Australia and New Zealand, the mightiest teams in the Southern Hemisphere, will battle it out in the Rugby World Cup final this weekend.
The match kicks off at 11 a.m. Cayman time at Twickenham in West London on Saturday, and it looks set to be another nail-biter as clashes between these bitter rivals usually are.
New Zealand defeated South Africa 20-18 on Saturday, and Australia beat the plucky Argentinians 29-15 in the other semifinal on Sunday.
Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a hat trick of tries to help Australia beat Argentina in a breathless match.
The Wallabies fed off mistakes by Argentina to score tries through Rob Simmons and Ashley-Cooper in the first 10 minutes, opening up a 14-0 lead. Ashley-Cooper then crossed for his second try, in the 32nd minute, to give Australia a 19-9 halftime lead.
Roared on by a passionate support that included football World Cup winner Diego Maradona, Argentina had chances in the second half as they took control up front and used their explosive runners.
The ambitious Pumas pulled to within a converted try at 22-15 thanks to Nicolas Sanchez’s fourth and fifth penalties, but Australia defended valiantly and clinched the game when Drew Mitchell’s 50-meter break led to a third try for fellow winger Ashley-Cooper in the 72nd.
David Pocock, Australia’s No. 8, was again outstanding; fly-half Bernard Foley’s nine penalty points were crucial; and Toby Smith’s surging runs were also a vital contribution.
It will be the first time Australia and New Zealand have met in a World Cup final, seven months after they played each other in the Cricket World Cup final, which Australia won.
Australia are a two-time world champion, having won both of their previous titles in Britain.
One Australian based in Cayman convinced of victory this weekend is Andrew Schofield, who hails from Sydney and has lived here for 15 years, on and off. He used to play rugby in Australia “but not at this level, obviously,” he smiled.
“We should have them. I think if we play to our potential, we should beat them,” Schofield said. “We’ve beaten them once this year, and I think we can beat them again.”
Australia beat the All Blacks 27-19 three months ago in the Investec Championship in Sydney, and so will have the psychological edge.
Schofield agrees that this All Blacks team is formidable and one of the best ever, “but they can’t perform in the big matches. They’re chokers.”
His optimism is fueled by his belief that “the New Zealanders have an inferiority complex and won’t be able to perform on the day.”