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Rugby World Cup 2023 Round Up: Week 2

Rugby World Cup 2023 Round Up: Week 2 - Absolute Rugby

Matthew Buckland |

With Round 2 of the pool stage of the Rugby World Cup in the books, it is a good time to take a look back at the weekend. So let’s review the incredible weekend of rugby we have just seen.

New Zealand vs Namibia

The first game of the weekend actually took place Friday night as New Zealand looked to bounce back from the disappointment of losing the first game of their tournament against hosts France.

While becoming the first New Zealand team to lose in a Rugby World Cup pool stage ever will sting, the All Blacks had to turn their attention to Namibia. The All Blacks were certainly taking the game seriously, with guys like Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Ardie Savea all starting amongst a host of changes.

Despite the changes, the game went pretty much exactly as everyone thought. New Zealand had secured the bonus point inside the first 25 minutes thanks in part to Cam Roigard scoring two tries in the first six minutes of the game.

Four more tries meant that New Zealand had a huge lead at the half and things continued to be difficult for Namibia in the second half. By the end of the game, the three-time Rugby World Cup winners had ran in eleven tries to finish the game 71-3 winners.

Ian Foster will have been thrilled to see guys like Damian McKenzie, Rieko Ioane, Leicester Faingaanuku and Dalton Papali’I score tries. But it was not all positive for New Zealand. Prop Ethan de Groot was shown a yellow card which was later upgraded to a red for a high tackle on Adriaan Booysen.

It was a lazy and dangerous tackle from de Groot and the sort of incident which could end his involvement in the Pool stage of the tournament. De Groot had become the starter for New Zealand, so losing him will be a big blow to the All Blacks.

While Namibia were on the wrong end of a terrible result, they will certainly have a few things to work on moving forward. It does not help that centre Le Roux Malan went off with a very serious looking ankle injury in the first half.

Samoa vs Chile

Samoa were finally able to begin their Rugby World Cup when they faced Chile in the first game on Saturday. Samoa put out a strong side for their first game out the tournament, while Chile were looking to bounce back after losing their first game against Japan.

Chile started off the game by scoring a brilliant counter attacking try which was hammered home by Matias Dittus. From that point onwards, Samoa were the dominant force and overpowered Chile.

Former Wallaby Christian Leali’ifano kicked 14 first half points, including three penalties in a row to give the lead back to Samoa. After trading penalties, a beautiful counterattack from Samoa gave them their first try of the game as Duncan Paia’aua scored in the corner.

In the second half, Samoa ran in four more tries, with Jonathan Taumateine, Fritz Lee and a pair from Sama Malolo gave Samoa a dominant lead. Chile were unable to score in the second half as Samoa did exactly what they needed in their first game of the tournament.

Samoa will be confident that they could get a result against one of the big teams in their group and have the chance to advance to the quarterfinals. Chile will look to build on their good starts that they have made in the first two games.

If they can produce that sort of attacking flair across 80 minutes, they could be a very dangerous team in this competition. One thing Chile can be incredibly proud of is the incredible support they have had throughout the tournament. It almost seems like the entirety of Chile have travelled across for the tournament.

Chile have a very difficult test with England next weekend, while Samoa have to face Argentina on Friday night.

Wales fail to impress against Portugal

The second game on Saturday saw Wales look to build on their impressive victory over Fiji with a convincing win against Portugal. Despite Warren Gatland making 12 changes from the team that beat Fiji, they were still expected to beat Portugal comfortably.

It was very much the start that Wales imagined, with Louis Rees Zammit scoring the games first try less than ten minutes into the first half. But the Portuguese defence held pretty steady and it did not help when centre Johnny Williams was sent to the sin bin for a cynical foul of playing the ball on the ground.

While Portugal took advantage with a penalty, Welsh captain Dewi Lake powered over the line with the clock in the red and gave Wales a 4-3 lead at halftime. Late replacement Jac Morgan scored the third try of the game to open up the second half before Portugal were able to respond.

They threatened a comeback when a phenomenal lineout move meant Nicolas Martins dove over the line. But Wales looked the more likely team to score and they though they had the bonus point try when Gareth Davies went in under the posts. An obstruction earlier in the move meant the try was ruled out.

With the clock in the red, Wales finally got the bonus point they were looking for when the tired Portuguese defence could not stop Taulupe Faletau from diving over the line.

It was not the convincing win that Wales were hoping for. But it is a bonus point win for Wales and they have been able to rotate the squad heavily.

It was also a good performance from Portugal. Despite not playing in the Rugby World Cup since 2007, they have looked impressive throughout the championship. Not only that, but to put up impressive performances with a team full of semi professionals is an even better achievement.

What won’t have pleased Portuguese fans is that the team finished the game with just 14 players. That is because winger Vincent Pinto was shown a red card for a high foot that connected with the head of Josh Adams.

