Australia are through to the fourth Rugby World Cup final with a scintillating performance against Argentina and women's soccer is back on television. Lachlan Barker reports.
THE Rugby World Cup semi-final between Australia and Argentina really was a scintillating game. Australia was solidly brilliant – if that’s not an oxymoron – while Argentina showed the flair that has made them a popular team to watch for neutral supporters.
Australia was named favourites for this match, but no semi-final of any tournament contains an easy beat and so Argentina proved.
While the match was still a contest until eight minutes from time when Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed for his third try to seal it for Australia, things went Australia’s way virtually from the start.
In the second minute, Argentina were attempting to run the ball out of their own half when an inside pass floated into the arm-reach zone of Australia’s towering second rower Rob Simmons. Simmons reached out a big right hand, curled the ball lovingly into his forearm, then tucked it under his wing and raced for the try line.
He crossed untouched, the try was converted by Bernard Foley and Australia was away at 7-0, with the fastest try of the World Cup so far.
While this was a blow to Argentina, it certainly didn’t stop them playing like the ball was covered with fire ants and flinging it around with abandon. This nearly bore fruit soon after, when quick passing and running rugby saw them through into the Australian quarter with the line near open. Only a try saving last ditch tackle from Foley stopped the Pumas notching their first try of the game.
Denied the try, Argentina did get in the board two minutes later with a penalty goal from Nick Sanchez.
But then Australia returned upfield and a long looping pass from Foley found Ashley-Cooper in space to cross for his first try, wide out on the right in the tenth minute. Foley converted and Australia led 14-3.
Things then settled into a tense struggle for dominance amongst the forward, which was itself broken open when Argentinean second rower Tomas Lavanini was yellow-carded for a "no arm" tackle in the 26th minute. A yellow card means ten minutes in the bin and, with the South Americans a player down, Australia capitalised.
Another long chain passing move saw Argentina’s try line exposed – a man short – wide on their right and Ashley-Cooper flew home for his second try. Foley wasn’t able to convert, so the score stood at 19-6.
Sanchez nailed one more penalty goal before half time, so the two teams went to the break with Australia leading 19-9.
The second half saw another tightly contested battle, with the only scoring two penalties from Sanchez for Argentina and one from Foley for Australia.
Finally though, with ten minutes on the clock, Australia shut the door of the vault. The ball came to Drew Mitchell on Australia’s left flank and a bullocking, firing run saw him move forty metres down and across the field, shaking tacklers as he went. His final pass nestled in the arms of Ashley-Cooper and he crossed wide on the right to take the score to 27-15.
Foley duly converted and thus Australia clinched the match 29-15.
This was a tense affair, as most expected. The final score was posted in the 69th minute and then the fans of both sides had to endure a gruelling final eleven minutes of push and shove before the final whistle signalled the Kiwis’ advance to the end game.
And before we leave the rugby for this column, I would like to take a moment to pay credit to commentator Gordon Bray. He really is the voice of Australian rugby, a title richly deserved due to his encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, and those who play it.
Gordon is famous for saying things like "and that’s a great try from the carpenter from Dolgellau", or "that was a mighty kick out of defence from the apprentice butcher from North Rochester".
Meaning that not only does Gordon know who did what on the field, but their job, place of work and just everything else about them.
It does add to the coverage to have someone with that sort of knowledge being able to entertain as well as inform. This is particularly useful in rugby, where often the penalties and free kicks are given for fiendishly difficult to interpret rules.
So while to the lay watcher – and I am one – it looks like a heaving mass of humanity doing nothing much in a pile of bodies near the middle of the field, to Gordon it is starkly clear and he can then inform us that "number 7, used his arm there in an illegal fashion in that ruck, and thus a free kick goes to the opposition".
Back on Australian soil, the soccer season is underway for another year.
The women soccer players have been embroiled in a pay dispute which saw the national team, The Matildas, withdraw from a tour of the USA. This was a promotional tour following the great performances by the 'Tildas at the World Cup.
However, since in the course of the dispute we learned that the Matildas players were earning an average of $21,000 a year, while the minimum wage in Australia is $34,158, the tour strike seemed eminently justified.
The refusal to tour does seem to have borne fruit, as Football Federation Australia this month announced a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for players in Australia, which will allow at least the Matildas players in Australia to earn a sufficient wage to allow them to be full time professionals.
So progress is being made and thus we can turn to the opening of the women’s soccer league – the W-league – for the year.
City got home on the weekend in the local derby over Melbourne Victory 2-1, while the Roar gave the Western Sydney Wanderers a lesson they’ll remember 3-0 away at Marconi stadium in Sydney’s outer western fringe.
However the best news of all is that the W-League is on television again this year. Last year the ABC did announce that due to budget cuts forced upon it by the Abbott Government, they would be unable to cover the women’s game on the weekend.
However, the ship has been righted and the W-League is back on the box. Thanks to a joint deal with Fox Sports, we will once again be able to enjoy the women’s game on TV. The broadcasts will feature double headers with the ABC showing the women’s game first, then a men’s match on Fox afterward.
The Rugby World Cup final is on this weekend as well and so a great weekend is in prospect for sports fans on the television.
The final is on Sunday morning at 2.30am, but I like to think of that as Saturday night to help us all to remember when to set the record facility.
So, in closing, we say well done Fox Sports for getting women’s soccer back on the box and, of course, Go Wallabies!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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