|New Zealand||23-13||South Africa|
The hosts take the first win
It all began with the hosts Japan taking to the field against Russia. The visitors managed to put Japan on the back foot after picking up a missed catch to score a converted try in the first five minutes. Not to be put down, Japan responded with a try of their own shortly after. The Russians stayed strong throughout the first half, keeping Japan out until almost the fortieth minute when they scored their second try.
With the score line being close, the first half had us questioning if this would be a shock defeat of the hosts?
But Japan managed to pull ahead in the second half with two more tries, a conversion and a penalty. Russia’s only extra points in the game came from a penalty.
An expected win for Japan, but Russia showed heart and weren’t the lowest scoring team of the opening rounds.
Did Fiji topple their tier 1 opponents Australia?
Onto the weekend games, which gave us three big matches on Saturday. The Australia vs Fiji game, once again saw the underdogs take the first points and despite some countering of scores, finished at half time with a marginal lead.
This was the fight we were expecting from the Fijians, they didn’t disappoint at the start of the second half. Similar to the Russian’s first score, a missed catch gave Fiji the first points after the break. Australia came back into the game taking the lead in the last quarter to eventually get the win.
France avoid 2007 humiliation – just!
In what we predicted to be one of the closest games of the opening weekend, we saw France take a good lead in the first half. But Argentina’s defence kept their opponents from scoring again in the second quarter. They came back fighting for the second half, scoring from a line-out within the first couple of minutes. Argentina kept pushing the French and took a one-point lead. France, not wanting to give up, quickly retaliated with a drop goal giving them the two-point lead, they finished with.
This is the tightest battle we anticipated for the weekend and so, we’re not surprised by the score line. Our rankings still place these two teams within one place of each other and currently they remain in 8th position for France and Argentina in 9th.
And still, New Zealand dominate…
What started slowly for both teams, suddenly exploded with New Zealand scoring from some quality gameplay. South Africa, as expected, remained in the battle scoring a slick drop goal to reduce the margin. Predictably though New Zealand fought back to come out on top, demonstrating exactly why they have been the number one team for so long.
Italy overcome their slow start to remain steady
Another shock start to Italy’s game with Namibia, who remain the lowest ranking team, as they took an early lead. The underdogs have given their higher ranked competitors a run for their money at the start of this tournament. The Italians however started to prove dominance with several tries before Namibia try to claw back some points in the second half.
Italy as predicted, comfortably beat Namibia, running in a total of seven tries, currently leaving both teams in their respective rankings of 13th and 20th.
Ireland dominated Scotland throughout
Scotland talked a good game in the press conference before kick-off but were unable to transfer this bravado to the pitch. Both teams have improved their rankings over the last 10 years, but on the day, they delivered as expected, leaving both teams finishing this opening round in the same position as they started.
England take the win, but a scrappy start
England start this tournament as number two in the rankings and were expected to dominate over Tonga. However, some handling errors stopped them improving the score line further.
Tonga came out of the blocks with the strength we expect from them but didn’t manage to score a try in this match. Once again, a predicted win for England leaving both teams placed as they were, England in second and Tonga in sixth.