Well that was pretty quick. In the blink of an eye, the first round of Rugby World Cup 2011 fixtures are over and so far, no surprises. That said the top sides certainly haven’t had it all their own way.
The tournament kicked off in fine style with the hosts, New Zealand matching up against the Tongans and courtesy of braces from Richard Kahui and Israel Dagg, the All Blacks were out of sight by half time. Tonga picked up a consolation score and ended with a more than respectable 41-10 loss.
Scotland and France were far from convincing dispatching two teams that aren’t really expected to make much of an impression in Romania and Japan respectively and will cause their coaches some concern as bigger matches against England and New Zealand await. In particular, Japan should be applauded for their expansive and committed (don’t make any hari-kari gags. Don’t make any hari-kari gags. Oh.) approach.
Australia laboured in the first half and turned around at the break 6-6 with the Italians before four tries in the second half including a great effort by Digby Ioane gave them a 32-6 victory.
The two match ups of the round were England taking on Argentina and Wales against South Africa.
Having lead for most of the game, the Pumas will have been disappointed to have missed out on a valuable group stage win. Had Argentina had a better kicking day and the 2007 finalists would have been staring at a potential New Zealand match up in the knockouts.
Wales and South Africa played out the game of the round at Wellington. After scoring a superb try though Frans Steyn in the fourth minute, the Springboks had to contend with a fired- up Welsh side and an inspired performance from captain Sam Warburton. Having taken the lead with 20 minutes to go, Wales were unable to continue their momentum and the Springboks were able to turn the game around after introducing Francois Hougaard, who picked up the winning score, and Bismarck du Plessis for captain Smit who international days look to be numbered.
In the other ties, Fiji beat Namibia 49-25 and Ireland edged out USA 22-10 in New Plymouth.
One thing we’ve seen seems to be issues with the ball with all teams having problems either going for goal or kicking out of hand. After the Jabulani football World Cup problems, the IRB guys seem to not want to be left behind! Hopefully, things will settle down and we can just talk about the rugby
So onto the next round of matches where teams where for some teams, defeat will effectively mean the end of the road.
By Conan Jal