Welcome to the last of EX’s updates from the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England, in which we look very closely at all the statistical data surrounding the upcoming final, dismiss it all as rubbish, and then give our prediction for the game on Saturday afternoon (midnight, Singapore time) – plus you’ll once again find our handy checklist of great places to watch all the ongoing action in Singapore.
The dream final?
Organisers couldn’t have asked for a better script: the number one and number two teams in the world, facing each other for the first time ever in a Rugby World Cup final, both with a track record of two Cup wins from three final appearances. Perfect!
Okay, maybe a better script would have been a NZ vs Australia final, and the host nation making it out of the group stage, and one Northern Hemisphere side making it to a semi-final. But you can’t have everything. (Where would you put it?)*
* Apologies to comedian Steven Wright.
Here’s a question. Based on the following match statistics, where Team A’s total is listed first and Team B’s second, which team do you think won the game?
Territory: 54% to 46%
Possession: 55% to 45%
Attacking metres made: 577 to 358
Clean breaks: 18 to 8
Offloads: 7 to 6
Carries across the gain line: 56 to 43
Tackles made: 97 to 157
Tackles missed: 28 to 33
Scrums won: 5 to 4
Scrums lost: 0 to 2
Lineout steals: 1 to 0
Metres gained from kicks from hands: 555 to 449
Penalties conceded: 6 to 12
You’d have to guess Team A, right? By a pretty big margin, we’d have thought. Every attacking stat suggests dominance, and the tackle count suggests Team B was simply getting run ragged.
You know where this is going, of course. Those are the stats from the Argentina-Australia semi-final, and Argentina is Team A, the Wallabies Team B. And yet the Wallabies scored four tries to zero! It barely makes sense.
The picture becomes a little clearer when you add in one final statistic:
Turnovers won: 5 to 10
Yes, the Wallabies made twice as many turnovers as the Argentines. And with that statistic, the importance of David Pocock (who won four of them on his own) to the Aussie side becomes even clearer.
There was almost more claret spilled during the second semi-final than at an EX Christmas party. We counted eight bloodied players on the field at the end of the game, including the aforementioned Pocock whose nose was broken as early as the eighth minute of the game, and Scott Fardy, with a head like a leaking tap.
The Wallabies had expected a tough game, and they got it. No surprises here, of course: Argentina has come third in a World Cup campaign before, and they’ve notched up victories against Australia and the Springboks in the Rugby Championship in recent times.
But there is still plenty to commend Los Pumas for the way they played, both in this game and throughout the tournament. Their fans are justifiably proud of their efforts, and will be even prouder should they manage to overrun South Africa in the play-off for third.
Found yourself on FanPic?
If you were lucky enough to get across to the UK to see the RWC opening ceremony, or more recently to one of the two semi-finals, or if you had friends or family in the stands for any of those fixtures, there’s a cool online tool from Canon, called “FanPic”, that lets you zoom in to every section of the crowd and tag yourself if you were there. Check it out here.
Coach for the final
The world’s best rugby referee, Nigel Owens, has justifiably been handed the whistle for the decider on Saturday. (This may not be welcome news for Wallabies fans, since their side has lost six away games out of six with Owens in charge.) The Welsh ref is not shy of some mid-game banter with the players, which can make for an added bit of entertainment on the field. One memorable line came when the hooker for English side Harlequins threw a dreadfully wonky lineout, at which point the openly gay Owens said, “Even I’m straighter than that one.”
So, okay then, who’s going to win?
On paper, you can’t go past the All Blacks. Yes, Australia has beaten them as recently as August this year. But to find the next Wallabies win in a Bledisloe match, you need to go back to 2011. If that isn’t supremacy of one side over the other, then we’re not sure what is.
Against that background, it’s also fair to say that the All Blacks aren’t performing at quite the peak that we witnessed in a few of those encounters. Some might also point to the fact that the Wallabies are 15 wins from 15 World Cup games played in the UK – though, as we saw above, there are lies, damned lies, filthy damned lies, and statistics. What we do think is that, with the intensity and brutality of a lot of the rugby played in recent weeks, this might be a higher-scoring affair than many Cup finals in the past.
If New Zealand can’t nullify Pocock and Hooper at the breakdown, if Folau finds form, and if Foley kicks as well as he did against England, the Aussies have a red-hot shot. Otherwise, the soon-to-retire duo of McCaw and Carter (who’ve played a ridiculous 258 tests between them), and the likes of try-scoring sensation Julian Savea, will set the favourites on a more predictable course, seizing the mantle of best World Cup team in history.
New Zealand 29-23.
WHERE TO WATCH THE GAMES IN SINGAPORE
Boomarang Bistro & Bar
60 Robertson Quay, #01-15 The Quayside | 6738 1077
For a weekly update of all the RWC action and other sports coverage at this ever-popular Aussie-flavoured bar and resto right on the river at Robbo Quay, sign up for regular email updates of the Boomarang Sports Bible.
Fern & Kiwi
3C River Valley Road, #01-02/03 The Cannery Clarke Quay | 6336 2271
If all the sporting action on the screens of this All Black-barracking bar is giving you a hunger, you’ll be happy to know that rugby even figures in the food choices here, with the bar’s renowned Haka Burger proclaimed as “the biggest, baddest burger in town”.
3E River Valley Road, #01-07 Clarke Quay | 6339 5707
If the Romania vs Canada game isn’t proving as exciting as you thought it was going to be, you can always have a crack at the G-MAX Reverse Bungy, just a stone’s throw away from the booze-fuelled Bungy Bar at Clarke Quay.
28 Boat Quay and other outlets | 6538 3029
Sport figures heavily at every Harry’s Bar across the island, and the Rugby World Cup is no exception. Be sure to check the website to see which of the outlets are showing particular games – it varies from venue to venue.
111 Somerset Road, #01-02 TripleOne Somerset, Singapore, 238164 | 6735 0400
There are screens galore at Muddy Murphy’s, so you can “multi-task” with your sport watching. Don’t miss the RWC lucky draw, with official World Cup rugby balls and other prizes to be won, just by spending $50 at the pub. See their Facebook page for details.