Sports
November 4, 2015

History made at Rugby World Cup finals

14-year-old fan charges field, meets idol who gives up winning metal

By Maxx Steinmetz

Bronze final

The losers of the semifinal games, the Springboks of South Africa and Los Pumas of Argentina, got one last hurrah in this year’s world cup, as they played in a bronze medal match a day ahead of the final between New Zealand and Australia.

Though touted as “the game no one really wants to be in,” this game had a lot of potential as annual dark horses of Argentina challenged two-time Rugby World Cup winners, South Africa throughout the entire match, despite an inability to cross over the whitewash.

A yellow card early on looked to open the floodgates for the Springboks, but in the end only winger J.P. Pieterson was able to get the job done, scoring a try which was converted by Handre Pollard, who slotted three penalties in the first half, giving his team a 16-0 lead.

Argentina struck back almost immediately after the halftime break with a drop goal from their fly-half, Nicholas Sanchez. Unfortunately it was answered in short order by South African lock, Eben Etzebeth. A penalty was kicked for each team in the minutes leading into the 80th minute where Argentina was able to score a consolation try through their replacement prop Juan Pablo Orlandi.

South Africa players and support staff claimed their bronze medals in front of a largely dissipating crowd, with a score of 23-19.

Final

Both Australia and New Zealand have won two world cup titles, but New Zealand had the chance to become the first team to defend their title.

After starting slow with a respectable 3-3 score, the All-Blacks of New Zealand started to tick over score sheet with a try from Nehe Milne-Skudder after some slick passing as well as some penalty kicks from the golden boot of fly-half Dan Carter. New Zealand went into the half with a 16-3 lead over the Wallabies of Australia.

Upon restarting the game, within a minute inside centre Ma’a Nonu broke the Australian line off of an off-load from centre partner, Sonny Bill Williams, and scored another try for the All-Blacks.

The laws of rugby state that any player is responsible for the well-being of a tackled player so when 10 minutes later, All-Black fullback Ben Smith tip-tackled one of the Australian players, he was yellow carded and spent 10 minutes in the “sin bin.”

These 10 minutes invigorated the Aussies and both David Pocock and Tevita Kurindrani were able to cross the white wash to bring the scores to an intriguing score margin of 21-17.

Once Ben Smith was back from his yellow card Dan Carter slotted both a drop goal and a penalty to put the All-Blacks ahead 27-17, a lead that Australia could still come back from.

As the minutes waned and the seconds ticked by, however, on the final attack that the Wallabies had, a loose pass from Kurtley Beale was regathered and hacked away by Ben Smith. While Smith couldn’t give clean chase, Beaden Barrett could. Barrett, who has made off an immediate impact off of the bench in every game in the tournament was able to regather after kicking it ahead once again and put the nail in the Aussies’ coffin at the 79th minute mark.

And the wait begins again…

It’s done and over with. The 2015 Rugby World Cup is now over and the four year wait begins anew. In 2019 Japan will be hosting the tournament.

Perhaps the most talked about moment of the final, however, didn’t happen during the game.  After the whistle blew, and the All-Blacks were making a lap of honor around the pitch to thank their fans for their support, 14-year-old Charlie Line charged onto the field. The boy was tackled by security a meter or so ahead of the boy’s idol, Sonny Bill Williams, who helped the boy to his feet. All-Black player Liam Messam put an All-Black’s beanie on Line’s head, who then got to talk with Messam, Williams, and All-Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

Rather than have the kid taken away by security, Williams escorted the boy back to his family at the sideline and had another chat. Williams then took off his personal winner’s medal, and placed it on the neck of the boy and walked away.

Video of this interaction has since gone viral and Williams later said “I know he’ll appreciate it and when he gets older he’ll be telling his kids – that’s more special than it just hanging on a wall. Better for it to be hanging around his neck than mine. I’m sure he’ll remember it for a while.”

Moments like that happen all the time in rugby, at the international level and the grassroots. Rugby players may seem like big dumb brutes who for some insane reason think it’s a good idea to go out every Saturday and for 80 minutes beat each other up with a big ovoid ball somewhere in the vicinity, but that’s not all it’s about. Rugby players are also about spending time with those guys you beat up earlier, and more importantly helping whenever and however by volunteering time, fundraising, or in Sonny Bill Williams’ case, giving your Rugby World Cup winner’s medal to a kid who just wanted to meet some living legends.

Maxx Steinmetz is a 10 year veteran of rugby, playing for Rutland Rugby Football Club in the spring through fall. He has captained the club and currently holds the position of Match Secretary.

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