Rugby World Cup 2015: Semi-final review

  • New Zealand secure Springbok win
  • Ashley-Cooper hat-trick seals Australia win

Enthralling, dramatic, whole-hearted rugby. Records tumbled, bodies put on the line, rain fell and tears were shed. But as the dust settles on the all Rugby Championship semi-finals, it was New Zealand and Australia who emerged victorious.

Both teams will make a record fourth appearance in the final and one will become the first team to ever win the William Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Here’s how they made it there.

New Zealand 20 South Africa 18

In the driving rain at Twickenham, New Zealand held firm in a physical battle with the Springboks to give themselves the chance to become the first team to ever retain the Rugby World Cup.

Blindside flank Jerome Kaino played the role of hero and villain in the first half as he first plucked out a skilful basketball pass from back row mate Richie McCaw to go over for the first try.

However, before the break, he was sent to the bin for a deliberate offside. It was the Springboks who led 12-7 at half-time, courtesy of four penalties from fly half Handre Pollard.

But as the rain sheeted down, New Zealand showed their class producing an intense period of pressure that led to a Dan Carter drop goal and then a try for replacement Beauden Barrett, which Carter duly converted for a 17-12 lead.

Pollard and Carter exchanged penalties and replacement Patrick Lambie added a further three but the All Blacks kept their composure in the final minutes to seal the win.

Captain Richie McCaw set a new record for skippering his country for a 13th occasion at the Rugby World Cup – over taking a stellar list including Martin Johnson, Will Carling, Sam Warburton, John Smit and Raphael Ibanez.

Australia 29 Argentina 15

A hat-trick of tries from Australia wing Adam Ashley-Cooper saw the Wallabies secure victory over Argentina in an open and thoroughly entertaining second semi-final.

The Aussies were quick out of the blocks with lock Rob Simmons snaffling an intercept in the second minute to score the quickest try of Rugby World Cup 2015.

Ashley-Cooper soon followed him over for his first following a long cut-out pass from Bernard Foley. Argentina lost lock Tomas Lavanini to the sin bin after he was adjudged to have launched himself into a tackle without the use of his arms.

Five minutes later, influential captain Agustin Creevy departed injured. The Wallabies took full advantage as Ashley Cooper crossed again after another long pass – this time Matt Giteau the supplier.

Argentina fought bravely to get back into the game and with tight-head Ramiro Herrera dominating at scrum time, fly half Nicolas Sanchez added his fourth and fifth penalties to bring Argentina close.

If Argentina controlled the scrum, the Australia back row of Scott Fardy, David Pocock and Michael Hooper were outstanding in controlling the breakdown. The lesser mentioned Fardy possibly the pick of the trio on this occasion.

However, the match was finished when Ashley-Copper crossed for his third score following a long mazy run from opposite wing Drew Mitchell. Referee Wayne Barnes, taking the whistle for a record 15th Rugby World Cup match, opted not to use the TMO to review whether the final pass had been forward.

But nevertheless, Australia deserved their place in the final against old foes New Zealand.

The victory means Australia extend their record of never having lost a Rugby World Cup game in Britain and have only ever lost once in a northern hemisphere World Cup – in 2007 against England in France.