Opening weekend sets unexpected tone for Rugby World Cup 2015

Results from
Sept. 18-21, 2015

(Home – Away)

England 35 – 11 Fiji

Tonga 10 – 17 Georgia

Ireland 50 – 7 Canada

South Africa 32 – 34 Japan

France 32 – 10 Italy

Samoa 25 – 16 USA

Wales 54 – 9 Uruguay

New Zealand 26 – 16 Argentina

By Maxx Steinmetz

On Friday, Sept. 18, the rugby world finally got what it was patiently waiting for since 2011—the opening ceremony to mark the beginning of the Rugby World Cup. Held in England, the birthplace of rugby, where schoolboy William Webb-Ellis sparked the creation of the game at Rugby School in 1823, the opening ceremony was as grand as one would expect for the third most watched sporting event in the world.

After the ceremony, hosts England took the pitch to defeat Pacific Nations Cup champions, Fiji officially beginning the campaigns for 20 teams.

Samoa vs. USA

In the first half of this contest there were huge hits, defense and offense for both teams came out of the blocks—smashing into each other time and time again. Unfortunately for the USA Eagles, their discipline at the rucks and inability to stick their tackles onto the Samoans cost them. Samoan fly-half Pisi chipped a grubber kick (a kick that sends the ball rolling end over end) through the U.S. line, which bounced into the air high enough for Tim Nanai-Williams to gather and touch the ball down.

The Eagles were able to answer with a try of their own before half, as a lineout ball was stolen from Samoa and after a break from U.S. fly-half A.J. MacGinty saw some great passing to and from Seamus Kelly to Chris Wyles, who caught an inside pass to score.

Coming into the second half 14-8 in favor of the islanders, the Eagles looked to reverse their fortune. However, the combination of the Samoans’ physicality and depth of their bench, joined with referee George Clancey’s “to the letter” style of refereeing, stifled the majority of any attempts by the U.S. to gain momentum.

Samoa’s captain Treviranus was able to gather another grubber kick from Pisi to score for his country, while later on U.S. replacement Chris Baumann was able to score after a rumbling passage of play. The opportunities to kick made the difference, in the end, however, and Samoa ended up winning the match 25 to 16, putting them in good seeding in Pool B to start off.

South Africa vs. Japan

Initially, I was thinking that I was going to write about the New Zealand/Argentina game. I would be remiss to do so in light of what happened in the other Pool B game.

South Africa, ranked third in the world, played host to thirteenth-ranked Japan. Going into the game, everyone I knew of was writing off Japan, for good reason. In their history they have yet to progress past pool play, whereas South Africa is one of three countries who have ever won the World Cup twice.

However, within the first 10 minutes it was evident that the Japanese were not going to let the critics (myself included) to be right. Their defense was coming up hard and fast on the South Africans, and unlike the USA/Samoa game the Japanese would consistently drive their opponents back.

The real surprise was that they did not let up. The Japanese lasted through the first half; even if the score stood in South Africa’s favor 12-10, they could consider that a victory in and of itself.

Furthermore, they continued to do so into the second half. While both sides’ defenses cracked on occasion, for the most part Japan was able to convert penalties into points. Japan’s fullback Ayumu Gorumaru was able to knock the three pointers over while South African fly-half Patrick Lambie was unable to do so, keeping Japan in the game.

In full time on the 84th minute, with the score 32-29 in South Africa’s favor, after some forwards work, Japan was able to pass the ball down the wing to Karne Hesketh to score the game-winning try—thus proving that you should never count out the little guys, especially at the World Cup. It was a lesson that was also learned by Tonga, who were handed a defeat by Georgia.

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