Rugby World Cup 2023: Seven standout moments from second weekend

Three pictures: England's Joe Marler points to his head, Fiji's Jiuta Wainiqolo salutes and Ireland's Johnny Sexton celebrates scoring a try

Irish records, Fiji beating Australia, rapid hat-ticks and a headed assist – the second week of the 2023 Rugby World Cup continued to thrill us.

But what are the main talking points as the tournament continues in France? Here are our seven key moments.

Marler header assists England win

Joe Marler points to 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 some magic and that’s when prop forward Joe Marler used his head – literally.

George Ford’s pass deflected backwards off Will Stuart and on to the head of Marler, resulting in the ball spinning forwards to the turf.

As most players stopped, waiting for a knock-on call (it is only a knock-on if the ball comes off a player’s hand or arm), captain Courtney Lawes scooped up possession to cross unopposed.

A try was given and England never looked back, sealing a bonus-point win in the final minutes in their 34-12 victory.

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

Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli points to his head
Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli rightly waved play on after the ball went forward off Marler’s head

Win over Australia ‘biggest moment in Fiji sport’

Sunday gave us the standout result of the tournament so far as Fiji beat Australia for the third time in their history to blow Pool C wide open.

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

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

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

“Honestly, words cannot express how glad and how proud we are as Fijians. It’s been a while, the boys deserved it.”

Reinach scores second-fastest hat-trick in Springboks win

South Africa's Reinach scores a try
South Africa’s Cobus Reinach has scored six tries at World Cups

South Africa scrum-half Cobus Reinach scored a hat-trick inside 25 minutes as his team cruised past Romania with a 12-try win in Pool B in Bordeaux.

Reinach’s treble is the second quickest in World Cup history – he holds the record after scoring three after 20 minutes against Canada four years ago.

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

South Africa were ruthless in Bordeaux, securing the bonus-point try in the 11th minute on their way to a 76-0 win.

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

Four scrum-halves feature for South Africa

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

While Reinach wore the number nine jersey, Grant Williams played on the wing, running in two tries in seven second-half minutes.

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

“I’m especially happy with a couple of things we tried,” said South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber. “I thought a lot of things that 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 was composed of seven forwards and just one back.

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

Johnny Sexton
Johnny Sexton is the oldest player to represent Ireland

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

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

Sexton was nine behind O’Gara’s total but his 38th-minute try meant he broke the Munster man’s record after kicking nine earlier points.

The fly-half finished the night on 1,090 from 115 internationals before he was replaced at half-time to be, presumably, wrapped in cotton wool.

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

Portugal prove their worth against Wales

Portugal's Nicolas Martins (second left) celebrates scoring their side's first try
Portugal’s endeavour was rewarded when Nicolas Martins (second left) scored a second-half try

After a week off last weekend, Portugal returned to the World Cup after 16 years away and impressed with their attacking flair against Wales in Pool C.

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

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

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

“In fairness 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 points scorer at the 2019 World Cup

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

It was a completely different story after the restart. Between the 43rd and 53rd minutes Samoa crossed three times on their way to a 43-10 bonus-point win.

It moved 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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