- 22 Oct 07, 07:23 AM
Waterloo station/ a cross channel ferry, Monday - As a final parting World Cup gift, myself, Tom and Ben (remember them?) thought we'd dish out a few prizes from the last seven weeks. First prize goes to all of you, obviously, for reading and joining in and making the blog what it is.
But after you lot, there have been some outstanding, and not so clever, achievements. Here's just a few. Let's call them "The Bloggys". (See if you can spot who wrote which ones!)
I know South Africa won the ultimate prize but Argentina sneak this one. Their journey to the World Cup semi-finals was a fairytale and the powers that be must surely now invite them to world rugby’s top table. The players were passionate, friendly, enthusiastic and, lest we forget, they also had plenty of skill. The fact they got so far with such little backing was an incredible story.
Where do you start? This one has taken me ages to figure and I’ll get shot down whichever one I choose so here goes. Ignoring the likes of Bryan Habana, Percy Montgomery and Gonzalo Longo, I’m going to plump for Juan Martin Hernandez. The Pumas fly-half showed why many regard him as the best player on the planet at the moment. Rumours of a switch to Leicester are refusing to go away, you know.
Scrappy-Doo Award for Most Pugnacious Small Man
An absolute shoe-in - Andy Gomarsall.
Le Bloggernaut Award for Best Campsite
Aix-en-Provence had the best wash-block, Nantes the best parties. But for the combo of swimming pool, bar, boules court, steaming hot showers and a view of a 14th century monastery, La Romieu prends la biscuit.
The Why Rugby is a Great Game Award
Now, I wasn’t going to do this one but I changed my mind while watching French television on Sunday night. During a World Cup wrap-up, a clip showed an emotional Graham Henry going into the French changing room after his New Zealand side were beaten in the quarter-finals at the Millennium Stadium. He told the players: “I just wanted to say well done, you played really well and you deserved it. Good luck for the rest of the tournament.” After what had been such a crushing defeat, it was a fantastic gesture.
Tom and Ben Trophy for Best Fans
For noise, the Irish. For harmonies, the Welsh. For sheer joy, the Argentines. But for the support they gave to each and every game, no matter which minnows were playing: the French.
Story of the World Cup Award
This was so nearly won by England for the way they got themselves back off the canvas after a seemingly knock-out blow to reach the World Cup final. But instead, this award is going to the “minnows” (don’t you hate that phrase). You know who you are - Portugal, Romania, Georgia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Namibia, Canada, Japan, USA. Take a bow, you totally justified your World Cup places; hopefully we’ll see you again in four years time.
Le Bloggernaut Award for Best Rugby Town
Bordeaux was fantastic. And Montpellier was like a glimpse into the future. But how could you ever match Marseille? Sunshine, beaches, a rammed Stade Velodrome, a huge official and unofficial welcome from the city and the beautiful madness of the nights in Vieux Port. Just don’t mention the fact that Ben got mugged there.
Best individual try
Another tough category. I’m going for USA winger Takudzwa Ngwenya against South Africa in the final round of the pool stages. Anyone who can skin someone like Bryan Habana deserves a lot of credit. I bet Ngwenya couldn’t do that to a certain Ben Dirs. You know he raced a cheetah as well don’t you?
Best team try
Argentina’s fourth try in the third-place play-off against France, scored by Ignacio Corleto, comes close but this has to go to Japan for their length-of-the-field effort against Wales. From a five-metre scrum near their line, Japan stole possession and swept downfield in a matter of seconds, resulting in a score for Kosuko Endo. One word. Brilliant.
New Zealand are massive contenders, obviously, while Italy did little to lift the soul in their group games. However, the runaway winners of this award are Ireland. Rumours of divisions in the camp are well documented but their failure to reach the quarter-finals was a missed opportunity for this supposed golden generation.
Best Fancy Dress
It seems harsh that anyone who came as the Queen should miss out – but how could the boys of the 9th Foot and Mouth not come out on top? Not only were their Victorian outfits perfect in every detail, but for the final they even brought a Zulu along – complete with bone through his nose.
So that’s it. It is all over. Thank you so much for all your comments and taking part in the World Cup blog. It’s been a long and emotional seven weeks but hopefully you have all enjoyed it. I’m now off to teach my eldest son how to dominate the tackle area. See you all at the Six Nations.
Mark Orlovac is a BBC Sport journalist based in London. He will be based in Paris for the knockout stages of the Rugby World Cup.