Five memorable moments from the pool stage of the World Cup which ended Sunday:
Leitch goes for broke and wins
Michael Leitch v Jean de Villiers in the captaincy stakes. Normally de Villiers, with over 100 caps for South Africa, would be odds on. But Leitch out-manouevred the Springbok legend through the 80 pulsating minutes of the contest, capping it at the denouement. Instead of opting for a kick at goal by Ayumu Goromaru he went for broke with the Springboks down to 14 players. “We had drawn enough matches in the past,” said Leitch, who ignored advice from the coaching staff. Their pressure paid off as the weary and shocked ‘Boks were stretched across the line and the ‘Brave Blossoms’ were not to be denied as Karne Hesketh went in in the left hand corner to secure a memorable win.
Robshaw’s haunting decision
England captain Chris Robshaw’s decision to go for a try against Wales may haunt him for the rest of his career. Critics say it showed why he should not be England’s leader. England were 28-25 down in the Pool A match and a kick at goal by Owen Farrell would have levelled the match. Instead he went for glory but Wales snuffed the move out. Farrell gamely said that it had been a collective decision but it is Robshaw who will be forever blamed. What is worse is that the draw would have been sufficient for the hosts to go through at Wales’s expense.
De Villiers suffers cruellest break
Jean de Villiers fully expected to be dropped following South Africa’s 34-32 defeat by Japan but coach Heyneke Meyer stayed faithful to his skipper for the game against Samoa. The Springboks duly bounced back to thrash the Samoans 46-6 but de Villiers suffered a broken jaw. He had already fractured the other side of the jaw when South Africa suffered a historic defeat to Argentina in August. It maintained the curse that has afflicted him at World Cups, notably the 2007 one which the ‘Boks won but he suffered a tournament-ending injury in the first game. “As I got replaced and I was running off, I knew it was my last,” he said of the Samoa injury. “I won’t get this opportunity again. Having played for the Springboks for 13 years now, you’ve been through so much, you’ve made so many good friends, you’ve seen so many good things, you never think that it would end like this.”
‘Gorgodzilla’s’ monster performance against All Blacks
Georgia captain Mamuka Gorgodze owed his side something after his yellow card in the game against Argentina saw the game slip away, having been in contention to cause an upset. He duly delivered against the champions in a massive performance that earned him the man of the match honours. The image of the 31-year-old Toulon back row forward sitting on the replacements bench — having exited to a standing ovation at the Millennium Stadium — taking in the news of the award is memorable in its own right as looking surprised he has to ask for confirmation from those around him.
The Wallabies showed they are as tough in defence as they are full of flair in attack in a remarkable period in the seocnd-half against Wales. Reduced to 13 men — Dean Mumm following Will Genia to the sin bin — and outstanding No8 David Pocock having limped off, they withstood wave after wave of a Welsh onslaught when leading 12-6. It proved to be the turning point of the match as the Welsh came away with nothing to show for their efforts. “If they say that behind every good man is a good woman, behind every attack is a great defence,” was Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s typically colourful assessment of the 15-6 win that ensured the Wallabies finished unbeaten at the top of Pool A.