NY Times weighs in on Wallaby performance vs Irish
Even the NY Times (article appearing September 19th, 2011) is in on the discussion over the Wallabies performance over the weekend!
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WELLINGTON — Ireland’s victory against Australia has set up a likely battle of the hemispheres for the Rugby World Cup title.
The hard-fought 15-6 triumph in Auckland has put Ireland in the driver’s seat to top Pool C in the World Cup, which means the knockout phases will predominantly be drawn along northern and southern hemisphere lines if the remaining pool matches go according to plan.
Before the tournament kicked off, most people were predicting a New Zealand-Australia final, with fellow Tri-Nations country South Africa also expected to make the semifinals, along with either England or France.
But that has been turned on its head now, thanks to Ireland’s surprise success against Australia, which has opened the door for two teams north of the equator to make the semifinals.
New Zealand and France should qualify from Pool A for the quarterfinals. In Pool B, England and either Scotland or Argentina will progress. Ireland and Australia should reach the final eight from Pool C, and South Africa, Wales or Samoa are the likely quarterfinalists in Pool D.
Ireland’s victory has also given it an easier path to the title game, should it win its remaining matches against Russia and Italy and finish on top of its group. Instead of facing the likely Pool D winner, South Africa, in the quarterfinals, Ireland now is on track to face the more familiar faces of the Welsh in that round, with France or England awaiting in the semifinals after that.
Australia has given itself a far more challenging run than it would have liked, as it will have to defeat South Africa, the defending champions, and New Zealand — if the All Blacks finish atop Pool A — on successive weekends for a spot in the final on Oct. 23.
In many ways the Ireland-Australia match at Eden Park on Saturday was the perfect illustration of the north-south split in playing styles.
Ireland was content to win via its forwards, and it did so superbly to deny Australia the chance to play the expansive, attacking brand of rugby it favors.
Tactically the Irish got it right, just as they did against England when it denied it the Six Nations grand slam, and South Africa is sure to take note of this as it prepares for the quarterfinals.
The Irish kept the Australians off the ground in the tackle to ensure they were rewarded with a scrum, which they absolutely dominated. The pressure Ireland applied to the Australian front row forced the Wallabies either to collapse or pop up, and the penalties conceded for doing so ultimately handed Ireland the match.
But it was also the work at the breakdown, where Ireland openside flanker Sean O’Brien dominated and where Australia missed David Pocock, that meant Australia never got the quick ball that is so crucial to a team that has its main strike weapons in the backs.
Will Genia, Quade Cooper and Kurtley Beale have shredded defenses when given the time and space this year. They did not get them against the Irish and could not make the breakthroughs that were needed, particularly as Cooper’s decision-making deficiencies were exposed again when he was under pressure.
While not many would have predicted the Irish victory in Auckland, even fewer may have expected to see a South African team keep the ball in hand as much as it did against Fiji.
More & Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/sports/rugby/20iht-rugby20.html