Argentina 54 – 9 Georgia
I’m in a hotel in the Wairarapa, and MrsDavy is asleep in the bed behind me, while I hunch close to the tv with the sound turned right down, and I’m tapping on the keyboard very quietly.
Argentina-Georgia is not one of the matches that is on MrsDavy’s must watch list. And fair enough, because the first 50 minutes were as dour as you would hope never to see. Large square men running into each. Repeat.
Georgia has pretty much one strength: strength. Every player looks like a weight lifter. They are drilled and disciplined in a very narrow game plan, and when that wears out they don’t really have anywhere to go. That takes you all the way to about the 50 minute mark, when skill and experience and game sense and vision and aerobic fitness really start to kick in.
But in the beginning, executed well, it was enough to make Argentina look like the Argies of old: disinterested, upsettable. They flipped the switch in the second half and found their fluid running mojo, but it was a long, hard struggle to get there.
Here’s what I think: this tournament is the coming of age of Rugby World Cup. There will never again be the horrible mismatches from previous tournaments, because the lower-ranked teams have lifted their strength and skill and experience levels. They are competing further into the matches with the higher ranked teams. And when they play each other, it’s a right old ding dong.
Japan beat South Africa, Namibia held the All Blacks to under 60, and so on. The Cup is lifting the quality of all rugby, but it is lifting the lower-ranked faster than it is lifting the higher-ranked.
That narrowing of the gap will probably lessen as the tournament progresses because squads are going to tire. By the 3rd and 4th matches they will be sore and aching and perhaps a bit sick of all the training.
That’s when the real differences will shine through.