Rugby World Cup semi-final review: All Blacks and Springboks set up record-breaking finale

Rugby World Cup semi-final review: All Blacks and Springboks set up record-breaking finale

Records will tumble at Stade de France, when two triple champions, New Zealand and South Africa, face one another for the Webb Ellis Cup.

The Springboks have never lost a final, and are looking to become only the second side to win back-to-back titles. The All Blacks have already set one record – this is their fifth final appearance. Their only defeat at this stage was in 1995, against South Africa.

Will Jordan, meanwhile, could become the first player to score nine tries in a single men’s tournament.

Just 24 hours earlier, losing semi-finalists Argentina and England – two more sides with points to prove after contrasting defeats – will face one another in the bronze final.

This is how the semi-finals finals at Rugby World Cup 2023 unfolded.

Argentina v New Zealand

After Jonah Lomu and Adam Ashley-Cooper, add Will Jordan. He became the third player to score a hat-trick in a men’s Rugby World Cup semi-final as New Zealand beat Argentina 44-6 at Stade de France on a drizzly, slippery Friday evening.

With his 73rd-minute final touchdown, Jordan joined a second exclusive club. His name now sits alongside Lomu, Bryan Habana and Julien Savea as players with eight tries at a single men’s tournament. 

Between the winger’s first and second tries, in the 11th and 62nd minute, Mastercard Player of the Match Jordie Barrett, Shannon Frizell – with two – and Aaron Smith also scored in a blizzard.

Frizell’s second and Smith’s try came in the first nine minutes of the second half, as New Zealand, already 20-6 in front at the end of a dominant opening period, simply eased away from the frustrated Pumas, who could only muster two Emiliano Boffelli penalties in response.

And the reason for Argentina’s frustration was clear. They had started brightly enough, running through the phases in attack, only to crash repeatedly into the All Blacks’ impenetrable defensive wall and fall into a devastating counter-trap. 

England v South Africa

Handré Pollard’s ice-cool 50m penalty two minutes from time saw the defending champions take the lead against England for the first time, and was enough to see them through to the Rugby World Cup final next Saturday.

That’s the strapline to Saturday’s second tense semi-final, which ended 16-15. But the story – as it had been against France six days’ previously – was a tale of two benches. 

England’s starting pack had achieved parity and better against South Africa. But, when RG Snyman came on, and most of the two front rows were replaced, the Springboks suddenly had the upper hand.

Four penalties and a drop goal from captain Owen Farrell had given England a 15-6 lead heading into the final quarter. It seemed, in a suffocating, rain-sodden match, to be more than enough. 

Four scrum-penalties to the Springboks later, with the champions’ front row now very much on top, Snyman scored the game’s only try with 11 minutes left. Pollard – who had replaced Manie Libbok earlier than expected in a nod toward South Africa’s earlier struggles – converted, to pull them to within a penalty of victory. It still wasn’t enough.

But he would get one last shot at goal, in the 78th minute, after England conceded one more scrum penalty. 

It was all he needed to break England hearts and give the Springboks a chance of claiming back-to-back titles.

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