x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Australia braced for last-eight meeting with South Africa

Defeat to Ireland means the Wallabies are likely to finish second in the pool and face a difficult path to reach the final. South Africa and Argentina both romp to victories.

Australia were despondent after losing to Ireland in Auckland.
Australia were despondent after losing to Ireland in Auckland.

Australia face the grim prospect of a quarter-final showdown with South Africa, the holders, after being stunned by Ireland at the Rugby World Cup.

Frustrated and confused, the Tri Nations champions gave away a rash of penalties - four of which were kicked by Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O'Gara with the impressive Sexton adding a drop goal. Australia were level 6-6 at half time with two James O'Connor penalties, but that is where their scoring stopped. The victory takes Ireland to eight points in their pool, three ahead of the Wallabies with two matches to play, but it was also a huge psychological blow for one of the fancied tournament teams.

"The Irish played more intelligently, they put us under a lot of pressure and profited from that, particularly in our end of the ground," Robbie Deans, the Wallabies coach, said. "It doesn't change everything, the tournament remains the same and what we got tonight was an insight into the World Cup is all about and what the Irish brought is exactly what's required to succeed in tournaments like this."

Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland's inspirational captain, saluted the Irish forward pack for their part in one of their greatest victories at the World Cup. They came into the match as underdogs after losing four of their warm-up matches.

"It's difficult to win games when your pack are second-best and there was no doubt today that our pack laid the platform for the victory, that is unquestionable," O'Driscoll said.

"They backed up what they said and they felt that the tight five needed to front up and our backrowers were immense and just gave us an opportunity to play territory and get ourselves into situations where we could kick points and there were some phenomenal turnovers as well.

"They were definitely the ones that put us in a position to win the game and I've no problem in giving them the credit they deserve for that."

South Africa were magnificent in their 49-3 dismantling of Fiji, who had been expected to give them a good run for their money after coming close to pulling off an upset against them four years ago in France.

The Pacific Islanders started strongly in Wellington with a succession of charging runs, but the Springboks defence held firm and when their backs in turn went on the attack the floodgates soon opened up.

"That first 15-20 minutes was pretty brutal," Smit said of a period of the game with the score tied at three points apiece.

"Fiji basically came out there on a mission, but the boys stuck to it and it was good to see how the guys matched fire with fire, and were accurate numbers wise and the decision making was good.

It was all in sharp contrast to the Springboks' edgy opener when they were fortunate to edge Wales 17-16, but now they have a clear road into the last eight with Samoa and Namibia to come.

In the day's opener Argentina got their World Cup campaign back on track with a convincing 43-8 win over Romania in Invercargill, setting up a showdown with Scotland in Wellington next Sunday with the winner in pole position to ensure a slot in the quarter-finals.

 

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