Written byPatrick Meyer
Wales 17 – 29 Argentina, Saturday, 14 October
Wales were expected to see off the South Americans due to their talented squad and unbeaten form in the tournament. But, as we all know, the only thing that counts in the knock-out phase is how you perform on the day. And in that area, Argentina stood up and demanded the world's attention!
In a thrilling quarter-final clash at Stade de Marseille on Saturday, October 14, Argentina delivered a remarkable comeback to secure a spot in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2023. The Pumas, often hailed for their passionate and relentless style of play, demonstrated their grit and determination as they overcame a tough challenge from Wales.
The match had its share of twists and turns, with both teams displaying their prowess on the field. Dan Biggar's try and accurate kicking gave Wales a 10-6 lead at halftime. However, Argentina, guided by their star player Emiliano Boffelli, began their fightback in the second half. Boffelli's precise penalty kicks in the 48th minute put the Pumas in the lead.
Wales, determined to maintain their advantage, struck back with Tomos Williams crossing the try line. But Argentina refused to be outdone. Joel Sclavi's try from close range tipped the scales in favour of the Pumas following a successful conversion.
The defining moment of the game came when Nicolas Sanchez intercepted a pass and sprinted to score a try. The jubilant Pumas celebrated in the in-goal area. Sanchez then sealed the victory with a well-executed penalty, securing a 29-17 win for Argentina.
"It was a difficult match," said Emiliano Boffelli, the Mastercard Player of the Match. "I am very happy for the team. [Head coach Michael Cheika told us at halftime] that we need to keep going and keep going and that at some time the game would open for us."
Captain Julián Montoya expressed his pride in the team's performance and resilience: "We like to be a team that fights for everything. [It was] far from perfect but we are going to Paris. Life is not perfect. It's how you embrace the moment. That's what rugby is about."
Wales captain Jac Morgan admitted it was a "devastating result" for his team, acknowledging that discipline and a few errors proved costly. Head coach Warren Gatland acknowledged Argentina's toughness and the way they capitalized on opportunities.
As Argentina advances to the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2023, the question now arises: can they go all the way? Head coach Michael Cheika remains cautious but optimistic, emphasizing the team's commitment to giving their best, no matter the odds. Their journey continues, and the world eagerly awaits their next chapter in this thrilling rugby tournament.
The odds are that most fans whose team has already been knocked out of the tournament will now be supporting the Pumas and hoping that they can pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of international sports by winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
Ireland 24 – 28 New Zealand, Saturday, 14 October
Heading into this monumental clash, it was clear that little separated the two rugby powerhouses, New Zealand and Ireland. The All Blacks had a shaky start to the Rugby World Cup, with a surprising loss in their opening game, albeit to the host nation, who essentially had a 16th player on the field due to the massive support from their fervent fans. However, New Zealand swiftly shifted into a higher gear, dominating their remaining group games and accumulating an impressive scoreline. On the other hand, Ireland entered the tournament as one of the favourites and solidified their position with a significant victory over the reigning RWC champions, the Springboks.
In a quarter-final showdown at Stade de France, New Zealand outlasted Ireland in a thrilling encounter, winning 28-24. It was a dramatic and tightly contested match that showcased the best of international rugby.
Leicester Fainga'anuku's try allowed the All Blacks to surge ahead with a 13-0 lead, demonstrating their intent early on. However, Ireland struck back as centre Bundee Aki displayed impressive footwork to score a try. Ardie Savea responded for New Zealand, but Jamison Gibson-Park's try, with Aaron Smith in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, narrowed the score to 18-17 in New Zealand's favour at halftime.
Will Jordan added to his try tally with his fifth of the tournament, but a penalty try, coupled with Codie Taylor receiving a yellow card, brought Ireland within one point.
Centre Jordie Barrett's successful penalty kick gave New Zealand some breathing room, and they successfully defended their lead in the final minutes, enduring 37 phases of Irish attacks. The victory earned them a place in the semi-finals against Argentina at Stade de France on Friday, October 20.
