With the 2019 Rugby World Cup now three weeks in, we’re beginning to see the favorites emerge whilst underdogs try and upset the odds to win the World Cup. We’ve already witnessed some cracking matches in the first three weeks of the tournament – sumptuous tries, high-quality defensive play, red cards, and late drama. As the tournament heads towards the defining period of the pool stage, let’s take a look back at some of the most exciting matches we’ve seen in the competition thus far.
France 23-21 Argentina, Pool C
Although the World Cup was just a couple of days old at the time, this was a crucial clash in Pool C. With England the heavy favorites to win the group, France and Argentina were both eyeing the second spot. France got off to a flyer, leading 20-3 at half-time thanks to tries from Gael Fickou and Antonie Dupont.
The tide changed in the second half, however, as Los Pumas came out all guns blazing. A driving maul game caused France no end of problems. After tries from Guido Petti Pagadizabal and Julian Montoya were followed by an ice-cool penalty by Benjamin Urdapilleta, Argentina found themselves in front by a single point.
There was to be one more twist in the tale. Camille Lopez’s pin-point drop goal restored France’s advantage, and Les Bleus hung on to claim a crucial victory that would ultimately be key in their progression to the quarter-finals.
Japan 19-12 Ireland, Pool A
Most expected Ireland to face a tough challenge against Japan, but few predicted that the hosts would topple the Pool A favorites. Ireland seemed to have alleviated fears of an upset in the early stages of the match, as tries from Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney gave Joe Schmidt’s side a 12-3 lead.
But that was to be the extent of Ireland’s scoring in the match, as Japan began to seize control of the game, stifling Ireland’s attack and taking advantage of poor discipline at the breakdown. A series of penalties brought Japan within touch before Kenki Fukuoka scored a try to raise the roof off Shizuoka Stadium and give the hosts the lead. Ireland could not recover and suffered a disappointing defeat, leaving the home fans jumping for joy.
Australia 25-29 Wales, Pool D
This was one of the most highly anticipated matches in the run-up to the tournament – two of world rugby’s best sides going head to head. The match lived up to its billing, as Wales’ rip-roaring start gave them a lead they would never surrender despite intense pressure. Dan Biggar’s first-minute drop goal set the tone before Hadleigh Parkes’ try opened up an early ten-point lead.
Although Australia pulled a try back, Gareth Davies’ lung-busting try gave the Welshmen a 23-8 lead at the interval. The Wallabies rallied in the second half to ensure a thrilling finish to this clash of giants but had left themselves just too much to do in the end, as Warren Gatland’s men hung on to secure a precious victory.
France 23-21 Tonga, Pool C
A strange mirroring of France’s first group game against Argentina, this game proved to be a cracker as well. Again, France started fast, their strong attack showing all their worth in establishing a 17-0 lead with tries from Virimi Vakatawa and Ratu Raka, and a penalty.
However, a Sonatane Takulua tries on the stroke of half-time restored some hope to Tonga, and they went from strength to strength in the second half, with further converted tries from Malietoa Hingano and Zane Kapeli narrowing the gap to just two points. But just like in the match against Argentina, France held their nerve and secured another narrow victory.
All in all, we’ve seen some thrilling contests so far in this Rugby World Cup, and some scintillating tries, fine attacking maneuvers, and hard-hitting tackles. All evidence suggests that there are more rip-roaring matches to come in the rest of the pool stage and in the knockout rounds. Who will lift the trophy on the 2nd November is still anyone’s guess, but you can bet there will be plenty more thrills along the way.