Match Reaction: France 9 – 8 Wales

Now I'm just a simple country lawyer, but ...

Funnily enough, the Mole sat through that entire game without thinking, “Awh gee whuz Smuddy, Awh-lund wud beat this Fraahnce team.” That came later.

For the most part, what was in his mind was that part in Good Will Hunting where our Bawstahn-born protagonist upbraids his Fields Medal-winning patron. You know the dialogue: “I’m sorry you can’t do this – I really am – because I wouldn’t have to f*ckin sit here and watch you fumble around and f*ck it up.” France were given a gift of a final place by Sam Warburton’s reckless tackle and Alain Rolland’s by-the-book ruling, and the Mole had to sit there and watch them fumble around and try their best to f*ck it up … for more than an hour. Tom, can you get us some coffee indeed.

Seriously. For more than an hour you’re playing against a 14-man team who couldn’t kick snow off a rope [just 1 successful kick from 5 attempts] and you sneak home by a point? That is absolutely f*cking abject.

Obviously the red card is a huge talking point. There’s a fairly incredible amount of irate spout coming out of Wales, and I have a degree of sympathy for them. You’d be gutted if any of your team’s players – and especially your captain – was sent off the pitch early in the game. There’s not a huge number of red cards in pro rugby, despite the fact that it’s pretty much the most violent team sport out there. Because of the strict positional structure [and in particular that required by set pieces, like the scrum], winning with 14 men is a huge ask.

However, if a team are stupid enough to continually give you the ball back, it becomes a little easier. The way for France to run out of that game comfortable winners was to KEEP THE BALL. Keep a hold of the pill. Take it through phase after phase after phase. Go round the corners and force the Welsh to make tackles – they’ve no openside, so the risk of turnovers is greatly reduced. Maul off lineouts and force the Welsh to commit fringers to stopping forward momentum. Keep the ball at the back of the scrum and drive it. Wales weren’t only down their openside, they were also down their first choice tighthead. The French had superiority at the scrum and they wasted it. Wasted it. What an inept performance. “Kick the ball away to the other team! If we have it, we might f*ck it up and lose!” Now that’s confidence.

It’s difficult to argue against the proposal that a full Welsh team would have won this game. Rhys Priestland was badly missed, as James Hook once more showed that he still lacks ‘the mental’ [thank you again, Guy Noves] of a top class outhalf. Stephen Jones was brought off the bench to steady the ship before Hook went into full meltdown, but it just didn’t pan out.

Jones has fallen from first choice outhalf to third choice within the last six months, and looked unsure of himself in a game of the highest tension. He’s not a particularly renowned drop-goal merchant [just 6 in his 103 Welsh tests compared to Wilkinson’s 36 from 91 tests, or ROG’s 15 in 116 tests] so while he might have gone for one, there’s no great reason to expect that it’d sail over.

To be honest though, so much of it comes down to the red card. It’s impossible to ignore. On seeing the tackle, the idea that Warburton could get a straight red immediately popped straight from the Mole’s [admittedly small] brain to his snout. It was hardly thought before it was out: “He could get a straight red for this.”

Did it wreck the game as a contest? Of course it didn’t: it finished 9-8, and a Welsh placekick with five minutes to go was just a foot short of going over the bar. It was a contest until the final whistle. Did it severely hamper the Welsh effort? Absolutely.

Was it deserved? Log your rage/support in Comments.



5 thoughts on “Match Reaction: France 9 – 8 Wales

  1. What a boring one sided match the final will be. SA due to their lack of vision and perhaps horrible calls by the ref and Wales because of a moment of madness are the only teams that could have stopped a NZ side without Carter. Aus have had one good game against a NZ side that have not played that badly since 2009 Tri-Nations to win just before the world cup. They will get beaten there is no doubt about it and it leaves a sour taste in my mouth as the only upsets apart from the France Tonga game have been dubious. This world cup whilst entertaining has seen some very iffy results knocking the best side on the day out.

