Who’s hot and who’s not: Epic World Cup quarter-finals as Springboks and All Blacks shine, agony for Ireland and France while Saracens thumped

Planet Rugby
Springboks flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit celebrates while Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is dejected.

Springboks flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit celebrates while Ireland captain Johnny Sexton is dejected.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


All Blacks beat the odds: Saturday’s quarter-final between New Zealand and Ireland was a very rare occasion that the three-time world champions came into a Rugby World Cup play-off match as underdogs. That did not deter them, however, as they embraced the challenge against the world’s number one ranked team and sealed a deserved 28-24 victory. It was an outstanding all-round effort from the All Blacks in which their senior players stood up when it really mattered with the likes of Ardie Savea, captain Sam Cane, Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett all delivering superb individual performances on the night. Suddenly they are within touching distance of another World Cup final.

As do the Springboks: South Africa also upset the odds by stunning host nation France in an equally absorbing quarter-final fixture on Sunday. France shot out the blocks in impressive fashion but somehow the Springboks dug in and clawed their way to a 29-28 triumph that sets up a semi-final showdown with England on Saturday. South Africa left no stone unturned in their preparation for the France showdown and it showed in their execution of decisions on and off the field. It was always going to take something special to win and this was special.

Owen Farrell fires England to semi-final: It was a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man as Farrell proved to be the match-winner in the Red Rose’s 30-24 quarter-final victory over Fiji with a fine performance. There was some debate amongst England supporters about Farrell’s selection ahead of George Ford at fly-half for the crunch encounter but the captain justified that call as he finished with a 20-point haul courtesy of five penalties, a conversion and a well-taken drop goal. Farrell also impressed with calm leadership, particularly when Fiji fought back from 24-10 down to draw level at 24-24 with his snap shot and a three-pointer off the kicking tee ultimately securing the win.

Los Pumas bite back to down Wales: Argentina hadn’t quite lived up to their pre-tournament hype until the victory over Japan in their final World Cup pool game and have now backed that up with a fantastic come-from-behind win over Wales. It was an inspired effort from Michael Cheika’s side, particularly from veteran fly-half Nicholas Sanchez, who scored a great intercept try to win the opening quarter-final.

Michael Hooper’s Olympic swansong: We will see Michael Hooper in Wallaby colours one more time. The ex-captain was snubbed for Eddie Jones’ Rugby World Cup squad but has now revealed that he is targeting one final tournament representing his country, this time in Sevens. The Wallabies legend deserved a better send-off than a World Cup snub, and we are glad that he will get one. Good luck, Michael.

Premiership home teams: The club action got underway in England’s top flight at the weekend and it was a great round for the league’s home teams as they all got their respective campaigns off to positive starts. The Premiership kicked off on Friday with Bristol sealing a win over Leicester before Exeter, Bath and Gloucester clinched victories over Saracens, Newcastle and Harlequins respectively on Saturday. On Sunday, Sale completed a clean sweep of home victories in the first round when they got the better of Northampton at the AJ Bell Stadium.


Ireland’s eighth quarter-final exit: That agonising defeat against the All Blacks meant it was a familiar old story for the men from the Emerald Isle at the World Cup as they failed to advance to the semi-finals for the eighth time in the global showpiece’s 36-year history. The country has been in mourning since the loss to New Zealand and this studio chat on Virgin Media Sport summed up the mood. Such a tough defeat to take for Ireland as they appeared to have ticked every box seemingly required in the couple of years leading up to the tournament.

Hosts have World Cup party ended: One could hear the silence and feel the shock from Paris in every living room around the world on Sunday evening as France were dumped out of their Rugby World Cup at the last-eight stage. Many expected Les Bleus to go all the way but sport is a cruel mistress, as Ireland also found out this past weekend, with Fabien Galthie’s men edged by South Africa in a gripping game at the Stade de France. Much like Ireland, a period of mourning has begun as four years’ hard work has been undone by the barest of margins.

Lopsided World Cup pool: We witnessed four cracking quarter-finals this past weekend, but the games still left a bitter taste when two of the best four teams in the world were knocked out of the tournament before the final four. Thankfully, World Rugby confirmed that this will not be repeated in Australia in four years, but that has not helped this year. It’s a real shame but, unfortunately, the reality that we now face.

Sarries thrashed: We have already mentioned the Premiership champions’ away defeat against Exeter Chiefs but the manner of that loss will be concerning for Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall and the rest of his backroom staff. Exeter dominated for long periods at Sandy Park and outscored the champions by 11 tries to two en route to a 65-10 thrashing. Although several of Saracens’ first choice players are still on duty with England at the Rugby World Cup in France, they still had the likes of Alex Lozowski, Alex Goode, Tom Willis, Theo McFarland and Nick Isiekwe in their ranks and a better performance is expected when they play host to Bath on Saturday. A tough training week awaits.

Retiring legends’ World Cup exits: It’s a sad end to many an international career once a team’s Rugby World Cup ends and that is the case for the likes of Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls, Dan Biggar and most likely a few more after the past weekend. Emotion was writ large on Sexton especially after their loss to the All Blacks and with his son’s comment to his dad thrown in, it’s hard not to feel the emotion of it all.

Wales let lead slip: Warren Gatland certainly made a huge impact on Wales since his comeback and, after an underwhelming Six Nations, they came out firing in the World Cup, winning all four of their pool stage matches. Then came a quarter-final clash. Biggar gave the men in red a fantastic start as they raced into a 10-0 lead. However, they would let that slip, and despite edging ahead 17-12 again on the hour, they did the same, allowing Argentina back into the game. Gatland-led teams are usually incredibly tough to break down once, never mind twice, so this result will sting the New Zealander as Wales had a fantastic chance of going deep in this competition after topping a difficult Pool C.

READ MORE: Two Cents Rugby’s five takeaways from the Rugby World Cup as quarter-final curse strikes again