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Rugby World Cup 1999 :
Second Round Games Wrap-up

By Adrian Porter

TWICKENHAM, ENGLAND, 14 October 1999 - Each of the ten matches in the second round games of the rugby World Cup last weekend had its own importance but only one held the promise of a defining clash of some kind - the game between England and New Zealand at Twickenham; both of them fancying their chances for an appearance at the final next month.

In the event, New Zealand won by a big margin - 30 to 16 - and the symbol of their victory was the massive figure of their winger, Jonah Lomu, crashing through the tackles of four England players as if he were tripping through a field of dandelion puffballs; and then gently touching the ball down for the try of the match.

It was, as the man said, "a case of deja vu all over again", for it took us back to the 1995 World Cup match in South Africa when Lomu, seen for the first time by English opponents, picked up the ball, saw some space on the left wing and accelerated through the defence with opponents lying impotently on the ground in his wake - a tableau depicted on a recent cover of Time magazine.

Most opposing sides have tried to counter the Lomu juggernaut by squeezing his running space as tight as the tiny wisp of forelock on his shaven head and having him shadowed by at least three defenders. His try against England, however, was a replica of his 1995 sprint.

Also in evidence again was the strong New Zealand line of defence against English attacks.

The New Zealanders are called the All Blacks because of their kit - black shorts, black stockings, black shirt with only the silver fern of their country on the chest. The ultimate act of power dressing has to be the donning of an All Black outfit.

It seemed, then, that whenever the English got the ball, they ran into a solid black wall of Kiwis lined up abreast, waiting to stop them, to blunt every incipient foray. Time and again, the English players were stopped in their tracks, prevented from mounting or maintaining the momentum of an incisive attack. Engalnd was forced to kick over the black bafflements and, of course, to surrender posession of the ball.

The final score reflected the New Zealanders' superiority, particularly in the second half when debilitated Englishmen, weakened by frustration in attack and impotence in defence were finally overwhelmed by All Black attacks which produced 14 points in the second half.

In fact, England was overcome not only by the power play of the New Zealanders but by the inspiration they derive from the All Blacks' sense of heritage - the aura, the mystique and pride of being a member of the team. The All Blacks are, after all, the most successful international side in the history of rugby, winning three out of four of some 330 matches.

These rugby players have given their small homeland a giant presence in sport. Their style of rugby is seen to embody the country's rugged, pioneering past along with its manly virtues of strength, courage and team spirit.

To be an All Black is the pinnacle of most young, sporting New Zealanders' ambitions. The sense of awe that comes from pulling on an All Black shirt springs from a special spirit which makes the players all too aware of the saying: "The team's legacy is more intimidating than any opposition".

The intimidation takes on a recognisable form in the "haka", the Maori war chant challenging a foe to battle. Before a match begins, the All Blacks form a semi-circle facing their opponents and, supporting their cries with aggressive fist and arm gestures, they roll their eyes and tongues before finally leaping in the air. With repetition, it may have lost some of its power to intimidate these days, but spectators love it and its symbolism.

So much for the main bout. There were nine other matches in the second round of the tournament but they either came up to expectations by seeing the easy defeat of minor countries by major players or fell below expectations in lacklustre performances.

Scotland failed to impress in its defeat of lowly Uruguay and France, once the team of scintillating speed and spontaneity still seems to have lost its way despite its 47 - 13 victory over Namibia. The Ireland - Australia encounter, which the Aussies won 23 - 3, was the worst tounrnament so far. The verdict can only be that the side which won merely committed the fewer of a fiasco-full of errors.

Among the errors were those committed by the Irish flank forward, Trevor Brennan and the Australian No. 8 forward, Toutai Kefu, who were caught having a private punch up. In accord with the determination of the authorities to stamp out foul play, Brennan and Kefu were suspended for the matches to join two earlier players in the sin bin.

Even the South Africans - still second favourites to win the Cup - had a hard time of it against Spain. The agressive attacking spirit and determination of the Spaniards pushed the game. But Spain was, inevitably, crushed by the weight of professionalism - and the panic-induced replacement of some inexperienced South African players who started the game, by regular stalwarts in the second-half.

A notable exception to the lack of drama in the games was the match between Romania and the United States. In an exciting highly competitive game, Romania won by two points - thanks to a last minute tackle by the Romanian full back on the American winger, Vaca Anitoni. A yard further and the U.S. would have won.

The third and final round of the preliminary games begins on October 14th as follows: New Zealand v Italy, Wales v Samoa, Australia v U.S.A., Canada v Namibia, England v Tonga, South Africa v Uruguay, Ireland v Romania, France v Fiji, Scotland v Spain and Argentina v Japan.




Adrian Porter spent a working lifetime as a foreign correspondent for the BBC and other news organisations in various parts of the world. He writes on rugby and cricket for Culturekiosque.com.


Opening article: Rugby World Cup 1999 : Forecasts and a Guide to the Game

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Opening Games Wrap-up

Read Adrian Porter's archive articles on the Cricket World Cup

Opening article: Domination is the Name of the Game
Results of 1st Week: A Commonwealth Row and High Tech Foul Up Cricketing Traditions
Results of 2nd Week: Umpires Upset Bookmakers With Excessive Wide Balls
Results of 3rd week: Zimbabwe and Bangladesh topple giants to make "Super Six" round
First week of the "Super Six" Pakistan and South Africa in arm-pumping finish
Second week of the "Super Six"Australia snatches victory from South Africa


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