THE Rugby World Cup semi-finals are soon to be underway, with South Africa facing New Zealand on the 24th and Australia going up against Argentina on the 25th. What is certainly noticeable about this line-up is the stark lack of Northern Hemisphere sides and how for all intents and purposes it could well be another week in the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship.
The opening match of the weekend between Wales and South Africa saw the Welsh aiming to reach a second successive World Cup semi-final and, in doing so, end their abysmal track-record against the Springboks – who have won 28 of the teams’ last 31 encounters. Wales played admirably, with impressive performances from the likes of Sam Warburton and Dan Lydiate providing the defensive backbone to a heroic performance. It was Dan Biggar who impressed most however, whose kicking prowess and attacking threat saw his side lead at half time. After a monumental effort however, Wales were pipped at the post. South African Captain Fourie Du Preez scored off the back of an expert off-load delivered by the impressive-looking Duane Vermeulen. Wales, it seems, still cannot quite see off the best of the best, as the final score was 23 – 19 to South Africa.
The match between France and New Zealand however was a far more straightforward affair. France were not good enough and perhaps have not been for quite some time now; the team have frequently appeared in the bottom half of the Six Nations table in recent years and were awarded the ‘wooden spoon’ in 2013. The French showed brief signs of spark and ingenuity, but following a sin-bin of their captain Louis Picamoles early in the second half, the team seemed to completely fold under the pace and pressure of the ominously-good All Blacks. The final score was an embarrassing 62-13 to New Zealand.
The third game of the week was one which The Gryphon was fortunate to attend. The packed Millennium Stadium was host to a crowd of 72,316 Argentine and Irish fans and as one would expect, the atmosphere was phenomenal, with both sets of fans singing passionately and embracing the joys of rugby. However, the atmosphere was far more pleasing than the outcome for fans of the Northern Hemisphere side. Despite impressive performances from Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip, Ireland were clearly missing the input of Jonathan Sexton and Paul O’Conner – both of whom were injured. As a result, penalties went amiss and the defensive line speed was not quite up to scratch, meaning that Argentina ultimately won with an impressive score of 43-20.
The match between Scotland and Australia is the one which offered up the most controversy, as Scotland were denied the victory and their place in an historic semi-final by referee Craig Joubert. The referee awarded Australia a penalty in the dying minute of the match and it was said penalty (converted by Nick Phipps) that made the score 34 -35 to Australia. Closer inspection of the decision revealed that the penalty had been incorrectly awarded and therefore Scotland, technically, should have won the match. The decision by Craig Joubert to run off as soon as he blew the whistle and the fact that the decision was not reviewed by the TMO has added to the outrage, with BBC commentator Gavin Hastings dubbing the whole affair ‘disgusting’.
Regardless of the controversy, the outcome of the weekend is clear. At this moment in time, the Northern Hemisphere is far behind their Southern counterparts, who continue to dominate the game to a somewhat worrying degree.
Featured image: supporters.wrc