Ardie Savea, who was named the Mastercard Player of the Match, expressed his pride in the team's performance. Despite playing a significant portion of the match with 14 men, the All Blacks displayed resilience and determination.
Captain Sam Cane, who also had an exceptional game, described his team as "absolutely stoked" to reach their ninth semi-final in ten tournaments. He praised both teams for an epic and closely contested match.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster commended his team's "fantastic" performance and their ability to hold their cool in the face of relentless Irish pressure. With only five days to recover, New Zealand prepares to face Argentina in the semi-finals.
Ireland's head coach, Andy Farrell, expressed his immense pride in his squad, despite falling short in a game that could have secured a men's record-equalling 18th successive test victory at the elite level. He commended the character of his team and paid tribute to retiring captain Johnny Sexton.
Sexton, in his final tournament, spoke of his pride in his team and the Irish nation, emphasizing the fine margins that separated the two great sides. The disappointment of falling just short of victory was palpable, but he acknowledged the dream-like experience of the past six weeks.
England 30 – 24 Fiji, Sunday, 15 October
In a captivating quarter-final clash at Stade de Marseille on Sunday, England secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2023, edging out Fiji with a final score of 30-24. The match was a roller-coaster of emotions, with both teams showcasing their tenacity and skill.
England gained an early lead with tries from Manu Tuilagi and Joe Marchant, supported by 11 points from the precise boot of Owen Farrell. The first half ended with England holding a comfortable 21-10 advantage, and it seemed like they might have a smooth path to the semi-finals.
However, Fiji, known for their explosive style of play, mounted a spirited comeback in the second half. They scored two impressive tries through Peni Ravai and Vilimoni Botitu, levelling the game at 24-24. The Flying Fijians demonstrated their ability to turn the tide of the match in a matter of moments.
In the end, it was England's experienced fly-half and captain, Owen Farrell, who played a pivotal role in securing the victory. He delivered a clutch drop goal, regaining the lead for England, and later added a crucial penalty to cement the win. England's resilience and composure under pressure proved to be the deciding factor.
Owen Farrell, who was named the Mastercard Player of the Match, recognized the challenge Fiji presented and praised his team's performance. He acknowledged Fiji's ability to turn the game in their favour and emphasized the need for continued hard work as they progress in the tournament.
Fiji's head coach, Simon Raiwalui, expressed immense pride in his team's performance. Despite falling short in the match, he considered it the start of something special for Fiji rugby. He commended his players for creating a new identity and showcasing their talent on the world stage.
England's head coach, Steve Borthwick, lauded Fiji's performance in the tournament and their world-class talent. He acknowledged the tough challenge they posed in the quarter-final and praised their coaching and teamwork. Borthwick highlighted the resilience of his own players, who had been written off by many but managed to progress through the tournament, ultimately earning a spot in the semi-finals in Paris. He expressed confidence in their ability to rise to the occasion once again.
South Africa 29 – 28 France, Sunday, 15 October
In a thrilling quarter-final showdown at Stade de France on Sunday, October 15, the defending champions, the Springboks, overcame a formidable challenge from the hosts, France, securing a hard-fought 29-28 victory. The Bok's remarkable performance sets the stage for an enticing semi-final clash with England, taking place back at Stade de France next Saturday.
The match opened with a blistering start from the hosts, as prop Cyril Baille crossed the try line early on, giving France an early advantage. However, the Springboks responded with two brilliantly executed tries. First, Kurt-Lee Arendse sprinted to the corner after fielding a high kick, and then Damian de Allende powered over for another try, allowing South Africa to take a 12-7 lead.
France, determined not to let the defending champions run away with the game, drew level with a try from hooker Peato Mauvaka. Cheslin Kolbe added to the excitement by charging down a conversion attempt by Thomas Ramos before racing onto Jessie Kriel's clever grubber kick to score. Yet, the pendulum swung back in favour of France when Baille secured his second try, and Ramos landed a penalty, largely due to a high tackle by Eben Etzebeth that earned the second-row a yellow card. France went into halftime with a narrow 22-19 lead.
