Saturday, October 20, 2007

One Final Too Far

Unlike most of the other World Cup games which I saw at home, I was out at the George in Fleet Street to watch the final. It was crammed to the rafters but I managed to squeeze into a corner to watch the big screen and scream with the rest of them!

After having to play knockout rugby for the preceding 4 games, England did their very best, but the Springboks just seemed to have the edge. Everyone in the pub was convinced Mark Cueto's try should have been allowed, but in the cold light of day, and having seen the replay properly, I'm prepared to admit it was the right call.

The South Africans never really got into top gear, with their supposedly secret weapons Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen not getting much ball and therefore never really cutting loose. But I think the Boks had played the better rugby for most of the tournament, so in the end they were worthy winners and the William Webb Ellis trophy [above] will be going home with them.

Jake White will be in charge for one last game, against the Barbarians at Twickenham on 1st December, but then he'll be looking for a new challenge. Who knows where he'll end up. The game is rather amusingly being billed as "Socks vs Boks", from the tradition that Barbarians' players may wear the black and white hooped jersey, but they always bring their own current team socks with them. It will also be Jason Robinson's last ever game, so I'm sure he'll get a good sendoff from the crowd, whatever the final score.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Le Grand Denouement, Part Deux

Third-place playoffs are normally renowned for being pretty dire affairs, with neither team's heart usually in it. But I gather the France vs Argentina rematch was anything but.

I'm spitting feathers at ITV4, who I thought were showing the match. But when it came time to record the game (I was out on for the evening), all I got was several episdoes of "Police, Camera, Action". Merde alors!

So I'll have to content myself with reading the match reports from BBC Sport and the official Rugby World Cup website. Sounds like I missed a good 'un. [Right, Aurelien Rougerie]

The French must be kicking themselves too; having lost to the Pumas once in the pool stage, the hosts were surely looking for revenge and a chance to save some face. But it wasn't to be - especially with Argentina running in five tries to the Frogs' one! Clement Poitrenaud [left] scored the only French try. Not the way Mad Bernie Laporte would have wanted to end his career as French coach, before ascending to the heady heights of Sports Minister.

Still, the Argentinians can hold their heads up high at a job well done. They've had a momentous World Cup, and have surely done enough for their case to be let into a major tournament to be taken seriously. They have also entertained along the way, showing some superb flair, flowing rugby and silky skills - just a shame it didn't happen against South Africa last weekend!

[Argentina smash a French attack during their pool game on 7th Sept.]

Quite a few of the players from both sides will be retiring now, so it's certainly the end of an era all round. I'm sure the Pumas will remember it more fondly than the French!

Finally, I heard a great joke the other day:
Q: What do you call the playoff for 7th and 8th place?
A: The Bledisloe Cup

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

80 Minutes From Greatness?

Brian Ashton has made up his mind with his chosen matchday 22. Largely unchanged, apart from the enforced replacement of Josh Lewsey due to his hamstring injury. Here's the rundown:

15 Fullback - Jason Robinson (Sale Sharks)
It will be Robbo's last match, and 51st cap for his country at Rugby Union. He's had quite a remarkable career in both codes of the game, and I've enjoyed watching him play, jinking round defences, making breaks, and scorching up the pitch! It would be great to bow out with another World Cup Winner's medal to add to his collection.

14 Right Wing - Paul Sackey (London Wasps)
Sackey has taken a while to get a regular place in the England team, but this match will be his 10th cap. Let's hope he gets a chance to show his speed against South Africa, in attack rather than in defence!

13 Outside Centre - Mathew Tait (Newcastle)
Some commentators doubted Tait's defence skills at the beginning of the tournament, but he seems to have been effective in the last couple of games. His partnership with Mike Catt no doubt benefits his game, and he will be earning his 19th Cap in the Final.

