Classic Final: A pair of superbly worked second-half tries secured South Africa a sixth title at the World Rugby Classic at the North Field on Saturday night. Tonderai Chavhanga and JP Nel struck the decisive blows that separated the two sides to hand South Africa a deserved 14-0 victory over Argentina. It was the Springboks first title at the Classic since they beat the Pumas 14-7 in another similarly hard-fought win three years ago. Mark Wood, the South Africa coach, has been involved in five of those successes, either as a player or coach, and praised his side for exploiting a tired-looking Argentina down the final straight.
“Argentina were defending a lot, getting tired, and one or two gaps opened up and our guys picked those out and capitalised on them,” Wood said. “You have to seize the moment when you get it because Argentina are abrasive and it was a great final. We always thought we could win it as we’re a professional team and I would never bring a team here that I didn’t think could win.”
Wood believed it actually benefited his side playing into the wind in the second half after a cagey opening stanza. “It was a very tough first half and a lot of times when you’re playing with the wind, people tend to think the wind will do the job for you,” he added. “That’s not the case; you actually battle more against the wind and it’s actually easier because you’re not going to knock-on and your whole mindset changes. The boys dug deep and the defence won the game, really.”
South Africa broke the deadlock in the 51st minute on the counter when Egon Seconds picked the ball up deep inside his own half and drove at the Argentina defence before releasing Chavhanga with an inviting chip and chase. The South Africa wing then booted the ball farther towards the try line before scooping it up to score, with fly half Monty Dumond kicking the extra points. Chavhanga’s try seemed to open the game up, and, soon after, the Springboks doubled their lead after carving through the Argentina defence with lock JP Nell supplying the finishing touches to a free-flowing passing move. Dumond stepped up to kick his second conversion and tie up his team’s title triumph.
Having just a day’s rest after dismantling New Zealand 40-14 in the semi-finals might have explained Argentina’s second-half fatigue, but Rodolfo Ventura, the team’s manager, refused to make excuses.
“South Africa were a very strong team and they hit us physically,” said Ventura, whose said were chasing their third title after winning in 1999 and 2011. “Perhaps they knew we didn’t have enough time to recover [from the semi-finals]. There’s no excuse from us, though, and South Africa did very well and deserved the championship. “They took advantage of their only two opportunities and that’s important when you’re in a final.”
Plate Final: Jonathan Chassaing held his nerve to slot a straight forward penalty in the dying moments of extra time to see France clinch a pulsating Plate final in the World Rugby Classic. Despite sheeting rain and filthy playing conditions on Saturday evening Les Bleus and a brave Canadian side showed huge enterprise and commitment during a titanic battle that see-sawed over 70 minutes of gruelling action. It was the French who started the stronger, playing into a strong head wind, as they set up camp in the Canadian 22. They reaped their reward after just five minutes of intense pressure and desperate Canadian defence when Goderzi Shvelidze piled over from close range to give the French the lead. The conversion was duly added to make it 7-0, but Canada stormed back from the kick-off to launch attack after attack of their own.
Robin McDowell made the most of a loose pass as the ball was spread wide and cantered between defenders to score under the posts, to ensure the scores were tied. Back came France again to retake the lead moments later when some nifty handling down the blind side sent Regis Senier over in the corner. The ding dong contest took another twist just before half-time after some excellent work from James Buchanan set up a great attacking opportunity for the Canadians. From the resulting line-out a lovely little chip and chase was gathered by Morgan Finley to bring the scores level 12-12 at half-time. The rain continued to lash down for the second half making a slippery ball difficult to handle and the breakdown a messy affair. But it did nothing to dampen the energy of the players who emptied the tank in an increasingly bruising encounter.
Despite their courageous efforts the sides could only muster a penalty a piece in the second half — the Canadian’s from the boot of McDowell coming with one of the last kicks of normal time. The penalty sent the tiring sets of players towards a further two gruelling halves of five minutes, with neither prepared to take a back seat. While Canada spent much of the extra time period repelling French attacks, their superb defence held firm.
It was therefore left to Chassaing to provide the stake through Canadian hearts when he stepped up to slot home a penalty from in front of the posts with just a couple of minutes to play. The Canadians launched one last surge towards the French line, but France just about held on to claim the spoils of a thoroughly absorbing and exciting Plate Final 18-15.