Rugby World Cup Continues To Thrill And Shock In First Week
After an action-packed opening weekend, the World Cup moved to its one and two a day midweek schedule.
Despite it being a national holiday in Japan, Monday evening saw just one game played- Wales versus Georgia in Nagoya.
The Six Nations side went in the heavy favorite and came away with a comfortable six-try 43-14 win.
Wales started strong leading 29-0 at half time, but fell away in the second period adding just 14 more points while allowing two Georgian tries.
Captain Alun Wyn-Jones, playing in a record-setting 14th World Cup match an earning a record-equaling 129th cap overall, conceded as much saying "We came out of the blocks as we wanted in the first half. We’re probably a bit disappointed with the second half; we left a couple of tries out there. The overall feeling is we took our foot off the gas a bit in the second half.
Coach Warren Gatland echoed his captain’s thoughts, “It’s a good result, but there’s plenty to work on.” He said, "I'm pleased with our first-half performance, we were pretty clinical, but we let things slip in the second half."
Georgia meanwhile is now 0 for 11 in Rugby World Cup games against Tier one opposition.
Tuesday's game saw Russia on only three days rest, having to get back up and face a Samoan onslaught in Saitama at Kumagaya Stadium.
The fast turnaround between games, especially for tier two nations, has always been a sore point at Rugby World Cups.
Russia put up a brave fight and did not back down from Samoa in the torrid encounter, but were beaten 34-9 as Samoa ran in 6 tries.
The South Pacific side was lucky not to have two red cards as Rey Lee-Lo, and Motu Matu'u escaped with yellows and sin-binning for dangerous tackles.
The latter’s hit was so brutal; he actually knocked himself out in the process. Both players were subsequently handed three-game suspensions, effectively ending their World Cup. Theirs weren’t the only yellows in the game, as Russian prop Gotovtsev was also carded for a high tackle on Afaesetiti Amosa as he scored a try.
Amoso suffered a tournament-ending knee injury during the same play. These negative aspects of the match, however, were not what stuck out most.
That was Russian fullback and captain Vasily Artemyev.
Artemyev was on the end of some of the severe tackles but won over the hearts of many people with his extremely positive post-match interview.
Wednesday saw a special game at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium in Iwate Prefecture attended by Prince Akishino.
Uruguay, with mostly amateur players, shocked Fiji 32-27 for only their third ever World Cup win and first in 16 years.
Fiji had more territory, more possession and 746m carried to Uruguay’s 288m, but the South American’s made 181 tackles to Fiji's 95.
Fiji may have dominated the statistics, but they also made a lot more turnovers (26 to 16.)
Fiji scored five tries to Uruguay’s three, but ultimately lost because their kicking let them down.
The islanders missed four conversions and a penalty while Uruguay made six of seven kicks.
Fiji coach John Mckee didn't entirely blame the kicking though saying, "There was a lot of other things we could have done well in the game, so you can’t narrow it down to one thing."
Uruguay captain Juan Pedro Rombys beamed “Amazing, obviously. Quite frankly, it’s the fruit of all the effort and labor we have put into it all this time, and I believe we deserved it. We are well and truly happy.”
Thursday was a two-game day with the USA playing their first game against what was essentially an ‘England B’ side in a humid Kobe.
Earlier in the day Canada also started their campaign with a match versus Italy in Fukuoka.
That was one the Canadians will want to forget as they were comprehensively beaten 48-7 by the Azzurri with the Italians scoring seven tries to Canada’s one.
Italy has a maximum points from two games and will now face pool heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa in their final two matches.
Italy coach Conor O'Shea said "We talked about wasting chances against Namibia, but to play two matches in four days is hard physically and mentally. I am happy with how we played" adding "I’m giving them the night off because I’m old school.”
England fielded a team that had ten changes from the previous outing. Despite that they forced their opponents to spend most of the game on defense.
Considering the amount of possession that the English team had, the U.S.A. did well to limit the Six Nations side to just seven tries.
American Flanker Josh Quill was red-carded for his shoulder charge on England’s Owen Farrell late in the game and later received a three-week ban.
Quill was the first-ever American red-carded at a World Cup and the first player at this edition of the tournament.
England coach Eddie Jones focused more on the positives of the game in general than his team's easy win. "Two games, 10 points and what a great occasion for rugby. It’s terrific for rugby. We’ve now got another rugby city in the world, Kobe. The fans have been fantastic, it was a great atmosphere tonight, and we were lucky to be part of it."
Friday saw no games played allowing players, fans and the media to catch their breath before another big weekend of rugby.
- Dean Gutberlet: Sept 27, 2019