My new team, Ireland, trounces Scotland. So what?

Irish“Skies growing darker while the prospects for Ireland are growing brighter,” said the announcer during the Ireland-Scotland rugby game early Sunday morning. That may be, as the Irish won 27-3 over Scotland in both teams’ first games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but I’m not so sure things are bright enough to see an Irish victory over New Zealand if that match ever came about in this tournament.

The Irish forwards looked strong against Scotland, scoring three of their four tries, before a wing added one more and then “Ireland took all the pace out of the game,” the announcer said, as Ireland played cautious ball to protect their lead. Those four tries  win a bonus point for Ireland, but remember this is Scotland, the team that fell to United States in 2018, the first time the Eagles beat a Tier One team. Ireland will advance out of Pool A, but Scotland, figuring they can beat Russia and Samoa, might have a hard time getting by Japan to move into the quarter finals.

Good bet that New Zealand will advance out of Pool B, and a potential Irish-New Zealand match could come during the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. I’ll be on my couch cheering for Ireland and hoping for a new nation to win the RWC.

Also happy to report that my scrum slumber during the New Zealand-South Africa game had nothing to do with the strength of my coffee, heavy food or even my age. Simply a matter of too much rugby in the middle of the night and early morning. So I skipped English beating Tonga, 35-3, and I’m laying off viewing rugby until the Eagles take on England Thursday, Sept. 26, at a 3:45 a.m. PDT. No Wales vs. Georgia, Russia vs. Samoa, Fiji vs. Uruguay or Italy vs. Canada (might make an exception there at 12:45 Thursday morning).

USA over England? That would be an upset that would lend big time mystery over who escapes Pool C.

A question: The 2019 RWC is being held in Japan. The stadium was filled with Irish and Scot fans, who were loudly singing along to. . .  John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Road.” Do they know where West Virginia is and what’s there?

 

Japan, this is no time to follow England

CoffeeJapan’  rugby team looked like it was headed in the same direction as the last country to host the Rugby World Cup: Not finding its way out of pool play and into the quarter finals. The “Cherry Blossoms” (trying to make that name fit into the game of rugby) let Russia’s high kicks fall to the ground, and one of them into the hands of a Russian back who scored the first points of the 2019 RWC.

Cherry Blossoms got over their nervous start in a stadium mostly filled with their countrymen and bloomed later in the game to win 30-10 in the first of 48 games in the tournament. But they will have lots to work on if they don’t want to end up like England, the 2015 host, who failed to advance into the playoff round of the tourney. That was especially embarrassing to England, where rugby got its start. However, England has been in the playoffs before and won the RWC in 2003.

Japan has never advanced out of pool play even though they won three matches, including an upset of South Africa and beating the United States, in 2015. They did not collect enough bonus points then to advance.

Last night — oops, make that this morning at 3:30 — Japan picked up one bonus point for scoring four tries in the match. Bonus points are also awarded to losers who stay within seven points of the winning team. No bonus points for Russia.

To advance, Japan has to pile up bonus points and find a way to beat those in their pool: Ireland, ranked No. 1 in the RWC; Scotland (a chance of an upset) and Samoa (betting on Japan).

Australia vs. Fiji is tonight at a decent time here in Seattle — 9:30, and then I will fill my coffee cup and get into my favorite sweater, blankies and my couch for early morning viewing for the New Zealand-South Africa game at 2:30 Saturday morning. Could be the best game of the tournament.

Now, time for a nap.

2019 Rugby World Cup starts in 5 hours

JBS 2015
Rugby reporter, 2015

I started this blog four years ago when Kathy and I lived in Oxford, England, for two months so that I could have a “once in a lifetime” experience of attending the Rugby World Cup. Probably should have told Kathy that maybe it was a “couple of times in a lifetime” experience.

But I did not, and so I am waiting for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, being held in Japan, to come my way through either TV or some live-streaming app that I paid too much for, but it’s cheaper than living in England for two months.

First game – Japan vs. Russia – starts at 3:30 Friday morning here in the Pacific Northwest, which is not where I will be watching as many of the 48 games as I can. We’re hitting the road right in the middle of the RWC as it continues through the end of October. Will there be wifi in the Serengeti? Not sure, but will report on rugby, lions, elephants and the croc-infested Mara River.

(And don’t come over to burgle my house as it is guarded by boarders and a fierce cat.)

No press credentials this time around, but the off-the-field antics should be interesting.

And who knows? The 2023 Rugby World Cup is in France. So, Kathy, how about two months in gay Paree?

Australia vs. Scotland the match of the RWC tournament

NZ with ball
Off they go again. The New Zealand All Blacks cut through the Australia defense in the Rugby World Cup Final. One thing that struck me as I edited my photos from this match: Richie McCaw, the New Zealand captain, is in almost all of them, always around the ball. He is reaching over an Aussie player in this picture, looking up at the ball carrier.

