Argentina (44-6 loss to New Zealand)
"Far from our level that we wanted to show," Julian Montoya, Argentina's dejected captain, said in the immediate aftermath of his team's Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final defeat by New Zealand. "Gutted ... really disappointed."
Argentina had shown plenty of intent, with the go-forward instincts of prop Thomas Gallo and flanker Marcos Kremer topping his team's charts with 15 carries to push them into the All Blacks' territory. Indeed, Los Pumas' 151 carries at Stade de France was the most of their campaign in France and suggests this heavy defeat was not the result of a team intimidated by their opponents. After all, they had beaten New Zealand in Christchurch last year.
Argentina's problem was that, for all their admirable effort, they could not make their share of possession and territory nor phases of play count against a team that have added dogged defence to flair in attack.
Michael Cheika's outfit made nine entries into New Zealand's 22, only one fewer than the three-time world champions. They played 42 phases while they were there yet by full-time had registered only six points from two Emiliano Boffelli penalties. They simply could not breach New Zealand.
The contrast with the victors could scarcely be starker – the All Blacks were seven times more efficient with their attacks, earning 44 points from 10 entries into Argentina's 22, with Will Jordan running in three of his team's seven tries.
While Argentina's chances of victory rested on taking their chances, they also needed to look after possession and make their tackles. Fourteen times they lost turnovers, matching their average for the tournament, and their tally of 50 missed tackles, to the All Blacks' 26, tells its own story.
These areas are likely to be the focus for Argentina as they prepare for the bronze final against England.
England (16-15 loss to South Africa)
Statistics rarely tell the whole story and sometimes they tell very little of the story – but it’s those little details that made the difference between England winning, and ultimately losing, their Rugby World Cup 2023 semi-final South Africa.
“Clearly that was one of the key factors,” England head coach Steve Borthwick said of the scrum when reflecting on the match the morning after. In fact, you could say it was the key factor, as South Africa’s replacement props Vincent Koch and Ox Nche, appearing seven minutes apart early in the second half, turned the tide in the Springboks’ favour.
One of those to make way, Steven Kitshoff, said: "We were fortunate with our bench and what the bomb squad did to win those penalties to give us some great territory to go on and win the game.”
England lost two scrums on their own ball – the first since their opening game – including on the hour mark when they were leading 15-6 and deep in opposition territory. Kyle Sinckler was penalised, allowing South Africa to clear their lines.
Then, with South Africa within three points, England’s other replacement prop Ellis Genge was penalised for dropping to his knees on a Springboks put-in, allowing Handre Pollard to nudge them in front.
Until this point, England’s unflattering attacking stats – they kicked away 93% of possession and had the slowest ruck speed of the tournament (an average of 6.73 seconds) - played into a gameplan that was executed almost to perfection.
Ultimately, they failed to breach the Springboks’ defence and became the only team to register no line-breaks in a match at Rugby World Cup 2023.