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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Quarter-Final Round-Up: The North Bites Back

Quarter-Final Round-Up: The North Bites Back

Current Six Nations champions France and defending World champions England literally turned the rugby world on its head on Saturday as they knocked tournament favourites New Zealand and Australia out of the World Cup respectively.

WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL: Saturday, October 6

FRANCE 20 NEW ZEALAND 18, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (71,700)

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Scorers: France: Tries: Thierry Dusautoir, Yannick Jauzion; Cons: Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, Lionel Beauxis; Pens: Lionel Beauxis 2
New Zealand: Tries: Rodney So’oialo, Luke McAlister; Con: Dan Carter; Pens: Dan Carter 2

The French, who finished second in Ireland’s Pool D, did what many thought was unthinkable and ended the run of arguably the best-prepared and most-skilled All Blacks team ever.

Eight years after France scored their shock World Cup semi-final victory over New Zealand at Twickenham, they dramatically repeated the trick to hand the Kiwis a devastating defeat and for some of the more experienced players, a career-ending one.

Coach Graham Henry is also set to lose his job after New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs confirmed that: “We will have a new All Blacks coach in place by Christmas.”

For France, their comeback from last month’s opening night loss at the hands of Argentina continues and they will be favoured now, with home advantage, to end England’s run next weekend in Paris.

After the All Blacks’ annoyance at having to wear grey jerseys instead of their usual black ones, Bernard Laporte’s side also looked to gain a psychological edge prior to kick-off by facing down the Haka just inches from where the All Blacks performed it.

Wearing blue, white and red T-shirts and linking together on the halfway line to form their nation’s ‘tricolore’, the French players stood right in front of Richie McCaw and his colleagues throughout the Haka.

Some thunderous tackles aside, the game got off to a slow start and was not helped by a lengthy injury stoppage as French flanker Serge Betsen have to be helped off the pitch after being knocked out cold.

Dan Carter kicked the All Blacks into a 13th-minute. Centre Luke McAlister, linking with Carter and Jerry Collins, darted over for the game’s opening try five minutes later. Carter converted and tagged on another penalty which Lionel Beauxis, his opposite number, replied to to leave France trailing by 13-3 at half-time.

But France had a lot more in the tank and a stunning second half comeback saw them take an unforgettable victory. They heaped pressure on the All Blacks and referee Wayne Barnes reached for his yellow card when McAlister bodychecked Yannick Jauzion as he chased a Jean-Bapiste Elissalde kick.

Making full use of their numerical advantage, France managed to score 10 points in as many minutes to level the game. Beauxis kicked the resulting penalty after McAlister’s infringement, and helped by the introduction of cult hero Sebastien Chabal, France powered on to send back rower Thierry Dusautoir stepping through a tackle and over for a rousing try.

Les Bleus were back in the game and the sight of Carter, the world’s best out-half, limping off soon after also served to give the French some encouragement.

The All Blacks looked to turn on the after-burners and working the ball superbly through their forwards, the pressure eventually told and back row powerhouse Rodney So’oialo bulldozed through for a try from close range.

McAlister missed the conversion and it proved costly as clever use of the bench by Laporte saw France strike back with a try of their own.

Just moments after his introduction, the South Africa-bound Frederic Michalak took what looked like a forward pass from Damien Traille, but there was no whistle and Michalak weaved his wave forward down the left before feeding the supporting Jauzion to dive over.

Elissalde booted the conversion and France clung on through 12 frantic minutes to claim a quite staggering result when you consider the form of the All Blacks coming into the tournament and during the pool stages. Saturday’s drama-filled encounter was simply knockout rugby at its best and a great advertisement for the game.

WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL: Saturday, October 6

AUSTRALIA 10 ENGLAND 12, Stade Velodrome, Marseille (Att: 58,000)

Scorers: Australia: Try: Lote Tuqiri; Con: Stirling Mortlock; Pen: Stirling Mortlock
England: Pens: Jonny Wilkinson 4

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, in the sunshine of Marseille, England recorded their third successive World Cup win over Australia as the Wallabies seemingly underestimated the power of the defending champions’ forwards and .

John Connolly’s men were left red-faced as they crashed out of the tournament. England ressurected their cup bid, which looked to have come off the rails when they lost 36-0 to South Africa, as out-half Jonny Wilkinson booted four crucial penalties.

Wilkinson became the Rugby World Cup’s record points scorer, overhauling Scotland’s Gavin Hastings, as he fired England into the last-four.

Australian captain Stirling Mortlock, who took the blame for his side’s loss for only kicking one of his four penalty goal attempts, did put a seventh-minute penalty through the posts.

But the English pack, who were gaining a clear advantage at the breakdown and overpowering the Wallabies in the scrum, helped eek out the chances for Wilkinson to kick the champions 6-3 ahead.

In what was a repeat of the 2003 World Cup final, the Australians managed to bounce back before the break when winger Lote Tuqiri nipped over in the right corner for his first and only try of the tournament, following some clever attacking play from Mortlock and Berrick Barnes.

Mortlock converted for a 10-6 interval lead for the Wallabies, but England re-established their dominance up front on the restart and Mike Catt was almost worked in for a try. In the end, two successful penalties from Wilkinson after 52 and 60 minutes were enough to see Brian Ashton’s men to victory.

Wilkinson did miss a drop goal attempt and another penalty kick and a silly ruck infringement from Joe Worsley almost allowed Mortlock to snatch it at the death for the Wallabies, but his penalty kick from far out on the left was wide of the mark and England marched on as Europe’s first team into the semi-finals.