October 10, 2011
Tenacious Wales has 'no fear'
By RICHARD MAUNTAH, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Everyone likes a young, fearless underdog. In this Rugby World Cup, that role is filled by Wales.
And that attitude has carried Wales to its first semifinal appearance since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
Their team's tenaciousness on defence carried them to a 22-10 victory over Ireland in the first of the quarterfinal matches played in New Zealand over the weekend.
“They have no baggage and there’s no fear factor,” Welsh coach Warren Gatland said. “We are in New Zealand and not in the bubble of Wales and listening to any of the negativity that is sometimes generated back home.
“We’ve worked so hard in the last three, four months. We aren’t ready to go home yet.”
Despite two penalty opportunities hitting the uprights, the Welsh got tries from Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, and Jonathan Davies. Phillips try was a good example of a scrum half keeping one eye on the ball travelling through the scrum and another eye on where opportunities lie once the ball is out.
Despite a Keith Earls try, it was a disappointing end for the Irish who had pulled an upset over Australia during round-robin play.
The folks in Wales would have relished a semifinal battle with neighbouring England but will have to settle for a date with France. Even though the scoreline was only 19-12, Les Bleus dominated England.
The French are known for their fluid back play but it was their forwards, led by their Imanol Harinordoquy, who controlled scrum and frustrated the English with their physical play.
The French raced to a 16-0 halftime lead on tries by Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard.
The English did come back with an 55th-minute try by Ben Foden and a late try by Mark Cueto but French coach Marc Lievremont was pleased regardless.
“We controlled the match well at the beginning,” he said. “After they put pressure on us, we were able to relieve that pressure with our kicking game and that allowed us to get our game in order.”
On Sunday, South Africa’s reign as World Cup champions ended despite dominating play against Australia. James Horwill scored the only try of the match in the Wallabies’ 11-9 win.
South Africa’s pressure was so great that Australia made 147 tackles to South Africa’s 53. James O’Connor kicked two penalties for the Australians. South Africa got all their points from the leg of Morne Steyn, two from penalties and a drop goal.
“It was a huge effort that took everything we needed. I’m just really stoked,” Horwill said. “We got the result we deserved on the back of a massive effort from the whole group. Moving forward that’s what it’s going to take.”
Their semifinal opponent will be their old rivals, the All Blacks. New Zealand posted a 33-10 win over Argentina.
The Pumas made it difficult on the hosts, holding them without a try for nearly 70 minutes and getting one themselves courtesy of Julio Farías Cabello.
But the star of the match was Piri Weepu, who took over the goal kicking duties from the injured Dan Carter and proceeded to nail seven penalties from as many attempts.
“Tonight he stood up,” New Zealand assistant coach Steven Hansen said. “His brain is working at 100 m.p.h. but he is ice cool as well. He is one of the leaders in the team.”
Kieran Reid and Brad Thorn got the tries in the last 10 minutes of the match.
Wales and France will meet Saturday at Eden Park while Australia and New Zealand take to the famed Auckland landmark on Sunday.