The final weekend delivered some spectacular results and a number of important statements were made!
New Zealand vs. Uruguay and France vs. Italy were some of the more impressive demolition jobs of the weekend. New Zealand dished up some vintage All-Black rugby with the ball being kept alive a lot more than in previous games and their execution being more precise. This was against a team like Uruguay who has been one of the most passionate and enjoyable teams to watch.
France was at their very best in turning everything into a scoring opportunity. Thriving on chaos and the ability to turn that chaos into a little bit of rugby poetry was truly entertaining to watch. Damian Penaud was the poster child of French rugby this weekend. The right-wing popped up on the left wing to score the first try, gave the cross-kick for another, had a ridiculous assist for a third, and was cleaning out rucks like a flanker!
Wales vs. Georgia was a business-like game with Wales putting away a brave Georgian team. Georgia played a lot more to their potential and the score just unraveled in the last few minutes to give Wales a 43-19 victory.
The England vs. Samoa game was an absolute nail-biter! It said a lot about the resilience of the Samoan team and showed what they were capable of. It doesn’t say as many positive things about England though. Yes, England ran away with their game against Chile but overall they are probably left with more questions than answers.
Ireland vs. Scotland – just wow. Scotland pitched up for the game clearly having worked exceptionally hard in training. They were focused, creative, and brilliant on attack. Then you might ask but how did they end up losing that badly?
Did Scotland fall apart or was Ireland just better? Ireland were just better. A whole lot better.
People refer to getting into “The Zone” in sports. It is when there is a calmness and confidence that doesn’t need to be put into words. The players in “The Zone” look like they have more time, more space, and more vision. This is where Ireland is at.
Putting a World Cup Winner tag on them now is a bit premature, but I haven’t seen any other team come as close to being near flawless.
The Japan vs. Argentina game was a great decider for Pool D with a hard-fought victory going to Argentina. Argentina has been steadily growing in stature since that first defeat to England. They don’t look to be the complete package but they are getting there. The try by Japanese lock Amato Fakatava was spectacular and is definitely one of the contenders for the try of the tournament!
Tonga and Romania had a very impressive arm wrestle in a game that had no bearing on the final results in Pool B. This resulted in both teams playing with a lot more freedom and both Tonga and Romania can be happy with the way they ended the tournament.
Then we get to Fiji vs Portugal…
What an incredible story indeed! Portugal picked up their first-ever Rugby World Cup win! It wasn’t against another small union but against Fiji, the rising stars at this World Cup. Portugal has been growing in popularity as a team at this World Cup and they weren’t outclassed in their previous games against Georgia and the Wallabies in particular.
But this was an epic win for the Portuguese and they deserved it. They were extraordinary in every possible way and I think most of them couldn’t walk properly the next day, but I am confident they didn’t care. They were warriors and deserved their victory.
Should Fiji be panicked? No. It will spark something in them and I think that England might very well be the victim of their wrath in the quarter-finals.
Losers of This Round
I don’t want to give that to anyone this week, I have loved the World Cup so far.
Winners of This Round
Before I get to the teams, I have to say that this World Cup has delivered some of the most entertaining rugby we haven’t seen in many years. A lot of the games were won and lost on the smallest of margins and on the less obvious battles, which made me enjoy it even more. We will look at it in a lot more detail after the World Cup.
My winning teams from #4 to #1 are:
#4 – France: creatively brilliant, they punished Italy in every possible way. Italy didn’t stand a chance.
#3 – Samoa: they lost but they won. They showed the wealth of talent the island teams have and how close they are to making the step up to an elite level. It also showed that their close game in the warm-ups against Ireland wasn’t luck, despite it not being a full-strength Irish side.
#2 – Ireland: any other week this performance would have put them at #1. They were the absolute best team in terms of skill and game management. To just label them as a well-oiled machine almost feels like an understatement. Their class showed again and they were formidable.
#1 – Portugal: when you come to a World Cup you have the honor of playing for your country. No one comes to the World Cup with the mindset that they will lose, although they know some results will likely not go their way. I can’t imagine that there was a single bet on this planet in favor of Portugal when they faced the might of Fiji.
Portugal put on a display of creative running and try-scoring ability similar to the French team. On the other end, they put in a defensive effort that equaled Ireland and South Africa. Bodies were put on the line at every turn and this was their World Cup final.
They won their World Cup final!