058. Matches 31, 32 and 33

RWC2019 Match 31:  Scotland 61 Russia 0

Having recognised the threat they were under of not getting to the quarter-finals, Scotland turned up to play. Even as the ‘second string’ team, they ran and passed and caught like they meant it.

Young fly-half Adam Hastings had a game to remember, scoring two tries and eight conversions for a personal tally of 26 points.

For Russia, a bit of a bump down to earth after some decent performances against Samoa and Ireland.

 

RWC2019 Match 32: Wales 29 Fiji 17

For much of this game, up until the 68th minute when Wales scored a converted try to take it out to the final score, you imagined this would be Fiji’s night.

Partly that’s a statement of how well Fiji played, and partly how discombobulated Wales let themselves be.  Fumbles, bumbles, aimless kicking, dropping off tackles. Even the wonderful Alun Wynn Jones made a couple of errors.

Two uncoverted tries to Fiji in the opening eight minutes gave the dozen Fijian supporters just below me in the Oita Stadium stands a lot to cheer about, which they duly did.  Amazing how just a dozen voices can fill a stadium. And the Japanese crowd loves the underdog.

The large contingent of Welsh supporters were trying to find their voices, and when they did it largely consisted of advice regarding ingenious but improbable acts of physical dexterity for the referee, the players and (bizarrely) New Zealanders. (I’m not kidding about the last one: I was tempted to ask the boyo why, but thought better of it given the amount of sponsor’s product involved.)

A couple of real worries for Welsh coach Warren Gatland will be the lack of discipline (two yellow cards in the 7th and 52nd minutes, and conceding a penalty try), and the injury to Dan Biggar.  The latter was the result of a clash with one of his own players as they both went for a high ball (which in itself is a type of ill-discipline), and Bigger stayed down for quite a while. Long enough for them to bring out the stretcher cart, before he stood up and jogged off waving to the crowd to persuade them all was well.

You cannot underestimate the importance of Biggar to the hopes of this Welsh team.  His skills and strength put him several notches above his team mates, and he drives his team around the park with ferocity.  He screams at his mates, putting them where he wants them, directing the lines they should run.

The latest reporting from the Welsh camp is optimistic – ‘Warren Gatland is hopeful of a clean bill of health’ – but if you parse the comments closely you’ll get an idea that all is not so well:

“Dan has gone through the protocols. He had a scan as well. He’s spoken to consultants from World Rugby, we’ve had an independent consultant talk to him as well. They are pleased with the progress he is making. So he’ll be fine.”

Uh huh.
Scan, spoken to by World Rugby medicos, got their own consultant, ‘progress’. Right.

But the real comments about the game should be about the Fijians: big, fast, strong, skilful, joyful, and tonight for 68 minutes playing with real smarts about when to run and when to hold, deft field kicks, devastating tackling. Yes they ran out of gas, but it was a great ride while it lasted.

 

RWC2019 Match 33:  Australia 27 Georgia 8

No rejoicing for GirtBySea tonight, with a shockingly bad performance by the Wallabies. Just awful:

  • their first try came in the 22nd minute, the dull pick and go and smash at the line variety
  • another yellow card for poor tackling technique
  • half-time score 10-3
  • second try comes at 59 minutes, a piece of solo Marika Voroibete genius
  • a very lovely running try by Georgia at 69 minutes closes the score to 17-8 (conversion missed)
  • two late tries (74th and 78th minutes) take the score out, and get the bonus match point.

Ups to the Georgians, who are enjoying the World Cup opportunity to keep improving the ambition of their game.

Downs to Michael Cheika who has the unenviable ability to make his team worse rather than better.

 

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