12 Inside Centre - Mike Catt (London Irish)
The man who kicked the ball off the pitch at the end of the last Final gets another bite of the cherry, and in doing so, will become the oldest player to take part in a World Cup Final game, having had his 36th birthday last month. If Tait is a relative rookie, Catt will be appearing for his 75th Cap on Saturday.

11 Left Wing - Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
Cueto gets the nod in place of injured Josh Lewsey on the wing. He hasn't started for England since their pool game against Tonga, but will earn his 24th Cap. Let's hope he can top up his try tally beyond the current count of 13 in a white shirt.

10 Fly Half - Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle Falcons)
There have been times over the past four years, when everyone thought they would never see Jonny play in a World Cup Final again. But he's never been one to give up easily. All that lonely practicing at goal kicking has paid off sufficiently for him to help the team to this final in the first place. Let's hope the match balls don't mess up his kicking stats any further. This will be cap 65.

9 Scrum Half - Andy Gomarsall (Harlequins)
Gomarsall's career looked like it had stalled when he was dropped by Worcester at the start of the 2006/07 season. But since signing for Harlequins, he's had a renaissance and Ashton's faith in him has paid off in the last few games, where he's bossed the scrum and linked well with the backs. He will earn his 33rd cap in the final.

1 Tighthead Prop - Andrew Sheridan (Sale)
The big lads in the front row have been scrumming well in the competition so far. Let's hope Sheridan and Co. can keep Boks' front row in order. Sheridan will be winning his 20th cap on Saturday.

2 Hooker - Mark Regan (Bristol)
"Ronnie" will be propping up the middle of England's front row in the Final, and earning his 43rd cap at the age of 35. He's renowned for his matchday banter, so let's hope he'll be bending the Boks' ears as well as their backs in the scrum.

3 Loosehead Prop - Phil Vickery (London Wasps)
Old "Raging Bull" himself, Captain Phil Vickery looked close to tears after England's defeat of France in the semifinals. A man of few words, his 5-minute captain's speech before that game obviously had the desired effect. I'm sure he'll come up with a few more ahead of the Final. It will be his 60th cap for England, and he's one of only 4 players left from the winning 2003 Final.

4 Lock - Simon Shaw (London Wasps)
The 6'8" second rower will be making his 43rd appearance for England on Saturday. He's been a constant threat will ball in hand, solid at the lineout and great at the rucks. His only little slip up was a silly chip ahead when he really should have kept the ball in hand.

5 Lock - Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers)
Kay's influence as lineout captain has paid off in recent games, with the team having decent possession from lineout ball. He partnered Martin Johnson at the last World Cup, and is one of the four team members who played in Sydney in 2003 - with Jason Robinson, Mike Catt and Phil Vickery. This Final will see him play his 53rd game for England.

6 Openside Flanker - Martin Corry (Leicester)
Cozza had a bit of a torrid time of it during his tenure as England Captain. But he seems to be happy to graft away in the pack and snipe at the edges of rucks for possession, playing the role of foot-soldier somewhat more convincingly. He'll be earning his 64th cap.

7 Blindside Flanker - Lewis Moody (Leicester)
"Mad Mongo" Moody will chase anything, particularly restart kicks, and more often than not, he gets to them in time. Also reknowned for his chargedown attempts, which I'm sure have earned him a few bumps and bruises in his time. As long as he doesn't give away any penalties, he should be an asset to the team, earning his 52nd Cap.

8 No. 8 - Nick Easter (Harlequins)
The surprise find of the Back Row recently, Easter has been effective for England under Brian Ashton and should provide a solid base for the scrum. He will have just a dozen caps when he steps onto the field on Saturday, but I'm sure he's ready for the game of his life!

As for the subs, they will probably be wheeled on around 60 minutes, depending on how the game is progressing:

16 - George Chuter (Leicester Tigers)
Replacement Hooker Chuter has been cultivating a healthy growth of facial hair during the tournament, and has vowed to shave it only when England are done in the competition. Having reached the Final, he's now beginning to rival Sebastien Chabal for the title of hairiest man on a rugby field. Beard or not, he'll earn his 19th cap if Ashton brings him on.

