Rugby Union Expert & Columnist
Stuart Barnes on World Cup quarter-finals and Craig Joubert controversy
Last Updated: 19/10/15 6:28pm
An apology to Scotland, more Craig Joubert controversy and pure class from New Zealand; Stuart Barnes looks back at a thrilling weekend of World Cup quarter-final action.
1 An apology to Scotland's team. It never crossed my mind that they would come so close to beating Australia and not so much flying the flag for this hemisphere (I don't think many Scots were thinking about the rest of Europe and I don't blame them) but achieving something memorable for themselves.
In the end, like everyone else in the Cardiff media centre I was left with a hollow feeling when Bernard Foley kept his nerve to slot that heartbreaking penalty.
2 Ah, but did Craig Joubert keep his? As I write this Monday morning, it is his nerve rather than any of Scotland's gallant losers that grab the headlines for the most controversial of decisions that gave Foley his chance.
There is all sorts of nonsense about him referring to the TMO when it simply is not within the protocol of officials to check for anything but tries and foul play.
The greater problem is the utter absence of empathy on the part of Joubert. Let's say that Josh Strauss was the last player to touch the ball as it ricocheted forward into the nearby arms of Jon Welsh. A few years ago the decision would have been immediate and non-controversial; accidental offside and a scrum to Australia.
Craig Joubert - in following a trend that makes officiating a matter of black and white instead of empathetic shades - has made the error of his career and it has cost Scotland quite possibly a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
In recent years I have seen - and commented frequently - on the fact that penalties are being awarded when pure instinct has led the player to play the ball. Such was clearly the case on Sunday.
The prop forward was so close to the blue and gold jerseys scuffling for the ball he never had a chance to even think whether it came last off Strauss. That is why there is accidental and deliberate offside.
The South African referee - in following a trend that makes officiating a matter of black and white instead of empathetic shades - has made the error of his career and it has cost Scotland quite possibly a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
I am sorry to Scotland for dismissing them and sorry that they were not given the chance to defend one final Australian scrum.
3 No controversy, just pure class from New Zealand on Saturday night. That was one of the finest performances I have ever seen.
Once there was a time when the World Cup's incumbent pressure brought them down to the levels of the teams they play against. If the quarter-final is any evidence South Africa are going to have to raise their game because New Zealand are not for dragging down.
4 And then one day later, perhaps even more exhilarating for the degree of surprise was the way Argentina took their fluid style that has accounted for Tonga, Georgia and Namibia into action against the wily professionalism of Joe Schmidt's Ireland and overwhelmed them, too.
Their first 10 minutes were a delight for those of us who believe a balance of hard running forwards and technically accomplished midfields is the recipe to feed a back three, and what a back three.
Ireland missed many key players but such was the margin between the teams it is hard not to think the South Americans would have won with Paul O'Connell, Jonny Sexton et al on the field.
5 Would Wales have beaten South Africa if they had fielded Rhys Webb, Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny?
The result was so close all logic says `yes' but a quick glance at Wales' record against the Big Three screams `no'. Wales have no track record to suggest otherwise.
6 Even in defeat the effort of the Welsh merits massive praise; the players played their heroic parts but credit to Shaun Edwards who has proved that he remains one of the masters of the aggressive defence.
7 The art of man-management seems to have been taken to new heights by the All Blacks.
It was not so long ago that Julian Savea was told to go away and get himself fit. His World Cup credentials were being questioned. Now he heads towards the semi-final against South Africa seeking a third hat-trick in the tournament.
The way he stomped all over three French defenders for his second try was reminiscent of jolly old Jonah himself.
8 In my Sunday paper I saw a headline along the lines of `George Ford shows England what they were missing...'
Well, all due respects but that's not the case. The quality of club rugby in this hemisphere does not bear comparison with the standards of rugby we witnessed from Argentina and New Zealand.
If the RFU thinks England have the answers to 12 years of failure I believe it is time for a vote of no confidence in the RFU management from the clubs and all those with an emotional attachment to the English game.
9 On a more cheerful note, congratulations to the men on Gate 5 at the Millennium Stadium. They have empathised throughout this tournament. Warm and welcoming from the first to last weekend, these men (and the laughing ladies inside the ground too) have been some of my stars of the tournament. See you during the Six Nations...
10. Two epic semi-finals, including a first ever All Blacks v Springboks clash at Twickenham on Saturday. Just when you think it can't get any better it's Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall on Wednesday.
Southern hemisphere dominance means it's just as well Bob doesn't have 'The Times They Are A Changin' on his current set list. The one thing we do know about this wonderful World Cup is that the southern hemisphere will make it seven out of eight wins for the men under the Southern Cross.
As Bob sings, 'something is happening here but you don't know what it is'....the RFU review really should be able to work it out by now.