It was a difficult end to the match, but Portugal will still be pleased that they could force some mistakes from this Welsh side and put them under more pressure than they were expecting.

Ireland get back-to-back bonus points

While the focus of Ireland’s pool stage is the incredibly exciting game coming up against South Africa next weekend, they still faced an incredibly difficult challenge with Tonga.

Ireland were clearly taking the game seriously as they put out an incredibly strong team for the game. Tonga had a strong squad that featured former All Blacks like Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa and Vaea Fifita.

Ireland were held in the first twenty minutes, with both teams trading a penalty to start the game. Andy Farrells side did not look like they were going to get their attack going until a brilliant Johnny Sexton pass led to Tadhg Beirne scoring his third try of the world cup.

Just five minutes later, the Irish maul drove over and Caelan Doris was the scorer of the teams second try. Mack Hansen danced through the Tongan defence to get Ireland’s third try of the match.

After Ronan Kelleher was denied a fourth try, it was Johnny Sexton who cruised over the line for the bonus point. Not only that, but it was a try which made Sexton Ireland’s all time leading scorer.

Tonga were able to get into Ireland’s 22 when the clock had gone red and even had a man advantage after Pete O’Mahony was sin binned for a cynical foul. A try from Fifita gave Tonga some hope, but they could not build on it and Ireland would take back control in the second half.

James Lowe scored a pretty simple try before Bundee Aki scored two tries in quick succession to take the Irish score above the 50 mark. Rob Herring added a try late on as Ireland would finish the game as 59-16 winners.

It was really the perfect result for Ireland. While they were not clinical enough at times, the result and the bonus point was never really in doubt. Andy Farrell would have also been pleased that they could bring off some of the key starters early on and escape the game without an injury concern.

There were some bright spots for Tonga. They had some good moments in attack, but just made too many mistakes against a team the quality of Ireland. It was certainly a difficult way for Tonga to start their tournament and they have another gruelling test against Scotland next Sunday.

Hattricks galore as South Africa thump Romania

The Springboks looked to continue their brilliant start to the pool stage when they faced off against Romania. It was expected that there would be a similar result and that is exactly what happened.

When Cobus Reinach crossed over the line without being touched less than three minutes into the game, it was pretty clear that it was going to be a difficult game for Romania. Reinach had his second within ten minutes after Makazole Mapimpi scored his first try.

It took just eleven minutes for the Springboks to have secured the bonus point try and they led 33-0 at half time. It was more of the same in the second half, with the score ending up 76-0 to South Africa.

Reinach and Mapimpi both ended up getting hattricks, while Grant Williams picked up a pair of tries starting on the wing. It looked more like a training ground game for South Africa. Every move they used in attack worked and Romania could not handle the physicality of the Springbok pack.

Romania do have easier games coming up and starting off against two of the best teams in the world is incredibly tough. Scotland and Tonga should be slightly easier games for Romania to finish off their pool stage.

Fiji record historic win over Australia

Fiji were looking to keep their quarterfinals dreams alive with a win against Australia. Despite not beating the Wallabies since 1954, Simon Raiwalui’s team were the better side and won a huge pool stage game.

The first twenty minutes was a close affair where Fiji edged ahead thanks to two penalties. But a brilliant 50-22 led to Australia taking a quick lineout and Mark Nawaqanitawase scoring the first try of the game. There was a bit of fortune in the try, as Richie Arnold had played the ball on the floor at the ruck which led to the 50-22.

Fiji took the lead back through the brilliant goal kicking of Simione Kuruvoli and extended that lead to head into the half 12-8 up. Just two minutes into the second half, an Australian miscommunication allowed Josua Tuisova to run in Fiji’s first try of the game and they even managed to extend the lead with another penalty.

But Australia were threatening a comeback when Suliasi Vunivalu crossed the line with ten minutes to go. Despite that, Fiji looked like the stronger side for the rest of the game and secured a historic 22-15 win that makes it very likely they will be heading to the quarterfinals.

It also means that Eddie Jones is under a lot of pressure. The game between Wales and Australia now looks like it will decide who gets the final quarter-final place. Eddie Jones side did at least pick up a losing bonus point which could become crucial at the end of the pool stage.

England head to victory

England were able to build on their impressive win over Argentina when they faced off against Japan. The teams traded penalties close to the try line before England were finally able to score their first try of the tournament when Lewis Ludlam drove over the line.

More penalties from both sides meant it was a very close 13-9 game at half time. Japan closed that lead to one point before the ball bounced off Joe Marlers’ head and eventually into Courtney Lawes hands for England’s second try. It was one of the strangest tries you will ever see at a Rugby World Cup.

A perfectly executed cross field kick gave England their third try through Freddie Steward, with Joe Marchant adding the bonus point securing score. It was not the perfect performance for England as they still looked poor in attack, but they will be thrilled with the bonus point win against an excellent Japan side.

Japan now need to beat both Samoa and Argentina for a chance at reaching the quarterfinals.

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