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Rugby World Cup 2023: seven notable moments from the second weekend

Irish records, Fiji’s victory over Australia, quick hat-tricks and headed assists: the second week of the 2023 Rugby World Cup continued to excite us.

But what are the main topics of discussion as the tournament continues in France? Here are our seven key moments.

Marler header helps England win

Joe Marler shows his head
Joe Marler set up England’s second try in comical fashion

With England leading Japan 13-12 after 56 minutes, Steve Borthwick’s side found themselves locked in a tight battle.

They needed a little magic and that’s when fullback Joe Marler used his head – literally.

George Ford’s pass was deflected backwards by Will Stuart and onto Marler’s head, causing the ball to spin to the turf.

While most players stood still, waiting for a knock-on (it’s only a knock-on if the ball comes out of a player’s hand or arm), captain Courtney Lawes regained possession to center without opposition.

A try was awarded and England never looked back, sealing a victory with a bonus point in the final minutes of their match. Victory 34-12.

“I saw it ricochet off Joe’s head, so I went to score the try just in case,” Lawes said. “I was pretty sure it had backed up and then popped out of the head. I had a good idea it was going to be given.”

Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli shows his head
Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli rightly waved play on after the ball went over Marler’s head.

Winning the “greatest moment in Fiji sport” against Australia

On Sunday we had the most remarkable result of the tournament, as Fiji beat Australia for the third time in their history, opening Pool C.

History was not in their favor; they had last beaten Australia 69 years ago and had lost 17 of their last 18 Tests to the Wallabies.

But, desperate to make amends after last Sunday’s heartbreaking defeat to Wales, good kicks from Simione Kuruvoli and a second-half try from Josua Tuisova helped them. beats the Wallabies 22-15.

“This is the biggest moment for Fijian sport and for Fiji as a whole, as a country,” said second row Temo Mayanavanua.

“Words honestly can’t express how happy and proud we are as Fijians. It’s been a long time, the boys deserved it.”

Reinach scores second-fastest hat-trick in Springboks win

South Africa's Reinach scores a try
South African Cobus Reinach scores six World Cup tries

South African scrum-half Cobus Reinach scored a hat-trick inside 25 minutes as his side beat Romania with a 12-try victory in Pool B in Bordeaux.

Reinach’s hat-trick is the second fastest in World Cup history. He holds the record after scoring three goals after 20 minutes. against Canada four years ago.

And he wasn’t the only Springbok to score three goals on Sunday as Makazole Mapimpi also scored a hat-trick, albeit after 67 minutes.

South Africa were merciless in Bordeaux, securing the bonus point in the 11th minute and winning 76-0.

The reigning champions are second in Pool B, one point behind world number one Ireland, who they will face on Saturday in Paris.

Four scrum halves for South Africa

Incredibly, Reinach was one of four scrum-halves to play for South Africa in their one-sided victory over Romania.

With Reinach wearing the number nine jersey, Grant Williams played on the wing, scoring two tries in seven minutes in the second half.

Jaden Hendrikse replaced Reinach at half-time and Faf de Klerk came on in the 57th minute, playing at number 10 and making two conversions.

“I’m particularly happy with some of the things we tried,” said South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber. “I thought a lot of things we wanted to get out of the game, we got.”

The Springboks are no strangers to radical rotation; in their warm-up win over New Zealand at Twickenham last month, their bench consisted of seven forwards and just one back.

‘My little boy will be very proud’ – Sexton becomes Ireland’s leading points scorer

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton is the oldest player to represent Ireland

Ireland continued their successful start to the World Cup with a bonus-point victory over Tonga on a historic night for Johnny Sexton in Nantes.

As Six Nations Grand Slam winners beat Tonga 59-16the 38-year-old became Ireland’s leading points scorer, surpassing Ronan O’Gara’s tally of 1,083.

Sexton was nine points behind O’Gara’s tally, but his 38th-minute try saw him break the Munster man’s record after scoring nine points earlier.

The opener finished the evening with 1,090 from 115 internationals before being substituted at half-time to be, presumably, wrapped in cotton wool.

“It’s something you can look back on and be very proud of when you retire,” Sexton said. “My little boy will be very proud. He talked about it during the week.”

Portugal proves their worth against Wales

Portugal's Nicolas Martins (second left) celebrates his team's first try
Portugal’s efforts were rewarded when Nicolas Martins (second from left) scored a try in the second half.

After a week’s rest last weekend, Portugal returned to the World Cup after a 16-year absence and impressed with their attacking talent against Wales in Pool C.

They may have had some semi-professionals in their ranks, but they managed to put in a brilliant try in their Defeat 28-8 against Warren Gatland’s side.

“We don’t play rugby professionally, so it’s a great moment to stand here in front of so many supporters,” captain Tomas Appleton said. “It’s a big stage and we just want to inspire a younger generation of kids to start playing rugby at home.”

Wales head coach Gatland has been full of praise for Portugal’s adventurous style.

“To be fair to Portugal, they put us under pressure, they moved the ball well and I was impressed with them,” he said.

Samoa make their mark with 10-minute blitz

Christian Leali'ifano
Samoa fly-half Christian Leali’ifano was Australia’s top scorer at the 2019 World Cup.

Having had to wait until the second weekend to play their opening match, Samoa were frustrated for long periods of their first half against Chile, falling behind twice against the debutants.

After the reboot, it was a completely different story. Between the 43rd and 53rd minutes, Samoa crossed three times to claim a 43-10 bonus point victory.

That took them top of Pool D until England beat Japan on Sunday, as Seilala Mapusua’s side hope to reach their first quarter-final since 1995, 28 years ago.


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