Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sometimes it just feels good to be Irish...

Dan Carter - desperate luck ( picture )

The action started on Friday with the South Africans edging past Samoa in a brutal encounter. Samoa will feel they were hard done by this tournament, and they were.

Australia started the games on Saturday by banking 5 points against Russia, and topped the pool for the moment. Then it was France’s turn to show us what they had. Or not. There is a sublime French team at the World Cup, but they are still waiting to make their first appearance. Instead we get the tragicomic French team, hammered by the All Blacks last week, and sinking further in to the mire with an abysmal performance against Tonga. Serious World Cup contenders? Non. They still manage to get through in second spot though.

In the last match on saturday it was Scotland’s chance to try and put England to the sword. All the plaudits are for the Scots, but plaudits don’t count for anything when you lose and exit the World Cup. England continue with their ruse that they are a really good team pretending to be average, scraping through two tight matches to lull all the other teams into a sense of false security. They are certainly making a good fist of being average as half the team went missing in action against the Scots. I reckon, Haskell, Croft, and Tualagi had good matches for England, and that was it. Jonny Wilkingson’s metronomic kicking has deserted him – metronomy is not the first word that springs to mind when he kicks now. So if he can’t kick anymore, you have to question his place in the team, and his injury may sort that problem out for England. The Scottish front row were epic, the whole team gave it their all, but for all that effort they never really looked like scoring a try. With this run of form in the pools, England vs France is bound to be a stormer.

Very early on Saturday, Argentina booked their place in the last eight with an easy win over Georgia. New Zealand went through an elaborate training exercise with Canada – they must have score a hundred tries by now. But a successful pool stage has been soured by the loss for the rest of the tournament of the best 10 in the world, Dan Carter. The AB’s don’t have an experienced back up – and that could be them fecked again. It’s very cruel for Carter. Wales ran riot against Fiji to seal 2nd place behind the Boks and go into the next round with some serious momentum.

Finally, it was left for Ireland and Italy to tussle it out for the last place in the pool. Sometimes it just feels good to be Irish, and Sunday was a day like that. Ireland survived a tense first half to come roaring out in the second and batter the Italians.  There’s form all over the place suddenly in the Irish team – Bowe, Heaslip, O’Brien, Ferris, Healy – and that doesn’t do justice to everyone else as there were no weak links. Murray is settling into a first choice role and Kearney and D’Arcy are threatening again. Scoring tries doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore, we got three and deserved another two.

I was a bit disappointed in the Italian tactics, though, it was very niggly with lots of off the ball stuff going on. They were trying to keep it tight and physical, and look for a yellow card for Ireland. Maybe I’m wrong – maybe Italian hooker Ghiraldini was just trying to clear a bit of grass out of Cian Healy’s eye – and you know what it’s like when you try to help someone and they just take it all the wrong way. Those Irish can be so touchy! Well, it’s ciao to the Italians, as we look forward to a date with the Welsh. It’s the first World Cup we’ve topped our pool.

South Africa  13 - 5  Samoa    
 France  14 - 19  Tonga    
 England  16 - 12  Scotland    
 Australia  68 - 22  Russia

Argentina 25 - 7 Georgia 
New Zealand 79 - 15 Canada 
Ireland 36 - 6 Italy 
Wales 66 - 0 Fiji

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