Rugby World Cup: Weekend's Top Performers
An incredible opening weekend of rugby’s biggest prize inevitably had some fantastic performances.
The world stage has brought the best out of the seasoned greats and has thrown up some surprising newcomers too. Not just the fashionable stars of rugby impressed like the fly-havles and the full-backs, but the hookers and the flankers too lit up stadiums across England.
Here are just some of week one’s best players.
Jonathan Sexton (Ireland)
Ireland’s World Cup hopes rest firmly on the fly-half’s shoulders and after such a masterly performance against Canada, no one is asking why.
The Irish had begun slowly until Sexton’s boot got them off the mark and from there his game management was perfect. Sexton was always looking to put Ireland in dangerous areas and kicked nine points. He also scored a fantastic try after spotting a gap and running 40 metres. If you wanted to know just how good he was, he only played 55 mins.
Agustin Creevy (Argentina)
The Argentinian hooker wasn’t on the winning side against the All-Blacks, but he put in a performance worthy of a giant-killing. Possibly the best in his position in the world, Creevy continued his great warm-up form with a huge effort that had Argentina leading 16-12 in the last half hour.
Coupling his defensive heroics with powerful surges, he was instrumental to everything Argentina were doing right before the Kiwis eventually broke them down.
Creevy made ten tackles, missing only two. On top of that he made one clean break and it was his ball carrying that got Argentina close enough to the try-line so Petti Pagadizaval could force himself over.
Mike Brown (England)
England didn’t have the opener they must have been hoping for, coming up against an excellent Fiji side that refused to lie down. The full-back was there for England in support for two tries and was key to England pushing for the bonus point try when Fiji were standing strong.
A night were England’s scrum was getting battered, Brown was a safe bare of hands and powerful runner. He made six line breaks and ran 191 metres with ball in hand.They made history and about a million new fans.”
Nemani Nadolo (Fiji)
The Fijian giant showed his passion in Friday night by weeping during his side's national anthem and scoring a spectacular try. Competing with Anthony Watson in the air for a crossfield kick, Nadolo was too strong and collected the ball effortlessly before grounding it. He was the danger man through-out the night against England.
Rabah Slimani (France)
The tighthead prop was one of France's most influential players against Italy as he dominated the scrum and even scored a try. A deft chip by Frederic Michalak was well collected and he went over. His replacement, Nicolas Mas, also impressed as he touched down for his first points in 81 caps.
Entire Japanese Team
It is hard to pick out one outstanding player from Japan’s unbelievable upset. Every Japanese number had to be at the top of his game to beat a South African team that were tipped to be trophy contenders. Man of the match could have gone to fly-half Ayumu Goromaru who kicked a monumental 24 points, or pack leader Michael Leitch who led the never-ending Japanese resistance, or even replacement winger Karne Hesketh who rounded off a brave final push with an 86th minute try.
The team as a whole conceded eight penalties to South Africa's 12 and took 13 turnovers.It doesn’t really matter: the way the Blossoms celebrated their win shows you just how much that team is a unit. They made history and about a million new fans. They were by far the weekend's top performers.