Before we left London, Kathy asked if going to the Rugby World Cup measured up to all my expectations — a question that surprised me since I thought the giddy smile on my face for eight weeks made my delight obvious.

Let me count the way, m’lady. Thirteen international rugby matches. Theater seats for London and Stratford-upon-Avon shows. Hiking the hills, punting the river, browsing through every sort of attraction covering history, art, religion, architecture and others realms of human achievement.

Yes, a definite success and then some.

Then we decided over a restaurant meal to break it down: list the top five favorite things we did while in England. We both ticked off five before the waiter got the first glass of water to the table. We were approaching more than 10 favorites apiece before our order was taken.

In keeping within the rules of naming only five, I tried to do categories, so that one of my five choices was “the rugby games,” another was “Oxford colleges,” another “plays.” Cheater, cheater, Kathy protested.

My answer to this was to offer to list five choices within each category, and of course I started with the rugby games I saw. My five favorites:

  1. Scotland vs. Australia in the quarter final: If you take the measure of excitement generated in a game by how many times the lead changes, this match goes right to the top of the list. Four lead changes. Australia took an early lead, but Scotland took over for most of the first half and was ahead by one point at the break, 16-15. The teams were never more than eight points apart and most of the time were within three points of each other. Australia got up early in the second half until Scotland climbed back up to a 34-32 lead with under seven minutes to go in the game. Then came the bad call from the ref, a three-point penalty kick by Australia with less than two minutes left and that was the end of the tournament for Scotland.
  2. New Zealand vs. Australia in the final: How can the culminating game of the tournament not be No. 1 on this list? It probably would be if the Scotland-Australia match hadn’t been one that had me jumping out of my seat and endangering my laptop on the media table in front of me. The final threatened to be a boring, let’s-play-it-safe, penalty- kicking affair through most of the first half. It wasn’t until the clock had ticked off more than 38 minutes that New Zealand put together a thriller try from the back of a loose ruck with Aaron Smith getting two touches and then skipping a pass to “he’s everywhere!” Richie McCaw, who made one more pass to put Nehe Milner-Skudder in for the score. The All Blacks got up 21-3 and it was starting to look like a rout until Australia put together two converted tries and pulled within four points. All Black Dan Carter stomped on the Aussie momentum with a drop goal at 69 minutes. Every winning team needs a player who can perform this score-from-anywhere-inside-the-50 tactic. Nothing is so soul-killing for a team to be scored against this way. And Carter wasn’t done. He added a penalty kick at 73 minutes and all that was left to complete the game was a mishandle by Australia, kicked ahead by Ben Smith and a bounce up into the hands of Beauden Barrett for one more New Zealand score and a conversion by Carter. 34-17 All Blacks.
  3. The other quarterfinal — South Africa vs. Wales: Another close one. Most of the scoring came on penalty kicks, but the tries turned the fortunes of the game for both Wales and the Republic of South Africa. It went like this: 3-0 RSA, 6-0 RSA, 6-3 RSA, 9-3 RSA, 10-9 Wales (nothing like seven points from a converted try to get you back in the game), 12-10 RSA, 13-12 Wales (drop goal by Dan Biggar gave the Welsh the halftime lead), 16-12 Wales, 16-15 Wales, 18-16 RSA, 19-18 Wales, 23-19 RSA (nothing like five points from a try to get you the win). RSA 23, Wales 19.
  4. Canada vs. Italy: Canada got up 10-0 to start the game, which included a try by DTH van der Merwe, who scored in all four of Canada’s losses. Owen Slot, chief rugby correspondent for The London Times, named him to his all-tournament team this week saying “his try-a-game tally showed consistency and the try he started and finished against Italy was outstanding.” Yeah-yeah, as the English say when in agreement. Too bad Canada couldn’t finish one more of some great movements. That would have given them at least a tie. But Italy won, 23-18.
  5. Canada vs. Romania: Canada again? Yep. For an exciting game, it’s hard to beat a 15-point comeback. Just too bad that it was Romania coming back for a 17-15 win. You can’t look away from the train wreck and you don’t want it to happen, but you have say afterwards that it was exciting.

    The All Blacks spread the field in defense, and Australia seldom got through it.
    The All Blacks spread the field in defense, and Australia seldom got through it. And once again, McCaw is right there, in front of the tackle being made by Brodie Retallick (No. 4)

Australia moves ahead to RWC Final against New Zealand

Drew Mitchell wound his way through the Argentina defense, breaking tackles and sending a pass out to Adam Ashley-Cooper for his third try of the game.
Drew Mitchell, No. 11, wound his way through the Argentina defense, breaking tackles and sending a pass out to Adam Ashley-Cooper for his third try of the game.