17 - Matt Stevens (Bath)
The South-African born prop has nailed his colours firmly to the England mast, but it must feel slightly odd for him to play against his native country. If he makes it onto the field, it will be his 21st appearance for England.

18 - Lawrence Dallaglio (London Wasps)
After his horrendous ankle injury during the 2005 Lions Tour, it's a wonder he was able to get back to match fitness, let alone regain form for Wasps and push for a place in Ashton's World Cup squad. Not time to write off the old man yet! He would earn his 85th cap if he's brought on for some impact and fresh legs on Saturday.

19 - Joe Worsley (London Wasps)
Worsley's tap tackle on Vincent Clerc was monumentally important - saving a try and therefore probably the game, to take England through the semifinal and onto the Grand Day Out on Saturday. It will be his 65th cap if he gets called up from the bench.

20 - Peter Richards (Gloucester)
Richards has played second fiddle to the more experienced Andy Gomarsall during the tournament. The coach has often opted for experience rather than youth, but he's not done badly when he's come off the bench. It would be his 12th Cap on Saturday.

21 - Toby Flood (Newcastle Falcons)
The young centre has been used sparingly so far, with Mike Catt the preferred option in big games. But Flood plays regularly with Newcastle team mate Wilkinson, so he makes an excellent first receiver and can read Wilko's game plan well enough. If he comes onto the pitch, it will be his 12th Cap for England.

22 - Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers)
A lot of people thought he might get the nod instead of Mark Cueto as cover for Josh Lewsey, but instead he'll have to content himself to Shine The Pine on the bench... if he makes it onto the field, it will be his 6th appearance.

So, all that remains between these boys and the William Webb Ellis Trophy are 80 minutes on the field. Throughout the TV coverage of the tournament, Guinness have been running adverts with the tagline of "You are but seconds from greatness". That's 4,800 of them, to be precise. I don't think I can hold my breath for that long, boys...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sarries Go Shopping?

As previously mentioned, I'm a bit mobility-challenged at the moment, and so wasn't able to attend Saracens' fantastic win over Leicester Tigers at the weekend. Looks like I missed a cracker, which was 11-all at half time, but Saracens piled on the pressure in the second half, and finished 26-19 winners. Old boy Kris Chesney [left] and new blood Adam Powell [right] scored one try apiece after the break.

After five games, the win takes Sarries up to the heady heights of second in the Guinness Premiership table [see below]. Even after their success last season, they never got that high! Let's hope the guys can keep up the momentum.

I notice that Bath are doing rather well too, considering their woeful form at the back end of last season. And from the table above, Leicester and Wasps are obviously struggling to retain some form with a large contingent of their players away on World Cup duty.

Talking of that, it looks like Eddie Jones might have persuaded young Takudzwa Ngwenya to come to Sarries for a month's trial, hot on the heels of his World Cup performance. I can't believe the way he outstripped Bryan Habana for a fantastic try when the USA played the Springboks.

[Ngwenya lines up Simon Shaw for a tackle in the England vs USA match]

The lad's obviously not scared of putting in big hits in defence, either, as the photo above shows - the next frame showed Simon Shaw in a heep with Ngwenya buried underneath!

I've not kept tabs on Saracens transfer list very well this season - there have been a few changes, but nothing link the revolving door of a few seasons ago. Here's a roundup:

Out: Simon Raiwalui (Racing Metro), Ben Russell (Racing Metro), Ben Broster (Llanelli Scarlets), Thomas Castaignede [right] (retired), Shane Byrne (released), Tevita Vaikona (released), Ben Johnston (Brive), Tomas de Vedia (London Irish).

