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Past Champions Dumped Out
France, Wales, Australia and New Zealand make up the semi finals
Posted Oct 10, 2011 by Chris White
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The last two World Champions – South Africa and England – have both been sent home from the World Cup after being beaten in their quarter final clashes, opening the door for a new World Champion, with hosts New Zealand the new favourites to clinch the title. However, the All Blacks still have plenty of work to do.
In the opening quarter final, it was Wales who came out victorious, powering their way to a 22-10 victory against Ireland in Wellington in what was a stunning display from the Welsh side, who have reached their first semi-final since the inaugural World Cup back in 1987.
Winger Shane Williams crossed early on to give Wales the lead and Warren Gatland’s mixture of youthful exuberance and experienced heads never looked back. Keith Earls touched down soon after half time for Ireland, but Mike Phillips and then Jonathan Davies booked the Welsh a semi final date on 15th October. Wales stand a fantastic chance of winning this year’s competition, with the team playing out of their skin throughout the tournament so far, producing arguably their finest performance against the Irish.
They will meet another side who turned up their game in France who finally turned up at this year’s World Cup, beating an out-of-sorts England 19-12 in Auckland, thanks to a dominant first half display which saw the French go in 16-0 up at the break.
First half tries from Vincent Clerc and Maxime Medard, plus two penalties form Dimitri Yachvili left England looking shell-shocked and in need of some kind of fluency and an early try. Ben Foden did cross the whitewash for the English, and Mark Cueto touched down to bring the deficit down to just seven points, but it was too little too late with just three minutes remaining on the clock.
The champions were dumped out of this year’s competition in some style, with Australia skipper James Horwill scoring the only try of the match in his side’s 11-9 win against South Africa. The Springboks dominated the early exchanges but couldn’t capitalise on their superior possession and territory, relying on Morne Steyn’s boot to score their points. South Africa did lead the contest with ten minutes remaining, but a penalty from James O’Connor in the 72nd minute booked Australia’s place in the semi final.
They will meet the hosts and favourites New Zealand after the All Blacks held off a spirited performance from Argentina, beating the South American side 33-10. The hosts weren’t at their fluent best in the early stages, relying on stand-in fly half Piri Weepu to keep them in the match, particularly when Julio Farias Cabello touched down for the Pumas to give them a shock lead. However, by the time Weepu slotted home his seventh penalty, the All Blacks had wrestled their way back on top.
Tries from Kieran Read and Brad Thorn in the second half ensured the favourites would be in Sunday’s semi final against the Wallabies, but they do have a number of injury concerns ahead of the game, already without Dan Carter, New Zealand lost Colin Slade in the first half.
Semi Finals –
Saturday 15th October – Wales v France
Sunday 16th October – Australia v New Zealand