Ramos extended France's advantage with a well-placed penalty, but South Africa refused to be outdone. Eben Etzebeth, after returning from the sin bin, stretched over for a crucial try with just 14 minutes remaining. Replacement Handre Pollard added the conversion and a crucial penalty that ultimately proved decisive, despite a late reply from Ramos.
South Africa's captain, Siya Kolisi, reflected on the intense contest and praised his teammates' determination. He also acknowledged the unwavering support from their fans, both at home and in the stadium, highlighting the unique bond between the team and the nation.
Kolisi expressed his respect for the French team's display, recognizing the heartbreak of their defeat in front of their passionate home fans.
For the Springboks, it was a challenging game that showcased their resilience and teamwork. Mbongeni Mbonambi, named the Mastercard Player of the Match, acknowledged the tough task of facing the host team in their own backyard, with the fervent crowd singing their national anthem throughout. He emphasized that their journey was far from over, with two more games ahead.
South Africa's head coach, Jacques Nienaber, looked ahead to the semi-final clash against England, anticipating a significant challenge. He recognized that knockout games are often decided by narrow margins and appreciated the determination and effort of both sides in the quarter-final.
On the French side, team manager Raphael Ibanez expressed his sadness at not converting the numerous try-scoring opportunities that came their way. He acknowledged that they gave their all to win the game but couldn't capitalize on crucial moments. Despite the disappointment, Ibanez emphasised the need to regroup and continue believing in the team's potential for the future.
New Zealand vs Argentina, Friday, 20 October
The first Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final is set to be a thrilling encounter as Argentina faces three-time champions New Zealand. Argentina's recent successes against the All Blacks in 2020 and 2021 make this match far from a guaranteed victory for the favourites. The winner of this semi-final will earn a spot in the final, where they will face either England or South Africa.
For New Zealand, this semi-final holds a special significance. They are eager to avoid repeating their disappointing 2019 Rugby World Cup experience when they were stunned by England after a dominating victory over Ireland in the quarter-finals.
Defensive coach Scott McLeod stressed the importance of meticulous preparation and maintaining a high level of detail, energy, and focus throughout the week leading up to the semi-final. Learning from past mistakes, the All Blacks are determined to ensure a disruption-free buildup. The clash between these formidable teams promises to be a thrilling spectacle, and rugby fans worldwide are eagerly anticipating this semi-final showdown.
South Africa vs England, Saturday, 21 October
The upcoming Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final between South Africa and England is shaping up to be one heck of a match. Rugby fans from all corners of the globe are buzzing with excitement as we get ready to witness the defending champs take on England in what's sure to be an epic showdown at Stade de France.
Back in South Africa, the whole nation is getting behind the Springboks, hoping for a repeat of their championship-winning performance and more unforgettable moments on the grand stage of the Rugby World Cup. The passionate support from fans at home is like rocket fuel for the players as they chase that elusive glory in France.
As the semi-final showdown approaches, you can bet both teams know just how massive this game is. South Africa and England, both rugby heavyweights, are leaving no stone unturned in their quest for victory. With a spot in the final up for grabs, you can expect a nail-biting contest of skill, determination, and sheer grit that'll have rugby fans talking for ages.
This semi-final also sets the stage for a rematch of the last Rugby World Cup final, where England came up short against South Africa. The winner of this clash gets a golden ticket to the 2023 showpiece, carrying the hopes and dreams of their nations on their shoulders.
England's path to the semi-finals has been nothing short of surprising, emerging as the only unbeaten team in the tournament. On the flip side, South Africa has faced some tough challenges, including knocking out the home favourites, France, in a thriller.
As rugby fans around the world gear up for this epic clash, the excitement continues to build. The semi-final is sure to be a showcase of skill, determination, and the indomitable spirit of the sport, guaranteeing unforgettable moments that will become the stuff of rugby legends.
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