In: Chris Jack [left] (Canterbury Crusaders), Matias Aguero (Viadana), Gordon Ross (Castres), Edd Thrower (Wasps)

I'm particularly going to miss the mercurial M. Castaignede, who was always a joy to watch when he was fit and in form. I've enjoyed his commentary stints for ITV's World Cup coverage too, so perhaps we'll see Thomas the pundit more in the future. But I'm also looking forward to seeing the new signings in action, particularly the towering 6'8" of Chris Jack in the lineout!

I'm hoping to be at the Bristol game on 4th November, when all the World Cup matches will be done and dusted, and we shall have been put out of our misery, knowing whether or not England pulled off the seemingly impossible! Still pinching myself that we're in the final, frankly!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pumas Bow Out, Boks Roll Onwards

It started with about five minutes of ping-pong, and just when it looked like the Pumas were making a break, South Africa struck back with an interception and Fourie du Preez [right] sprinted miles to cross for the Boks. Percy Montgomery added the extras and South Africa were 7-0 ahead.

Juan Martín Hernández had a half-hearted attempt at a drop goal at 9 minutes, but it went nowhere. A few minutes later, Juan Smith was judged to have obstructed Agustin Pichot off the ball, and Felipe Contepomi took the points to bring them back to 7-3. But then the Pumas let a pentalty go themselves, and Monty hit back with another three - 10-3.

It was the Boks who infringed again at the breakdown - Felipe Contepomi was unable to add the three points. At the restart, Lucas Borges [left] fumbled the ball horribly and nearly found Bryan Habana over the line with the ball - but Argentina hit back with an attacking run and a lovely kick for touch. The Puma forwards rolled a maul from the lineout, for a good few metres. But the Springboks backed off slightly and the Argentines were pinged for "truck and trailer" moves. Cunning strategy from the Boks?

At 23 minutes, Francois Steyn went for a drop goal from inside his own half, but it just bobbled along the floor into Argentine hands. The next Boks' lineout was a bit of a mess, with the greens having to mop up at the back. They won the ball, just, but were then caught holding on. A shame that the next Pumas' lineout was stolen by the South Africans.

At 28 minutes, Argentina won another penalty with the Boks holding on, this time Contepomi made no mistake, and it was 10-6. Despite the scoreline, I think the Argentines have been playing the better rugby in the first half hour.

Habana took a high kick and set off down the wing, but the Pumas' defence was good, and the Boks were turned over. They made more inroads into the South African 22, but they turned over again, it was slung wide to Habana who chipped ahead, and off he went, ripping up the turf. Montgomery's kick went plumb through the middle and it was 17-6.

With a minute to go before the break, Argentina fumbled the ball in their own half and it was picked up by Steyn - it went through Jaque Fourie, and Schalk Burger [right] to Danie Rossouw who dived over for a nail-in-coffin try - especially when Percy punted the two points. The Pumas went in with heavy hearts and 24-6 down.

The Pumas needed to keep the error count down in the second half, and not try too hard, just get the basics right. Argentina pushed a huge scrum and knocked the Boks back, and when they moaned about the penalty, ref Steve Walsh made them retreat another 10m! Hernadez' massive boot kicked the ball deep into Bok territory. They camped down in the South African half for several minutes, Mario Ledesma took it up to 2m in front of the line, then it was spun wide with men over. Manuel Contepomi [left] was the man over the line, and the score was declared good by TMO Spreaders after a bit of deliberation. Brother Felipe Contepomi added the extra points and the Argentines were back in at 24-13.

Soon afterwards, the Pumas knicked a Springbok lineout but knocked on a phase or two later. But the South African scrum collapsed and the Pumas kicked long for territory deep in the SA half. The Boks stole the lineout and cleared, but then fumbled the possession when it came back to them.

At 52 minutes, Argentina won a penalty for offside, and Contepomi was quick to step up for the kick. It banana'd wide, so the score remained static. Argentina had a half opportunity, but then at 62 minutes, Habana took off for the line but had received a forward pass.

