LONDON: Wales took a huge step towards the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup with a nail-biting win over old rivals England on Saturday, while the Springboks responded to their shock defeat by Japan with a six-try romp over Samoa. Injury-plagued and second best for an hour, the never-say-die Welsh found their spark when it mattered most, with a Gareth Davies converted try levelling the scores and a seventh penalty from flyhalf Dan Biggar clinching a famous 28-25 triumph. “It is a huge, huge effort,” said man-of-thematch Biggar, who scored 23 of Wales’s 28 points. “For us to come here to England’s home ground at the World Cup-no one gave us a hope, we had a million and one injuries. “This is the best day, rugby-wise, of probably my whole career.” Hosts England were left to rue their indiscipline and now need to beat Australia next Saturday to maintain any real chance of avoiding a humiliating exit at the group stage.
South Africa have also been under the cosh at this World Cup after a humbling 34-32 defeat to Japan, but a 46-6 bonus-point victory over Samoa at Villa Park on Saturday should help to silence some of their critics. Winger JP Pietersen grabbed a hat-trick in a lively display from the Boks’ backs but it was their defensive efforts that coach Heyneke Meyer praised after the match. “Attack puts bums on seats but defence wins trophies,” Meyer said. “To not concede a try, to stick to the game plan and for the players to put their bodies on the line like they did means I must salute my players.” Pietersen became the fourth Springbok to score a Rugby World Cup hat-trick after Chester Williams (1995), Joost van der Westhuizen (2003) and Bryan Habana (2007). Samoa did make World Cup history of their own, fielding three brothers from the Pisi family in what was an otherwise forgettable afternoon for the Pacific Islanders. The victory puts the Springboks on top of Pool B, but Scotland could knock them off their perch with a win over the United States on Sunday. The Scots have been dealt a late blow for that match with flanker John Hardie ruled out by a head injury.
In the early game on Saturday, Italy held off a brave challenge from Canada to emerge slender 23-18 winners in the Pool D clash at Elland Road in Leeds. It was a finely balanced match, with both teams eager to register their first win of this year’s Rugby World Cup, and in the end it was the kicking of Italian flyhalf Tommaso Allan that proved the difference. The highlight of the game was a piece of individual brilliance from Canadian winger DTH Van Der Merwe, who shot down the wing, passed inside and then collected the return to score under the posts. But his man-of-the-match award was scant consolation for missing the victory his side had set their sights on. “Through this whole World Cup campaign, it has been our target to take Italy down,” Van Der Merwe said. “We can be proud of our efforts, but today we wanted to come away as victors.” Off the pitch, meanwhile, Tonga Rugby chairman Epi Taione has accused World Rugby of being out of touch colonialists and called on the governing body to give the Pacific Island nations the same money and voting rights as the sport’s elite. A World Rugby spokesman denied that the sport’s governing body has treated the Pacific Islands nations unfairly. —Reuters