RWC2019 Match 19: France 33 USA 9
A scratchy performance by France gets them the bonus point they need in Pool C, but unconvincing for later in the tournament. A bit more competitiveness from the USA (good for them).
This is classic French progress in a Rugby World Cup. They’ve always got out of the Pools, but you never quite know what you’re going to get later. Wait and see.
RWC2019 Match 20: New Zealand 63 Canada 0
Oita, on the east coast of Kyushu, hosts five matches for RWC2019: three pools, and two quarter-finals.
Which had me a bit worried, because it’s not exactly at the centre of things. The airport’s a fair way off, there’s no Shinkansen, the local train connections are interesting, the hotel bookings are off the charts, and the stadium itself is a long long walk from the city centre.
Which had me worried that this would be the logistical achilles heel of the tournament.
LittleDavyOne and I had gone tram, train, Shinkansen, train from Nagasaki to Usa, a little town about 45 minutes by train from Oita. Checked into a little guest house in the middle of rice fields: tatami mats, traditional bathrooms, gorgeous.
On match day we caught an early train into Oita. Masses of locals in All Blacks shirts, a fair few kiwi families, a smattering of Canucks.
Which is where the superb local organisation kicked in. A 700 metre gentle walk to free shuttle buses, dozens of them lined up and keeping the crowd moving. Forty minutes up to the stadium in a very pretty park, walk 800 metres, in like Flynn.
Raining, but the roof was closed. This is the stadium we should have built in Wellington.
Spotted the Beaver in one of the hospo suites, and helpfully explained to the local staff who he was and what he had done back in 2011. They smiled and nodded.
The ABs came out for the warm-up. Dear friends, Mr. B. Retallick took a full part along with all the non-playing squad, including packing a scrum with Mr. S. Whitelock. The big fella’s looking good, so expect him back sooner rather than later.
Into the match.
Okay, so Canada is awful. Woeful. What exactly have they been doing for the last four years? What exactly do they want to achieve at this tournament? Key moment for them was right at the end of the first half: they got good ball off the top of a lineout, and … kicked it out to go to the sheds. I mean, seriously, how much good ball did you have that you would waste even the littlest bit? Zero aspiration. Sack the Board, sack the coaches. Start again.
In complete contrast, the All Blacks were magnificent. Not because they ran up a cricket score, but because they didn’t.
They didn’t attack the Canadian rucks and mauls. They didn’t play helter-skelter. They didn’t give away penalties.
They sat back, got the ball and attacked with speed, sleight of hand, and combinations. Slick.
Yes there were handling errors but, my goodness, there was beautiful running of smart lines, and always looking for the slightest of gaps, the edges of tackles, rather than rumpy-pumpy smash collisions like some other teams I could mention.
Here’s the thing I saw: the All Blacks didn’t take quick throw-ins, but they sure as hell took fast lineouts. Liam Coltman rushed to the spot, took the ball and quickly wiped it, and threw immediately because the other forwards were already in position. No mucking about.
This is a team that wants to play at Shinkansen speed. Not in spite of the heat and humidity, but because of it. Stretch the other side when the oxygen is getting low. Don’t allow them to regroup. Go and go and go again.
Very bloody impressive.
Which won’t, of course, stop me worrying about later matches. But it was a beautiful night in Oita.
And the logistics were a dream.