The next Argentine scrum was solid. Then Habana was caught offside and the Pumas kicked long for a lineout. It was stolen by the South Africans, who promptly kicked it back into the Pumas' half. A minute later, Argentina were pinged in the Boks' half, and Francois Steyn stepped up for a huge penalty - it just didn't quite have the length.

Then Pichot was offside at the back of the scrum, and Percy Montgomaery lined up the ball, punted it squarely over, taking the score to 27-13. They were done again at 73 minutes, and Monty punished them again, 30-13.

At 74 minutes, Argentina had a scrum deep in South African territory - it was looking good, but then the missile that is Bryan Habana intercepted a wayward pass and ran most of the length of the pitch to dive over between the posts. Monty added two, and the poor old Pumas were done for, 37-13.

There was a bit of argey bargey late on in the game, after Juan Smith was sent to the sinbin for a high tackle. Eventually Steve Walsh calmed things down, but then Contepomi lashed out and was sent to the bin as well.

It's a great shame the Pumas just didn't have it in the tank to pull off another win - they have achieved so much during this tournament, and gained an awful lot of respect, both on and off the pitch.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

England Dash French Hopes

Really nice to see Jason Robinson running out for his 50th cap - something in doubt a few weeks ago, when he limped off with his hamstring injury.

The French knocked on at the kickoff, and England's scrum was strong - getting a free kick. Andy Gomarsall's kick to the corner was dithered over by Damien Traille, and Josh Lewsey [right] snuck up behind him and mugged him for the ball - crashing over the line in the corner for the fastest try in World Cup semifinal history. What a fantastic start!

France were on the counter-attack after 7 minutes, when Nick Easter was pinged at the ruck which formed after a 55m drop goal attempt. Lionel Beauxis added the extras.

Mark Regan made a great chargedown in the 10th minute, the French defence panicked and kicked it over the deadball line, to give England an attacking scrum 5. The forwards rumbled towards the line, but were pushed back 10 meters. With England back on the attack, Sackey was penalised for holding on, giving France a chance of a lineout on the half way line.

At 15 minutes, France were on the attack again, and Beauxis ran down the wing, but he was given a forward pass, so the ref called them back for another scrum. Easter made a great break from the back of the scrum, but Serge Betsen [left] put a huge hit on Martin Corry and he lost it forward. The next scrum collapsed, and France had a chance at the posts from just inside the half way line. Lionel Beauxis struck it well, to take the hosts up by one point, 5-6.

At 21 minutes, France kicked deep into English territory and out the touchline, but the lineout held firm. France got another lineout at the other side of the pitch, with old warhorse Fabien Pelous [right] taking it at the back. England's defence was good, with Jonny Wilkinson felling the big lock in the tackle. He got up initially, but had to go off in the 24th minutes, replaced by Sebastien Chabal. Chabal's not really as good a second row as he is back row, so the French scrum could suffer.

Jonny missed a drop goal attempt in the 26th minute, just fading to one side before it reached the posts. A couple of minutes later, England were on the attack and Betsen came in from the side at a ruck. It was a long shot from inside his own half, but Wilkinson stepped up to take the penalty. It fell just wide.

Chabal took a knock tackling Phil Vickery [left], but eventually got up and lumbered back to the scrum. The French supporters breathed a sigh of relief. Shortly after, Les Bleus had an attacking lineout which was won, but Lewis Moody turned it over and the lines were cleared a few metres back down the pitch. This time the lineout was far too long, and it was snatched by Mike Catt and taken back into the French half.

In the 33rd minute, Serge Betsen stole an English lineout in our half, eventually it went back to Jason Robinson who cleared it to safety.

Catt made a terrible pass back to Matthew Tait, who just scrambled to collect the ball and cover it safely. With a minute to go before half time, Dan Hipkiss came on for a limping Josh Lewsey, a shame to see him bow out injured. The ref blew for half time, and we could all catch our breath again for a while.

