RWC 2011 : Wales vs France

October 15, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Posted in Sporting Event | 1 Comment
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I found myself in front of a TV last night and watched this intriguing semi-final.

Despite being one player down for three quarters of the game Wales stayed in the hunt, playing positive attacking rugby whenever they had the ball. France played a game that was an exemplar of safe rugby: keep it in the forwards and kick for field position. France did just enough to stay ahead of Wales – the final score 9 – 8 to France a reasonable reflection of the game. France are into the final for the third time.

Defense wins games, and it certainly did that for France. Who were content to use their one player advantage to defend stoutly and kick penalties when the Welsh were forced into conceding them.

In a high risk strategy France opted to defend a 6-point lead. In effect, Wales were in with a change right up to the end. France made no real attempt to put the game beyond reach. It was almost as it some marketing genius on the French side decide to even out the game; to keep the game as a spectacle alive!

So it was fitting that Wales scored the only try. Thus bring them within one point. The conversion appear to hit the lefthand upright, and France breathed a sigh of relief.

A very disciplined French side meant that most of Wales penalty kicks at goal were from way-way out. Leigh Halfpenny’s attempt at a 48m penalty dropped just under the cross bar late in the second half typified it all.

The game did come down to the last play: Wales had the ball and were camped in the French half, but solid disciplined defense saw France sneak home. Why Wales did not go for the drop kick – they got to the 22-metre line – or put the big up-and-under into the far corner we will never know.

it is tempting to dismiss this French effort as a bit one dimensional and not very adventurous; with no chance against either New Zealand or Australia. But they won. And they did it by soaking up a spirited Welsh attack for three quarters of the game. The last 10 minutes was reminiscent of the 2007 quarter final between France and the All Blacks – France defending their line while the All Black’s tried to punch through with their forwards.

Much will be written about the refereeing decision to send off the Welsh captain and #7 – Sam Warburton – for a dangerous tackle. But there is no denying that it was dangerous, and such dangerous play has no place in the game. Especially, if the International Rugby Union wants to make rugby a globally acceptable game and therefore watched by billions and thereby generating billions in sponsorship and advertising. But something else that has no place in a ‘game’ is a one sided contest.

What really hamstrung Wales was that they were not able to put another loose forward on. They were forced to pack down one of their backs on the side of the scrum. The scrum ceased to be a contest and became a very dangerous encounter every time one was called. The Welsh to their credit did not flinch from the fray and eventually the French marketing genius told the French pack to cease screwing the scrum and just to shunt the Welsh pack backwards; at the end France just held the Welsh up, so as not allow the scrum to collapse and thereby force the referee toss the die to see who to penalise.

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