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Rugby World Cup 1999 :
Quarter-finals Wrap-up

By Adrian Porter

EDINBURGH, 26 October 1999 - There was never much doubt that teams from the southern hemisphere would dominate the rugby World Cup. And, so it has been. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa clobbered Wales, Scotland and England respectively in the quarter finals and only France, among the European sides, will now go to the semi-finals.

It must be mentioned, of course, that France did not have to play any of the "Big Southern Three" in the opening rounds and, as sure as God made little green apples, then so New Zealand will make apple sauce of the Frenchmen when they meet; simply because the French think that erecting a solid defence is a dull ploy.

That will be a pity becaue France, which won 47 - 26 in its quarter-final tussle with Argentina, played some of the fastest, most open and most exciting rugby of the tournament

It was able to do so because Argentina decided to play the same game - in the way that rugby is meant to be played. The scoreline gives no indication of the pluck and flair of both sides and the Argentines' bravery and physical commitment. There wasn't a weak link anywhere.

Neither Wales nor Scotland were expected to win but higher hopes rested with England in the tussle with South Africa. In the event, it turned out that there was more excitement in the minds of spectators before the game than actually took place on the pitch.

Apart from a few bright spots of play, it was a leaden affair with strength of defence rather than spirit of attack uppermost in the tactical performances of both sides. It speaks volumes about the game to learn that the accolade went to the five dropped goals by the South African fly-half, Jannie de Beer, rather than to any match-winning try.

This is not to gainsay De Beer's excellence - he scored 32 points from his boot - but it must be said that most of any movement towards the try lines came, not from sprints down the touchline, but from a series of ping-pong exchanges of long punts.

It was hardly nail-biting drama. All of England's 21 points were slotted in from long-range penalty goals. Whenever the Englishmen actually tried to carry the ball forward they ran hard up against a wall of green-shirted musclemen and were pushed back from whence they came.
The reason was simply that they began running from shallow positions and had no room or time to accelerate and burst their way through the defence.

South Africa, at least, managed to score two tries in their score of 44 points but even one of these was a fortuitous one, coming from the lucky bounce of a ball kicked towards the try line and then back into the arms of winger Piet Rossouw.

There was better action in the game between Scotland and New Zealand in Edinburgh despite torrential rain which made the ball greasy and the grass slippery. The Scots went down 30 - 18 but some measure of their grit and determination can be judged from the fact that they scored 15 points in the second half to 5 points by the All Blacks.

But Scotland were almost always outmanoeuvred by the superb tactical kicking of the New Zealand fly-half, Andrew Mehrtens. He was able to excercise the option of running because of the fast ball he received from the scrums and rucks. He was often on the move before the Scottish players were fully aware that he even had the ball.

On a couple of occasions the ball made its way into the grateful arms of winger, Jonah Lomu - 240 pounds and 6 ft - 6 ins of full tilt sprint by a man who can cover 100 metres in 13 seconds.

The Scots had planned their counter to him and two or three of them hanging round his ankles, knees and waist managed to stop him most of the time. Finally, he found space to run and he went over for his inevitable try to make up for some earlier fumbles.

if Lomu bullocked his way over, the New Zealand centre, Tana Umaga - he of the tangled rastafarian locks - slid like a wraith past Scottish defenders to score two tries. He outshone his partner, Christian Cullen, who had been given the star billing before the tournament began. Although Cullen has played well, he never attained the glory predicted for him.

On the Scottish side, the usual magic of fly-half Gregor Townsend turned into a misery of errors in taking passes and kicking. Luckily his teammates - particulalry his captain, scrum-half, Gary Armstrong, and winger Cammie Murray - played above themseleves to ensure that Scotland, far from being disgraced, ended on a high note.

The Wales - Australia match was a doleful affair on a pitch which heavy rain had turned into glutinous mud. This was something of a surprise in a brand-new, 150 million pound stadium which has a retractable roof supposed to keep out the rain.

Australia eventually won 24 - 9 and, although the Aussies' score did contain three tries, the gluey conditions meant that kicking was preferred to handling. Scrums and rucks were disorderly affairs, thanks to a referee who seemed unmaware of thre complicated rules of the game. The less said the better.

Next, the semi-finals: South Africa v Australia and New Zealand v France. The clever money is still on New Zealand to book a special seat for the golden World Cup on the plane home.




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

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Second Round Games Wrap-up

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Dirty and Vicious Play

Rugby World Cup 1999 : Argentina upsets Ireland

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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