What a weekend of rugby at Twickenham Stadium.
One hundred and eleven points scored in two games and a difference of only five between the winners (South Africa and Australia) and the losers (Wales and Scotland). Both of these quarter-final games in the Rugby World Cup were decided in the final five minutes. (Not so in the other two quarter finals: New Zealand disposed of France 62-13, and Argentina had a surprisingly easy time against Ireland, 43-20)
South Africa was down 19-18 with five minutes to go when a try by Fourie du Preez gave the Springboks the margin they needed to beat Wales on Saturday.
Bear with me while I relive it:
Time: 7:45 Penalty kick by Handre Pollard. Score 3-0 South Africa
11:03 Penalty kick by Pollard. 6-0 South Africa
13:52 Penalty kick by Dan Biggar. 6-3 South Africa
15:35 Penalty kick by Pollard. 9-3 South Africa
17:37 Try by Gareth Davies, conversion by Biggar. 10-9 Wales
19:31 Penalty kick by Pollard. 12-10 South Africa
41:12 Drop goal by Biggar. 13-12 Wales
47:00 Penalty kick by Biggar. 16-12 Wales
51:45 Drop goal by Pollard. 16-15 Wales
60:26 Penalty by Pollard. 18-16 South Africa
63:25 Penalty kick by Biggar 19-18 Wales
74:25 Try by Fourie du Preez. 23-19 South Africa wins
Obviously helps to have a high-percentage kicker on the field. Pollard missed two penalty kicks, and Biggar had one hit the upright and fall back into play. In between all the scoring by kicks, there was some furious loose play and some exciting runs. Both tries scored came from remarkable ball handling, especially the Wales try after Biggar gathered in his own kick and made the pass to Davies as he was tackled.
Both teams played hard; the clock ran out with South Africa ahead.
Plenty for Scotland. Papers Monday morning screaming about how the Scots were robbed “at the death” and bringing special attention to the post-game dash into the tunnel and out of the public eye by referee Craig Joubert.
Scotland had the lead over Australia, 34-32, with less than two minutes left in the game when Joubert called Scotland’s Jon Welsh for being offsides. At worse, it looked like accidental offsides to me, which would have been a scrum to Australia. Mick Cleary in The Daily Telegraph on Monday dissects the play this way:
Scotland throws to the back of a lineout but David Denton can’t handle it. My friend Eddie, who went to the game with me, points out that had Scotland secured the ball in the lineout and kept possession for less than two minutes, they would have won.
But they didn’t. Instead, the ball was knocked forward by Scot wing forward John Hardie. The ball careens into Australian Nick Phipps and then to the ground. Welsh falls on the ball and is called for being in an offside position. As Cleary says in his report, “Joubert ruled that . . . Welsh was in an offside position following the initial knock-on by John Hardie.” But if Phipps was intentionally trying to play the ball — after the match he said he was — and then knocks it forward, that puts Welsh onsides — he’s in front of the Australian player.
To me, it looked like the ball bounced off Phipps and went to the side of Welsh, who turned and fell on the ball from the Australian side of the play. But after Phipps touches the ball, it’s in open play and Welsh can play a loose ball from any direction.
Robbed at the death, I say.
Indulge me now while I relive it:
Time 8:29 Try by Adam Ashley-Cooper. Score 5-0 Australia
12:51 Penalty kick by Greig Laidlaw 5-3 Australia
18:00 Try by Peter Horne, conversion by Laidlaw. 10-5 Scotland
20:12 Penalty kick by Laidlaw. 13-5 Scotland
29:36 Try by Drew Mitchell. 13-10 Scotland
32:21 Penalty kick by Laidlaw 16-10 Scotland
38:36 Try by Michael Hooper. 16-15 Scotland
42:00 Sean Maitland is called for intentionally knocking the ball forward. Scotland playing with 14 men for 10 minutes.
43:00 Try by Mitchell, conversion by Bernard Foley. 22-16 Australia
47:00 Penalty kick by Laidlaw. 22-19 Australia
53:12 Penalty kick by Foley. 25-19 Australia
58:12 Try by Tommy Seymour. 25-24 Australia
64:16 Try by Tevita Kuridrani, conversion by Foley. 32-24 Australia
67:48 Penalty kick by Laidlaw. 32-27 Australia
73:21 Try by Mark Bennett, conversion by Laidlaw. 34-32 Scotland
78:10 Penalty kick by Foley. 35-34 Australia wins.
Besides the bad call at the end of the game that gave the win to Australia, I think that all yellow cards given for an intentional knock on are too harsh. Even if the player knocks the ball forward intentionally, I think it should be a penalty kick only. For one thing, that would take refs off the hook in deciding whether the play was an intentional foul. And yellow cards should be reserved for dangerous play, not mishandling.
You have to love tries that pop up out of nowhere, usually the result of an alert player taking advantage of the other teams’ mistakes or capitalizing on their own good play. That was the case for two Scotland tries. Finn Russel gathered in an Australian kick he blocked and then tossed the ball up to Tommy Seymour who was in good support and went in for the try.
Mark Bennett scored his try by stepping in front of an Australian back, intercepting the intended pass to that back and dashing in for a score under the post.
Worth the price of admission, robbery and all.