By Malcolm Hughes

The weekend quarter finals provided rich entertainment in terms of high class rugby, a nail-biting finish and an inevitable controversy which continues to resonate long after the game in which it occurred had ended. However, on the morning after the quarter finals were concluded a unique piece of Rugby World Cup history has been created since for the very first time all four winners come from the southern hemisphere. Despite pre-tournament predictions that at least two Six Nations teams would make it to the semi-finals, in the event none did and there will undoubtedly be inquests amongst the various northern union selectors and administrators as to the reasons why. Even so, two terrific semi-final matches are in prospect for next weekend.

Many observers expected France to pose a strong challenge to the All Blacks in Cardiff on Saturday and many referred to the last time these teams met up at the same stage and same venue in the 2007 World Cup when the French were unexpected victors. This time, New Zealand's win could hardly have been more convincing as they swept the French aside 62-13 and made Philippe Saint Andre's last match as coach a miserable affair. Far more closely contended was the Wales versus South Africa match where the Red Dragons were only beaten 23-19 by a try in the final minutes from the Springbok captain, Fourie du Preez. This outstanding physical contest could have gone either way but it looked like the Welsh simply ran out of energy as the match entered the final stages.

Sunday's two quarter finals both delivered surprises. Firstly, Argentina showed that their progress since entering the Rugby Championship has now made them a serious threat to all leading nations and they were convincing 43-20 winners over Ireland who many had expected to have an outside chance of winning the competition. However, injuries to their key players Jonny Sexton and captain Paul O'Connell plus the suspension of Sean O'Brien left them weakened and Argentina took full advantage. The big surprise - and controversy - came with the final match where Scotland were unfortunate to lose 35-34 to Australia through a contentious last minute penalty after matching the Wallabies throughout an absorbing contest. South African referee Craig Joubert should not expect any Christmas greetings from Scots after his decision to penalise Scotland for deliberate offside was called into question by video footage.

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