"Mad Bernie" decided to ring the changes in the 51st minute, bringing on Dimitri Szarzewski and Frédéric Michalak [left]. They immediately made an impact, and chipped ahead for a chance - but England managed to chip it over the dead ball line. France had a 5m scrum, the short side wasn't going anywhere, and passed it wide across the pitch. Michalak's attempt at a drop goal was nowhere near, perhaps Beauxis would have taken the points?

Elissalde was mugged for the ball at a ruck, in the 54th minute, with some excellent tackling from England. Both sides still looked rather cautious, however. Lots of ping-pong. At 58 minutes, England were steaming up the middle, and Jonny tried another drop goal - it hit the post and bounced off, but it was kicked back to Jason Robinson who scythed through the French defence. It was going so well, until we gave away another penalty.

Simon Shaw took Wilkinson's restart kick and powered off into the French half, then Lewis Moody charged down the middle. A few fumbles later, then France had a decent scrum, but then Easter was pinged again for rucking in from the side. Beauxis took the points and the hosts were 5-9 up. England needed to pull themselves together and stop the silly penalties.

In the 45th minute, Englahd made a superb intercept from Lewis Moody, who passed it off to Dan Hipkiss and the backs got themselves up to within 5m. The French gave away a penalty and it was time for Jonny to take some much-needed points. Fans in white heaved a sigh of relief, to take them back to within a point, 8-9.

The French inched their way back into English territory, winning a lineout and driving up the pitch. The forwards rumbled, but Matt Stevens [right] turned over the ball when it went to the backs. A minute later, Stevens made a huge hit on Chabal. He was making a nuisance of himself as far as France were concerned.

Simon Shaw had a good run into French territory, but it was turned over and the French gained vital yards. George Chuter was brought on just as France got the lineout. Their forwards rumbled on, and then Michalak chipped ahead but Matthew Tait was just in the right place to clean up under the England posts.

At 67 minutes, English hearts were in mouths when Vincent Clerc broke away, but Joe Worsley [right, in action against the USA] managed a fantastic fingertip tap tackle, then the English defence closed in around Chabal who had taken the pass. He was held up at 5m, but England knocked on - Scrum V to France. They botched it, and England won a vital penalty when France held on in the ruck. Jonny cleared.

Time to wheel on Lol - Dallaglio coming on for Nick Easter. Gomarsall was down for a moment after colliding with the touch judge. After the lineout, Jonny Wilkinson seemed to go down injured, along with Michalak. They were dropping like flies! They both got back up and play continued.

France had a lineout on the half way line, England needed to compete. The forwards drove, but they lost it forward and it came back on the English side. Toby Flood was impatient and tried for a drop goal in the 73rd minute. Buy England were still in the French half after the restart. Wilkinson was lined up for a drop goal again, when Jason Robinson was taken out with a high tackle by Szarzewski - Wilkinson's boot was on song at last - England went ahead 11-9.

France were counter-attacking when Paul Sackey and Toby Flood took their man out into touch - Chabal used an elbow and gave away a penalty. The catch and drive lineout rumbled up the pitch, with Martin Corry right in the middle of the maul. England were hanging onto possession for grim death, ticking down the clock. Wilkinson hovered in the pocket and popped over a sweet drop goal to take them 14-9 ahead.

At the restart, France were looking dangerous, pushing up inside English territory. But the French knocked on and England went for the scrum. With one minute to go from a World Cup Final. What a game! Then France had a lineout on the half way, all England had to do was hang on. Attack from Les Bleus, defence from Les Blancs. The clock went red. Hearts pounded. The English defence just would not crack. France knocked on...

England are in the FINAL!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pumas Maul Scots

Both sides made a slightly nervous start, with Garryowens raining down from both Fullbacks. Hernadez missed a drop goal in the very first minute, and he chased his own kicks like a man possessed.

The Scots conceded a penalty in the 15 minutes, with Felipe Contepomi not able to hit the target. One minute later, Dan Parks [right] made no mistake for Scotland, taking a 0-3 lead.

