Sunday, September 11, 2011
RWC2011; reviews and previews
Rugby World Cup 2011 is alive and kicking, and doubts that people would turn out to watch matches have been well and truly erased. There were excellent crowds in Invercargill to watch Romania play Scotland, and in Rotorua for the clash between Namibia and Fiji. North Harbour Stadium was close to capacity for the Japan versus France match, and there was a full house in Dunedin as England all blacks (lower case intentional!) played Argentina. There now seems little doubt that ticket sales will at least reach the pre-tournament target of $268million.
Yesterday's weather helped; it was terrific to see rugby being played with sun on the players' backs; in the first two matches at least. Today might not be so lucky!
Scotland rallied late to beat Romania in Invercargill. With time ticking down, Romania led 24-21, but a late Scottish try saved some blushes in what could have been RWC's biggest-ever upset. The Scots emerged with a 34-24 victory and five competition points, but not before the Romanians had given them a great contest and a huge fright.
Right-winger Vereniki Goneva was the star of the show in Rotorua scoring four tries as Fiji overwhelmed Namibia 49-25. The sun shone on Rotorua International Stadium, and with a huge local contigent of Fijian fans, our island neighbours must have thought they were playing at home! Namibia tried hard, and first five-eighth Theuns Kotze did enough to suggest that he was a graduate of the Pretoria Drop Kick Academy with three field goals in the first 15 minutes of the match. It was a terrific game of rugby with action aplenty.
France was expected to run up a cricket score against Japan at Albany, but the Japanese showed a lot of courage before going down 47-21. France played as France so often does; brilliantly in fits and starts, but their coach suggested after the match that there was a bit of complacency. The French probably have even more work to do before their next match than the All Blacks, and their defence was particularly suspect. Meanwhile, we suggest that John Kirwan's Japanese side will be targetting the matches against Tonga and Canada as chances to add to the sole RWC win against Zimbabwe in 1991.
The big match last night was the night match in Dunedin. Argentina matched England for long periods of the match, but will rue a number of missed kicks at goal as the English battled to a 13-9 victory. The English scored the only try in the match, but they conceded penalty after penalty through their negative play. There was plenty of niggle throughout the match as one would expect from teams who have been rivals at more than just rugby! Dunedin's new stadium looked magnificent with a full house in, and the noise was deafening at times.
That was Day Two; what does Day Three hold in prospect? Australia makes its torunament debut against Italy at Eden Park at 3.30pm, and we doubt that there will be quite the same transport chaos as Friday night. Italy have been the improvers of the Six Nations in recent seasons, and this match is not a foregone conclusion.
Attention then shifts to New Plymouth where Ireland takes on the USA on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We had hoped to be going up to this match today, however circumstances have conspired against us. It should be a cracking good game, and the Americans will be pumped for it; of that there is no doubt.
The day's big clash is in Wellington, where a near-capacity crowd will see South Africa and Wales go head-to-head. South Africa has shown its hand with three front rowers named in its reserves, and a five forward/two back split; they will look to assert physical dominace over the Red Dragons. Wellington will come alive this evening.
And then we get a breather. RWC2011 is up and running, and thus far, it's been wonderful entertainment. Five matches down; only 43 to go!