    The IRB needs to look at this. Have their new ruck rules and poor reffing ruined rugby and I am not just talking about the world cup, the super 15 had similar problems.

    Getting back to the Welsh game, whilst this was an upset, it was the Welsh Captain that made the mistake not his side. I feel gutted for them. Bad luck and I really do hope you can play proper rugby like you have in this world cup next year as the 6 nations will be in the bag if you do.

  2. You can’t let emotion get in the way of the facts-Rolland was technically right to send warburton off. It doesn’t matter that Warburton is a teetotalling nice guy who has transformed the welsh psyche and we’d all like to see do well. It doesn’t matter that the french are a pile of sh1tebags who don’t deserve to get anywhere and done their best to hand the game to their 14 opponents. It wasn’t a bad refereeing decision, it was the correct one. Rolland’s job is to ref the game, not let the best team win.

    I gotta disagree with joe’s comments that poor refereeing has ruined the world cup and the only upsets were dubious-nothing dubious about ireland’s win against oz and taking away the tonga match how many other big upsets were there?

    The interesting part has yet to come-will Rolland be backed up by Paddy O’Brien and co and given the final or will he be condemned to the reserves for a period. Hard to see him getting the final but it would be interesting to see the irb backing their man for following their directive. It is timely to reference the mole’s excellent post on the tmo’s Tommy Bowe/italy decision where the mole recalled the tmo rightly (in a moral sense if not quite by the letter of the law) pulling a nz forward pass, only to get chastised by the irb.
    Will the irb stand by their man this time around or will he be left to the dogs?

  3. Totally agree with hammers here. Warburton may be someone who you’d be happy for your daughter to date, but what happened, happened and monsuier rolland could not, nor should not ignore it. All things considered it was one of the best refereeing decisions I have seen. That won’t be a popular opinion but tis how I see it. Wales threw it away as they are the much better team. Well maybe not threw it, but certainly released it from above the horizontal and failed to bring it to ground safely.

  4. Mole – top class analysis throughout RWC, have enjoyed reading.

    Find it hard to believe that people are defending the decision to send Warburton off. If, as is being suggested, Rolland was ‘technically correct’ under the laws of the game then something is clearly wrong. The fact that the IRB highlighted spear/ dump tackles coming into the tournament with the apparent dictum to refs to ‘start with red and work backwards’ in their punishment may also be a contributing factor but that doesn’t make it any better.

    The ‘technically correct’ argument holds no water whatsoever. The laws of rugby may be black and white but the IRB provides the lense with which refs must view them and the game. As the game evolves the focus shifts, players and coaches get wise on where to push the boundary, the IRB issues memo’s to refs, refs get tough and the cycle continues. This world cup has myriad examples of laws consistently being broken. Attacking players going over the top at rucks is now commonplace and rarely gets pinged anymore (unless you’re Jamie Heaslip playing Wales). Similarly at scrumtime refs can generally penalise either side for one of the 10 things they are ‘technically’ doing wrong – props binding, straight put-in, driving in on the angle, backrow binding, early hit – all happen continuously in the game. The flying wedge/’truck and trailer’ penalty which was a ref favourite a few years back has almost completely disapperared as they focus elsewhere (with the result that most teams – in particular South Africa – crash en masse into contact with a second player driving the ball carrier over the advantage line.) The point is, any refs decision can be argued as being ‘technically correct’ but the overriding principle should be to make an objective assessment referencing those laws, match circumstances and the spirit of the game (encouraging the game to flow whilst protecting players etc etc.) When that can’t happen then change the law – move to rugby league rules where players can be put on report.

    It is irrelevant that the player involved was Warburton, it would have been wrong even if it was Steve Thompson – but to see one of the outstanding performers of this world cup on the receiving end of such a decision made the injustice all the more pronounced. Action is required to prevent this from becoming commonplace.

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