It was cagey for the next five minutes or so, before Nathan Hines was penalised for a high tackle - this time, Contepomi did the honours and it was back to level pegging, 3-3.

Argentina won a lineout in Scottish territory, and Hernandez went for another of his trademark drop goals, but it floated wide. Two minutes later, the Scots were penalised again, with Contepomi sure with the boot, giving Argentina a 6-3 lead.

Just after the half hour, Fullback Rory Lamont kicked the ball out on the full, giving the Argentines an attacking lineout. They won it, but were turned over. But Dan Parks' clearance kick was charged down and the Scottish defence couldn't beat Gonzalo Longo [left] to the ball, he dived over it and slid across the line. Contepomi added the extras to give Argentina a 13-3 lead, and a significan psychological advantage.

With three minutes to go before half time, the Argentine forwards gave away a soft penalty at a ruck, and Chris Paterson punted the ball for the points, the Scots clawing back the defict to 13-6.

Scotland needed a score to steady their nerves after the break, but instead they gave away a penalty for bringing down an Argentine maul - once again, Felipe Contepomi's boot punished the indescretion and they were 16-6 up.

At 49 minutes, Argentina infringed but Dan Parks could not add the three points from a long range attempt, Scotland's first miss of the tournament. Not a good time to buckle! A few minutes later, Lucas Borges took a wonderful high ball from a Scottish boot, passed back to the Fullback Corleto, who booted it down the touchline, just bouncing out by the corner flag.

Back in Scottish territory, the Pumas won the chance of a lineout, Mario Ledesma's [left] throw found his man and the ball worked it's way to Juan Martin Hernandez who dropped a lovely goal, inching them further in front at 19-6.

After 57 minutes, Frank Hadden decided to bring on four replacements to try and change the direction of the Scots' game. But they were still making plenty of unforced errors, gifting possession and territory to the Pumas - something for which the Argentines made them pay. Even with a man down injured, the Pumas still manage to get themselves into Scottish territory.

In the 61st minute, Scotland woke up, made a great break, the ball going through countless pairs of hands. Finally the replacements had made their mark - Kelly Brown and Chris Cusiter [right] being the men to work it over the line. Paterson's 100% kicking record still stood - the ball bouncing over the crossbar from the left hand upright. A vital score for the Scots, who were back in the game at 19-13.

Three minutes later, Rory Lamont [left] made a second serious error when he knocked a long kick from the Pumas out into touch, giving Argentina a great lineout opportunity. But they knocked on at the rear; the Scottish scrum was in trouble, time to wheel on the rest of the replacements, including Hugo Southwell on for the hapless Lamont.

The Scots had another scrum in their own half, and although they won it, the ball was turned over almost immediately. But Agustin Pichot was disrupted at the base of a ruck, giving the initiative back to the men in dark blue.

No sooner did they get the ball than Argentina turned them over again. The Pumas' discipline was beginning to slip, giving Scotland a great scoring opportunity from a 10m lineout. It was blown when the throw went long and into waiting Pumas paws. They had another go from close to the half way line, but the Scots were having trouble turning possession and territory into the vital points.

Patricio Albacete [left] made a silly error to give Parks a long kick for the corner. Scott Lawson found his man at the lineout and the Scottish forwards rumbled on slowly towards the Pumas' line. The ball was spun into midfield, turned over to Argentina, won back by the Scots in front of the posts. The clock was ticking down, with 90 seconds to go. A crossfield chip went towards Sean Lamont but it went out into touch. Perhaps the move which blew their chances at the Semifinal.

The Scots had one final chance at glory, with seconds to go. Agustin Pichot knocked on in his own in-goal area - the Scots got a 5m scrum but they squandered the chance and knocked on as the clock went over 80 minutes. The canny Argentines have survived for another week - their very first World Cup Semifinal. Go Pumas!
Who knows, we could have a France-Argentina final - finishing the tournament as it began. How weird would that be?