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Rugby World Cup moments: Classic quarter-final weekend

The weekend of 14th-15th October 2023 arguably produced some of the most dramatic Rugby World Cup action ever seen, with all four quarter-final contests throwing up plenty of memorable moments.

For Argentina, New Zealand, England and South Africa it goes down as a weekend filled with positive memories, but it is one of heartache for Wales, Ireland, Fiji and hosts France, who all bowed out of the competition, but they certainly did not exit quietly.

WhatRugby Union World Cup 2023
WhereFrance
WhenFriday 8th September - Saturday 28th October 2023
How to watchITV
OddsSouth Africa 10/11, New Zealand 6/5, England 12/1, Argentina 33/1

Wales 17-29 Argentina

After winning all four of their pool matches, including victories over Australia and Fiji, confidence was growing that Wales could reach a third World Cup semi-final in four tournaments as they prepared to face what had been a previously underwhelming Argentina in Marseille.

Things certainly appeared to be going well for Warren Gatland's side when replacement scrum-half Tomos Williams crossed 17 minutes into the second half to put Wales 17-12 in front.

However, the momentum of the contest swung soon after when replacement referee Karl Dickson, who was introduced early in the contest when original official Jaco Peyper sustained a calf injury, decided against sanctioning Argentina's Guido Petti for a perceived high challenge on Welsh centre Nick Tompkins.

Argentina went on to score their first try through prop Joel Sclavi soon after before Nicolas Sanchez's brilliant interception try added a second late on with Wales chasing the game.

For Los Pumas, they were celebrating reaching a third World Cup semi-final at the final whistle, but for Wales the defeat marked the end of an era, as fly-half Dan Biggar, who was responsible for 12 of his side's 17 points at the Stade Velodrome, had previously confirmed that his 15-year international career would be coming to an end after the tournament.

Ireland 24-28 New Zealand

Biggar was not the only inspirational fly-half that bowed out from the international game on that memorable Saturday, as Ireland's Johnny Sexton suffered an agonising defeat in his final match as a professional, as the highly-fancied Irish were beaten 24-28 by New Zealand at the Stade de France.

On a 17-match winning run that encompassed a series win in New Zealand, a Six Nations Grand Slam and a pool stage victory over defending champions South Africa, Andy Farrell's Ireland side were seen as the team to beat at the World Cup.

But, Ireland had never been beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup and for the fourth time in a row they fell at the last-eight stage, although unlike their defeat to the All Blacks in Japan four years previous, this was a much stronger effort from the Irish, which ultimately made it a more gut-wrenching defeat.

New Zealand deserved plenty of credit, as they kept the Irish at arm's length throughout the contest, with tries from Leicester Fainga'anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan helping them on their way, as they set up a semi-final showdown with Argentina.

The All Blacks even withstood 37 phases of Irish attacking play in the closing minutes to see out the victory and keep themselves on course for a record fourth world title.

England 30-24 Fiji

Sunday's action had a lot to live up to after the drama of Saturday, but it did not disappoint, as England gained their revenge on Fiji to make it through to a second-successive World Cup semi-final.

Revenge was certainly in the air for Steve Borthwick's side, whose World Cup preparations had seemingly been left in tatters following their 30-22 defeat to Fiji at Twickenham in their final warm-up match ahead of the tournament.

Following that defeat, England had been going about their business in an understated but effective manner, winning all four of their pool games, but they needed their wits about them to see off a defiant Fiji, who came back from 14 points behind to level the contest inside the final 15 minutes.

England needed a hero and up stepped captain Owen Farrell, whose name was booed when the team was announced in the stadium ahead of kick-off, with many feeling George Ford should have been preferred at fly-half.

Farrell's inclusion was vindicated, however, as he first struck a drop-goal to put England back in front before adding a penalty, as his side made sure they were the last Home Nation standing heading into the semi-finals.

France 28- 29 South Africa

Arguably the best was saved till last as the quarter-final action was brought to a thrilling conclusion at the Stade de France on the Sunday night, with defending champions South Africa edging past hosts France by a solitary point.

The two sides shared six tries across an engrossing opening 31 minutes, with the kicking of Thomas Ramos edging France ahead at the interval, a lead he helped extend early in the second half.

However, the majority of the crowd in Paris were left stunned when lock Eben Etzebeth crossed for the Springboks with 12 minutes remaining, with Handre Pollard successfully kicking the resulting conversion and what proved to be a decisive penalty soon after.

South Africa were the ones celebrating come the final whistle, as they set up a showdown with England in the semi-finals - a repeat of the 2019 final, while for France their wait for a first world title was extended on a night when their 18-match winning run on home soil also came to an end.

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