Penalty kicks aren’t enough.  Six of them didn’t do it  for South Africa against New Zealand Saturday, and five didn’t work for Argentina on Sunday against Australia.

Ashley-Cooper scores his third try of the game.
Ashley-Cooper scores his third try of the game.

A team needs tries to win, and Australia had plenty of them — three from Adam Ashley-Cooper alone and another from Rob Simmons, who started the scoring for Australia with an intercepted pass and a gallop in for a try just more than a minute into the game. Bernard Foley converted three of those tries for another six points and added a penalty kick for three more, giving Australia a 29-15 win.

Argentina had trouble moving the ball into Australian territory and could only collect penalty points on five kicks by Nicolas Sanchez.

Australia will play New Zealand on Saturday, Oct. 31, in the finals of the Rugby World Cup 2015. That Southern Hemisphere showdown will be back here at Twickenham.

Argentina will meet South Africa, who lost to New Zealand 20-18, in the Bronze Final on Friday night at the Olympic Stadium in London.

Australia plays in Argentina half, lead 19-9 at the break

Adam Ashley-Cooper scores his first of two tries for Australia in the first half. The Wallabies lead 19-9 at half.
Adam Ashley-Cooper scores his first of two tries for Australia in the first half. The Wallabies lead 19-9 at half.

Australia’s Rob Simmons got the scoring started early in their semi final match against Argentina in the Rugby World Cup with his interception of a Puma pass. A second row grabbing a pass in the Argentina back line and galloping in for five points — not something you see everyday from a tight-five forward.

Bernard Foley converted the try as he would do again at 10 minutes into the game when Australia took advantage of a silly attempt by Argentina for a quick penalty that resulted in an Australian scrum, clean ball out to the backs and Adam Ashley-Cooper away to score in the corner.

He would score another try 10 minutes before half, but Foley could not convert.

Argentina played most of the half in their own territory and could only manage three penalty kicks by Nicolas Sanchez and go into the second half down 19-9.

Argentina fans and players spirted, but Aussies lead 14-3 early

The Argentina fans are the happiest I’ve seen in the tournament, lots of singing and dancing before the game here at Twickenham for this semi final match in the Rugby World Cup.

But the Pumas gave up an early converted try on an interception by Aussie second row Rob Simmons. At 10 minutes into the match, Australia has clean ball out from a set, finds the overlap and Adam Ashley-Cooper scores in the corner. Bernard Foley kicks the conversion and Wallabies lead 14-3.

New Zealand adds a drop kick, a converted try and a penalty to win 20-18

New Zealand kept South Africa far away from their try line. The Springboks only socring came on six penalty kicks.
New Zealand kept South Africa far away from their try line. The Springboks only socring came on six penalty kicks.

New Zealand had to use all ways of scoring to get ahead of South Africa early in the second half and then gradually inch just ahead of them to full time for a 20-18 win in the first semi final match of the Rugby World Cup 2015.

That puts the All Blacks in the finals against the winner of tomorrow’s game between Australia and Argentina.

All of South Africa’s scoring came on penalty kicks, five by Handre Pollard and one by Patrick Lambie.

South Africa has the halftime lead over New Zealand, 12-7

South Africa has good ball out from their scrum.
South Africa has good ball out from their scrum.

Early in this Rugby World Cup 2015, New Zealand blemished their wins with mishandles, some penalties and a very few missed tackles. But it hardly mattered as the All-Blacks swept away the competition in Pool C and then destroyed France in their quarterfinal game, 62-13.

But it matters today, especially the penalties: four of them that resulted in kicks by South Africa’s Handre Pollard to take a 12-7 lead.

The game has been a choppy sort of affair, not the smooth running dominance the All Blacks have shown in previous games — when they weren’t mishandling. Today’s game has been interrupted by NZ miscues, most of them at the loose play although they have also been guilty of collapsing a scrum.

The penalty with the most potential for damage came within two minutes of halftime when Jerome Kaino, trying to get on sides at a loose scrum played the ball from an offsides position. The referee ruled it a deliberate kick and served Kaino with a yellow card.

The All Blacks will be without him for about eight minutes in the second half. He scored the only try in the game, converted by Dan Carter for New Zealnd’s 7seven points.

Early in the first semi-final game, South Africa ahead 9-7

Three penalty kicks by South Africa for infringements by New Zealand, but the All-Blacks have the only try and a conversion.

Scored by Jerome Kaino, a wing forward, after what the radio announcer called a “basketball pass” over the head of South African defenders.

New Zealand guilty of more penalties in this game than would have been expected and their defense has been suspect at time. Most of the penalties have come at the loose play — offsides in most cases.