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Wales Impress, Room for Improvement for Other Brits
England, Ireland and Scotland all struggle in RWC Openers
Posted Sep 13, 2011 by Chris White
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Despite coming up agonizingly short, Wales can certainly be encouraged by the start they made to this year’s World Cup, especially after some disappointing performances from England and Ireland – who did manage to get off to winning starts. Scotland also produced a win from their opening match of the tournament.
Warren Gatland’s side produced arguably the best performance of the British sides, ending up narrowly beaten 17-16 by reigning champions South Africa. Leading 16-10, Wales were in a great position to pull off what many would have deemed to be a shock victory, but Francois Hougaard’s try and Morne Steyn’s conversion put the Springboks back in front with little more than ten minutes remaining.
South Africa took an early lead as Francois Steyn held off the attentions of Shane Williams to touch down in the corner, which was converted by Morne Steyn. The fly half then kicked a penalty to establish a 1-0 lead for the 2007 champions. Two penalties from James Hook reduced the deficit to 10-6 at half time.
Toby Faletau dived over to give the Welsh side the lead and Hook converted to make the score 13-10, before adding another penalty. Hougaard’s late try and the subsequent conversion by Steyn had the South Africans back in front despite the best efforts of Gatland’s men.
Hook had the chance to win the match for the Welsh late on with a penalty from tight to the touchline but his kick drifted wide of the posts. When Dan Lydiate was deemed to be in an offside position from a scrum, the South Africans opted for a lineout and made the ground they needed to see out the remaining seconds.
England got off to a winning start in their match against Argentina, but their performance left a lot to be desired. With the Pumas leading 9-3 and just 13 minutes remaining, Ben Youngs dived over to spare England’s blushes after Jonny Wilkinson uncharacteristically missed five kicks, including four in a row. Argentina were also poor in front of the posts, missing six kicks of their own in a scrappy affair.
You might say a win is a win, but England will certainly have a lot to work on before their next match against Georgia.
Ireland were slightly more convincing in their 22-10 win against the USA, but some of their handling made what should have been a routine victory a lot more difficult. Jonathan Sexton also struggled to find his eye for goal, missing four of his five attempts before being replaced. Two tries from Tommy Bowe and one from Rory Best ensured the Irish had a win on the board before their most difficult match on paper against Australia next.
Simon Danielli was the saviour for Scotland as they also struggled and won, beating Romania 34-24. The Scots lead 21-11 but a spirited fight back had the minnows 24-21 in front with just ten minutes remaining. Danielli’s brace as well as tries for Mike Blair and Joe Ansbro made sure the Scottish started with a win ahead of the match with Georgia.