New Zealand 37 France 17
An expectant Auckland crowd of 60,000+ roared on the Kiwis in the biggest game of Pool A, as they took on a strong French side ranked four places below them in the world and historically regarded as a potential banana skin for the home nation.
New Zealand put any French hopes to bed early on after coping with ten minutes of sustained French pressure to run in three tries with only a quarter of the game gone. New Zealand’s backline were scintillating as they carved through a sluggish defence to notch up five touchdowns in total.
The French coach, Marc Lièvremont, had been heavily criticised during the week for his decision to play his scrum-half out of position at number ten, but continued to stick by his judgement in post-match interviews.
PUMA’s Maxime Mermoz and François Trinh-Duc gave Les Bleus some cause for optimism in the second half with a cleverly intercepted pass and score from Mermoz and a quick-tap penalty releasing Trinh-Duc from short range late on.
French efforts were not enough however, as the All Blacks proved too much to deal with in attack presenting their captain with the perfect present to mark his 100th Test appearance for New Zealand.
Argentina 13 Scotland 12
Scottish expectations of a place in the quarter-finals seemed as distant as the eyes of their team at the final whistle against Argentina in Wellington yesterday, and will now rely on an improbable victory over England to keep their qualification hopes alive.
Argentina looked as if they had just won the World Cup at the 80th minute when they were declared winners and were euphoric in victory. The win appeared highly unlikely with Scotland kicking two drop goals to leave them 12-6 up with just 8 minutes remaining.
An expansive game of rugby was made even more difficult by driving rain throughout that led to numerous handling errors and inaccurate kicking for the first 60 minutes. The match was turned on its head by some great passing play and a side-stepping, jinking run allied to some poor defending saw Argentina’s replacement wing dive over to score in the 73rd minute.
Strong performances from PUMA’s Graeme Morrison and John Barclay were not quite enough for the Scots whose last ditch drop-goal attempt was surrounded by controversy, as the Pumas captain appeared to be offside when the ball was struck.
Ireland 62 Russia 12
Ireland continued their winning ways with an impressive 50 point victory over Russia. PUMA’s Mike Ross, Jamie Heaslip, Andrew Trimble and Sean Cronin all played their part in setting up a potential quarter-final clash with Wales in the knockout stages.
Ireland’s ability across the park proved too much for the Bears as they conceded five tries in the first half, including a great bit of scavenger work from Andrew Trimble to capitalise on a dropped ball to run home leaving Ireland with an insurmountable 36 point lead at the break.
Russia scored two stylish tries of their own to give a glimpse of a bright future for the sport in the country, but the onslaught continued from the Men In Green as they notched up nine tries in total.