PARIS (AP) — The dust has settled after the first set of games at the Rugby World Cup, which began with a stirring win for host France in front of nearly 79,000 people at the Stade de France, and ended with heartbreak for fan favorite Fiji as a dropped pass in the final seconds denied it a thrilling victory in Bordeaux.
The eight matches on the opening weekend brought plenty of blood, sweat and tears.
There were crunching tackles, as always. Teams needed additional water breaks and used ice packs to cool off in sweltering temperatures. And the emotion of the occasion was on show for many, like Chile’s players, some of whom had tears rolling down their cheeks as they sang their national anthem for the first time in their debut appearance at the Rugby World Cup.
The French team lived up to all the pre-tournament hype by staring down New Zealand’s Kapa o Pango haka and then beating the three-time champions in an opening game that was billed as a blockbuster and didn’t disappoint.
Underdog Romania had a moment to cherish against Ireland, the top-ranked team in the world, by scoring the first try. The Irish swept back to win 82-8 and make sure there was no shocking upset.
England flanker Tom Curry became the first player to be sent off at this year’s Rugby World Cup when his tackle on Argentina fullback Juan Cruz Mallia resulted in a clash of heads and both players needing white bandages to stem the bleeding from their wounds. Mallia played on, Curry would have if he’d been allowed.
Chile’s team, known as the Condors, landed for their first World Cup and flyhalf Rodrigo Fernández will forever have the distinction of being the first player from his country to score a try at rugby’s biggest tournament.
His early score delighted fans in Toulouse and Chile won the hearts of the rugby world, even if Japan ultimately won that game 42-12.
Defending champion South Africa put the squeeze on Scotland to win its opener, where a try by live-wire Springboks wing Kurt-Lee Arendse was the highlight.
Fiji and Wales produced a rip-roaring contest to bring the curtain down on the first set of games. The Pacific Islanders fought back with two tries in the last seven minutes to put themselves within reach of a thrilling comeback. A game-winning score was there for the taking after the fulltime hooter had sounded, only for star back Semi Radradra to drop a bouncing pass with the tryline open in front of him.
Agony for the Fijians. Utter relief for the Welsh.