Rounding up a great tournament such as this is no easy task, but after the conclusion of the 2015 rugby world cup, we are given an opportunity to reflect on the spectacle as a whole. From shocking decisions to unbelievable triumphs, the competition has had its fair share of excitement and uproar, and has made it one of the most entertaining tournaments so far!
The tournament began with one of the home nations, England, taking on Fiji in a closely fought match. Thanks to a late try from Billy Vunipola, the home nation managed to take 4 points away. Scotland’s opening games saw them take on underdogs Japan, who were in great form after beating a top-quality South African side. Despite a well fought first half, Japan failed to upset the Scots and Scotland walked away with a triumphant 45-10 victory and an opening 4 points on the table.
Game 2 for Scotland took place at Elland Road (Leeds), where the home nation took on the USA in a thrilling match. The Scots entered the second half trailing by 7 points, receiving a physical challenge from the powerful American opposition. However, this was not enough to deter the plucky Scots, finishing the game victorious, with a 23 point difference. Games 3 and 4 resulted in both misery and triumph for Scotland. Despite battling well, Scotland failed to beat giants South Africa in a game that ended 34-16. A try from Tommy Seymour wasn’t quite enough to bring the home nation 3 points, but showed that even against such a high-quality of opposition, Scotland were able to put up a great fight. The final game of the group stages took Scotland to St James Park (Newcastle) to face powerhouses Samoa. After going into the second half 3 points down, the home nation had to fight valiantly to receive anything from the game. However, thanks to tries from Seymour, Laidlaw and Hardie, Scotland were able to win the game, despite a late try from Matu’u, which seem to spark a potential comeback.
The group stages were also kind to home nations Wales and Ireland, seeing both of them qualifying, finishing second and first respectively. Wins against France, Romania, Italy and Canada earned Ireland consecutive victories and a flawless performance in the groups. Despite losing to Australia, Wales managed to fight off all other rivals to earn themselves a place in the Quarter-final. However, final home nation England failed to make their way out of Group A after losses to Wales and Australia, making them the first home nation to pack their bags.
Unfortunately, the Quarter-finals did not treat the home nations as well as the group stages. Wales faced South Africa in a closely fought game, but due to a late try from South African Du Preez, Wales crashed out, failing to reach the Semi’s. Ireland saw themselves come up against Argentina in their Quarter-final match. However, the South Americans picked apart the Irish, and the game ended with a 43-20 victory to Argentina.
The final home nation Scotland took on Australia in what was to be the most controversial match of the tournament. Scotland went in to the first half leading by a point, and the game seemed to be going their way. However, this changed dramatically as a penalty was awarded to the Australians for a Scottish offside pass. The penalty resulted in 3 points for Australia and cost Scotland the game. The penalty decision has since been ruled incorrect and caused uproar among the rugby community. However, Scotland still ended up getting knocked out of the competition, and joined the other home nations out of the competition.
The Semi-finals were played between South Africa and New Zealand and Argentina and Australia. The first match saw the All Blacks finish triumphantly despite a closely fought game. Tries from Kaino and Barrett were enough to beat the Springboks and earn the New Zealanders a place in the final. The second game saw a dominant Australia easily push aside the South American opposition and gave them the opportunity to play the All Blacks in the Final.
The third place play-off, taking place at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was a disappointing game for Argentina, one in which they never really looked like winning. South Africa took a commanding lead entering in to the second half, which proved too much for their opposition. Finally resulting in the South African team earning themselves a bronze medal.
And then, to the final. A packed crowd of over 80,000 filled Twickenham to watch favourites New Zealand take on flawless Australia. The game started slowly with the sides only taking 3 points a piece inside the first 25 minutes. However New Zealand began to take control and entered the half leading by 13 points. The All Blacks began to pick up momentum though and the Australians failed to cope with the onrush of pressure put upon them by the New Zealand team. The game ended without an upset, with the All Blacks winning 34-17. However, the competition still had one surprise left. New Zealand player Sonny Bill Williams impressed thousands after giving away his winners medal to an enthusiastic fan who was unfairly tackled by officials. After speaking to the young fan, he reached for his medal and handed it to him with a smile. This actions ended the excitable competition on a high and showed the generosity of the big New Zealander.