibly South Africa are one of the strongest teams in the tournament, so this suggests lesser-ranked teams like Scotland and Samoa might be a bit concerned about their chances against Japan, and this definitely changes things in Pool B.

Scotland get to find out what it's like to be on the receiving end of this new rugby juggernaut (OK, I'm overstating it there) this afternoon at 2:30pm (BST). That's 09:30 Eastern Time, and 06:30 Pacific time for those in the States (well: in those TZs in the States). And I'm sure people elsewhere in the world will have the geographical and temporal savviness to be about to work these things out for themselves. I'm making a point of sharing the kick-off time, because the fact it's mid-afternoon surprised me. It's bloody inconvenient actually, cos obviously I'll be at work, so can't watch it :-/

The IRB Rankings have been updated to reflect the weekend's matches, and as it stands Japan is ranked 11th; Scotland 12th. So it should be a fairly interesting match, and an important one for both teams. If you've not watched rugby before, it might be a good match to check out.

As I said the other day, I'm off to Olympic Stadium this evening to watch France v Romania. Am really looking forward to that.



Saturday 19 September 2015

RWC: South Africa v Japan

Firstly: holy f*ck! Yesterday I said this:

Pool B

There's a strong fight for second spot here, with Samoa and Scotland being strong contenders, and Japan having half a chance if they have some luck. South Africa will be clear winners of their group. USA just rounds out the numbers

South Africa (3)
Scotland (10)
Samoa (12)
Japan (13)
USA (15)

I think Scotland are playing uncharacteristically well, and will just edge Samoa.


The South Africa v Japan game was something to behold, and Japan won. Fantastic stuff. This really changes things in this group, and I don't know what to think now.

It was not a case of South Africa playing badly: they played a good game, but Japan hadn't "read the script" and came out fighting, indeed taking an early lead. Throughout the whole match the score seesawed:

(South Africa) 0-3 (Japan) (8min)
7-3 (17min)
7-10 (29min)
12-10 (33min and HT)
12-13 (43min)
19-13 (44min)
19-16 (47min)
19-all (55min)
22-19 (58min)
22-all (60min)
29-22 (62min)
29-all (68min)
32-29 (72min)
32-29 (@ 80min, which is fulltime, until there is a stoppage)
32-34 (84min)

Japan just took it to South Africa, and both teams had an answer every time the other scored. Although the South Africans had a look of disbelief on their faces for a lot of it.

The last 10min - when South Africa got ahead and looked like holding on - spelled the end of my fingernails, but that last 4min after full time was... just... something to behold. At the 80min mark Japan had a chance for a fairly certain penalty which would have tied the scores, but they decided "ballocks to this, we can win this", and took the line out and slogged on. They crossed the line at one point after a huge rolling maul, but neither the ref (nor the TMO, nor me) could see the ball being grounded, so they reset for a scrum and kept going. Then at that 84min mark a gap opened in the Saffer defence and Japan took advantage of it. History made.

So what happens in that group now? I'm sure South Africa will regroup, but now both Scotland and Samoa will want some of them, and both sides will be picturing themselves winning. South Africa could well exit the tournament in the pool stage here, and... what... I can't call the result really.

That Japan side can beat either Scotland or Samoa to top the group, and any of South Africa, Scotland or Samoa second. I'm gonna hope for a South Africa early exit (this is epicaricacy at play), and Japan to top the group with Scotland second. This, however, will not change the quarter final results. Although England will have just sat bolt upright and gone "what have we got here then?"



Friday 18 September 2015

RWC 2015

The Rugby World Cup starts today, so technology & on-topic-ness be damned.

The RWC is held every four years. In its current format, 20 finalist teams compete in four pools of five teams each; the top two going through into quarter finals, thence to semi finals and a final (oh, and a "bronze" final to compete for 3rd or 4th place). There are 102 teams in the current world rugby rankings, and the 20 finalist teams are those in the top 20 positions at a certain date. Qualifications for the next World Cup start shortly after the preceding one.

The last World Cup was held in New Zealand in 2011, and the winner was New Zealand, narrowly beating France in the final (final score 8-7). RWC 2015 is being held in England, with a coupla games in Wales.

There have been seven Rugby World Cups thusfar:

  • 1987 - New Zealand beat France 29-9, at Eden Park in Auckland
  • 1991 - Australia beat England 12-6, at Twickenham in London
  • 1995 - South Africa beat New Zealand 15-2, at Ellis Park in Johannesburg
  • 1999 - Australia beat France 35-12, at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff
  • 2003 - England beat Australia 20-17, at Stadium Australia in Sydney
  • 2007 - South Africa beat England 15-6, at Stade de France, in Paris
  • 2011 - New Zealand beat France 8-7, at Eden Park in Auckland

So NZ, Aussie and South Africa have won it two-apiece, and England once. France have had a few chances, but have never quite made it.

Below are are my predictions for this year. Note that I actively support the All Blacks (that's NZ, OK?), Ireland and Wales; actively do not support South Africa, Australia, England and France. I'm ambivalent about the rest, although I don't mind Scotland or the Pacfic Island nations winning a match.

So, how is it going to come together? I'll go pool by pool.