Feeling confident in the team we’d seen out perform the All Blacks just seven days ago, Lewis and I eagerly took our seats in the Ashworths’ living room to watch England bring it home. We’ve been very respectful in our commentary on last week’s disaster out of respect for our Kiwi hosts and friends, and have taken the snide remarks and digs on the chin, even when our extended family proclaimed they would be supporting the Springboks in the final. We were pumped for what was sure to be a spectacular win for the English.
Coming into the RWC final the foreboding words of Welsh coach Warren James “some teams play their final in the semis” must have hit a nerve with the Red Roses as the dominating team we saw last weekend were nowhere to be seen in the biggest game in Rugby. To our dismay, the Springboks dominated the first half with an impeccable kicking game, which was both frustrating for England and boring for everyone else, no one wants what 40 minutes of kicking- tackles and tries please!
Things looked bad from the get go, especially when English prop Kyle Sinckler was accidentally knocked out by his own teammate Maro Itoje in the first 3 minutes of the game, leaving a big weakness in England’s front line. Eddie Jones’s men launched a counter attack against the Springboks in the second half, but any hopes of regaining ground (and saving face) were quickly quashed by a dominant SA, who hopped and skipped through the English line to seal their win with two converted try’s and another penalty.
For the English players, and our national pride, it was over before it begun. Buoyed by their win over the All Blacks there was a sense that all they had to do was show up to the final to seal the deal. Not so. Despite losing to the very same All Blacks we had crushed in the semis early on it the competition, the South Africans displayed a depth and passion that was lacking from other sides and overcame their early stumbling block. They defied the stats (no team that had lost a game in the competition has ever won the World Cup beforehand) and ultimately were rewarded for their perseverance with the greatest prize of all- world domination and a big shiny trophy!
So, after all the bloodshed and heartache, mostly on the English side (Billy Vunipola’s head), the Webb Ellis Cup remains a prodigal son for another four years. I can honestly say that my biggest regret is not making fun of the Kiwis for bombing out of the competition in the semis when New Zealander’s north and south are celebrating like they won the bloody cup.
Sulking aside, I’d like to finish on a positive note. Congratulations Springboks! The better team won and you deserve the raise that cup. To celebrate this fantastic competition, here are my favourite highlights from the tournament-
-Georgia causing a huge upset in the pools and absolutely thrashing Uruguay 33-7 (also Georgian legend Mamuka Gorgodze, AKA “Gorgodzilla”, comimg out of retirement at 35 to tear apart the Uruguayan defence.
-Namibia holding the All Blacks 9 points to 10 in their pool clash, but ultimately receiving a hiding in the second half losing 71-9).
- Japan stealing the show with back to back wins over Russia 30-10, Samoa 38-19, Scotland 28-21 and (amazingly) Ireland 19-12 before gracefully bowing out against South Africa in the quarters.
-Wales almost losing to Fiji in the pools (who had three tries disallowed), then almost losing to France in the quarters (only saved by the fact that French lock Sebastien Vahaamahina was caught strangling and elbowing Welsh flanker Aaron Wainwright in the face), then to the Aussies in the quarters after the Wallabies launched an impressive comeback from 23-8 at half time to make it a one point game in the last five minutes, and finally inevitably crashing out in the semis and having to play the losers final against NZ. Hehe!
-France just about holding on when a plucky Tongan team launched an offensive strike in the pools. Les Bleus managed to regroup and halt the Tongan offensive, winning by a narrow 2 point margin (23-21).
-The All Blacks smashing Ireland to pieces 46-16 after the Irish fans disrespected the Hakka by singing over it after Irish Pundit, Ewan MacKenna, asked the question “Why is the World Cup is still pandering to the dance?”
- England beating Australia in the quarters and Michael Cheika (Australian coach) resigning the next day.
- The cameo appearance of the aliens from Space Jam who posed as the England team and stole the talents of the All Blacks players, beating them at their own running rugby game .
- The same aliens then abandoning the English, leaving them looking like Loony Tunes against the Springboks in the final.