What a weekend of quarter-finals in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
And I wasn’t too far off with my predictions, even if one was wrong, two were a lot closer than anticipated and the other, well, went the other way.
First up, South Africa and Wales. Well, I went for a SA win and a fairly straight forward one at that, and in the end the Proteas provided a moment of magic with five minutes to go as the Welsh campaign finally ran out of steam. There is only so much battering and bruising you can take and Wales certainly had their fair share in this tournament.
So the last team they would want to face would be the colossal figures of South Africa.
Wales to their credit stayed in the game for the majority of the game but ultimately were denied by a great try late in the game, losing 23-19.
So, one game, one prediction correct!
Onto Saturday night, and I was half-expecting a close one between the All Blacks and France, with many commentators keen to focus on the French and their previous victories over the New Zealanders at the quarter final or semi-final stages in previous tournaments.
And with the All Blacks also not at full power so far in RWC2015, perhaps the French could pull off a surprise.
No such chance as the All Blacks were at their most destructive best, winning 62 – 13.
So that sets up some semi-final at this Saturday afternoon at Twickenham.
So two out of two so far!
Onto Sunday, and I made my first visit to Rugby’s Fanzone in the Old Market Square here in the birthplace of the game, to see Ireland and Argentina.
A note first on the Fanzone. It is quite impressive. Having been disappointed in not getting in for the England/Australia game, it was nice to see and explore and appreciate it with not so many people about,.
And credit where credit is due, they have done a fair job inside and out with food and drink – including one of the longest bars I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a few), merchandise for sale – including that of one of my clients, Original Rugby, plenty of seating inside.
But also plenty to encourage the kids to have a go at kicking at targets and mini-goals, tackling soft apparatus and getting your picture taken with cardboard cut-outs.
Anyway, Argentina upset my prediction and did the damage early (and kept the strong Irish following in the Fanzine muted for a spell). Despite bringing the game back, Ireland faded, Argentina kicked on and they progress after winning 43-20
To where they will face Australia, but only just.
They overcame Scotland in the most cruelest and agonising of fashions, landing a penalty in the final minutes to come from two points behind to go one point in front and sneak the victory 35-34
If any of the four quarter-finals were to be straight forward, you would think it would be this one.
But the Scots more than held their own and having gone in front on a couple of occasions earlier in the game, looked to be heading for something of a shock result and a semi-final place thanks to an intercepted try with six minutes to go
Until that is a controversial penalty was awarded to the Australians, which they duly despatched between the posts to regain the lead when it mattered in the closing seconds.
If the award of the match-winning penalty wasn’t bad enough, the sight of South African referee Craig Joubert fast-footing it off the pitch at the final whistle – without shaking hands with the players, was cowardly and strange, and didn’t do himself any favours.
Former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings described Joubert’s swift exit from the field as the “the worst thing I have seen on a rugby field in a very long time”. Matt Dawson, part of England’s World Cup-winning side of 2003, said it was “disrespectful to the game”.
Heartbreak then for Scotland, a bit of luck for Australia, and to win tournaments such as the Rugby World Cup you need a little bit of luck at times.
Maybe Australia have it to go all the way or have they used up their quota?
So, that’s the last 8 are down to the last four.
Now its onto the semi-finals. New Zealand v South Africa and Argentina v Australia.
(And with Wales, Ireland and Scotland all bowing out at the weekend, no representation from the northern hemisphere)
Should be another thrilling weekend this Saturday and Sunday.