The Southern Hemisphere teams swept the field to make it an all-South semi final. South Africa beat Wales in heartbreaking fashion, New Zealand ran all over France and Argentina stunned Ireland, but there are no words for the dramatic way Australia managed to escape a bad performance against Scotland.
South Africa beat Wales 23-19
Wales were six minutes away from upsetting the Springboks, a side they rarely taste victory against. A great scrum gave Duane Vermeulen an opportunity to pick things up with Wales undermanned near the corner. A brilliant behind the back offload to Fourie du Preez gave them the victory after trailing in the prior 11 minutes, as Wales did a very good job of hanging on to their short lead.
The Welsh were the better team in the first 40 through some frantic pace as both sides played exactly as expected: Wales trying to capitalize their speed and passing along the lines, while South Africa relied on Handre Pollard and his kicking. Wales got a try from Gareth Davies in the first half after some clever kicking (to himself) by Dan Biggar, but just couldn’t hold on against the South African power and pressure in the second half.
New Zealand beat France 62-13
Maybe this was France sabotaging the occasion because of the usual row between players and their coach. But more than anything it was the All Blacks showing their superiority with mind blowing rugby, making the French pay for every mistake, dominating in about every aspect in terms of strength, physicality and speed, making something out of every opportunity in which the French provided them with a little bit of space and time.
On an embarrassing night for France in Cardiff, the ghosts of 2007 were put to rest. Nothing that looked like an upset, because the closest France got was a missed penalty when they were still behind 10-6. From there, it was just one storming tornado sweeping through the field, scoring nine tries to silence all their critics from the group stage. Julian Savea scored three of them, Tawera Kerr-Barlow had a couple in the span of three minutes, and Dan Carter had plenty of opportunities to pick up points off conversions.
Argentina beat Ireland 43-20
If Ireland play a World Cup quarter finals in a forest with no one seeing, do they still lose? Somehow the Irish team remains with 0% success when reaching the final 8 of a World Cup. It might be the absence of Paul O’Connell that threw them off their balance, especially defensively, but Argentina hanging on during the second half when it seemed like Ireland were about to turn things around took the air out of the Irish fans and their players. Nicolas Sanchez was fantastic with almost every penalty he kicked, while a surprising running approach to the match surprised Ireland, with Matias Moroni and Juan Imhoff scoring two tries in the first 10 minutes. Imhoff scored again in the second half, just after Joaquin Tuculet scored one of his own. Luke Fitzgerald and Jordi Murphy scored tries for Ireland, who were also missing Jonny Sexton.
Australia beat Scotland 35-34
Maybe the best match of the tournament, that ends with a penalty due to forward knock by Scotland in another controversial refereeing decision, allowing Bernard Foley, who had some big misses earlier in the match, to step up and hit a penalty with a minute left to play. In the most up and down match of the quarter finals, Scotland stunned Australia with resolute defense and brilliant kicking from Greig Laidlaw, but in the second half the Wallabies found cracks through the Scottish defense to take the lead. Scotland didn’t give up and showed some attacking flair with tries from Tommy Seymour and Mark Bennett. Scotland have a lot to feel disappointed with after very controversial calls going against them in the second half. Craig Joubert didn’t even stay on the pitch, knowing what kind of booing he had coming from the fans. It’s not going to be easy for him recovering from such an awful finish and fiasco to the match.