November Internationals 2014 Round 2 Review

An exciting weekend of rugby with some surprises and a milestone reached.

So how did the predictions go?

First up here’s a link to my predictions.

5 out of 10 is nothing to write home about. The six nations countries did better than expected with 4 wins and I also got a couple of the second tier games wrong.

Before go into the games, the background to this international window is clearly the rugby world cup coming up next year. So let’s just remind ourselves of the groups:

Pool A:
Australia
England
Wales
Fiji
Uruguay

Pool B:
South Africa
Samoa
Scotland
Japan
USA

Pool C:
New Zealand
Argentina
Tonga
Georgia
Namibia

Pool D:
France
Ireland
Italy
Canada
Romania

So Uruguay are the only team not playing this weekend or if they are it’s under the radar. With Georgia v Tonga and Wales v Australia the match-ups that will be repeated in the group stages next year.

Canada 17 v 13 Namibia

1 try each but Canada managed to keep the score board ticking over with penalties. With this win Canada got their season back on track after the loss last weekend. With Samoa up next that will be a good experience with Tonga in the world cup next year. They finish with Romania which will really let both teams know what they need to work on over the next year.

For Namibia it’s a real example of the lower tier nations not getting the chances. They only have this game in this window and so there is no time for them to grow. Their group is not the hardest but I can’t see them making much of an impression with the lack of games together.

Japan 18 v 20 New Zealand Maori

Wow the Japanese very nearly made me eat my words with this performance. They tightened up the defence and removed the mistakes that the Maoris fed off last weekend. In retrospect the possibility was there as the Maoris won last week on the counter attack not through dominance of possession or territory. Japan now get on the plane to Europe for a couple of games that will set them up well for their main game against USA next year.

The Maoris continue their amazing winning run and it’s only the poor pitching Singapore stopping them this year.

Georgia 9 v 23 Tonga

So many games this weekend followed this script, with the game being won in the second half and substitutions having a big hand in it. This is a massive win for Tonga as they are playing Georgia next year in the World Cup. Not only did they win but also stopped Georgia from scoring a try showing that they added defensive solidity to their armoury. Obviously it’s going to be tested more when they meet Scotland in a couple of weeks.

For Georgia it’s not going to get any easier with Ireland up next weekend but they need to get some attacking play going before they meet Japan in their last game.

England 21 v 24 New Zealand

The All Blacks became the first team to win 400 games and this one was another case of belief in themselves and knowing they were going to win. Even on a day when their goal kicking was off and they left 12 points out there on the pitch they still had enough.

This was yet another game where the second half decided the outcome. England really took it to them in the first half and were deservedly up at halftime but not up enough. This wasn’t a game where you saw the All Blacks scoring free-flowing passing tries but more possession rugby in the rain was impressive. One stat I picked up from the Egg Chasers podcast, the All Blacks claim 50% of their own kickoffs, was evident in this game as well.

For England there were positives but also some glaring negatives. Jonny May pulled off a wonderful try, skinning possibly the best midfield defender in the world. But then should have offloaded to Farrell when collecting a kick through and was suspect under the highball. Care did a lot of good but his decision-making was suspect especially with his kicking. Box kicking with both your wings in the ruck means no chase and kicking the ball away when the opposition are a player down was just a waste of possession.

Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Eng 44% (56%/31%) NZL 56% (44%/69%)

Shows how the All Blacks manage to adapt to their opponents and the conditions to take control of a game. In the second half, even though they got a yellow card, there was always only going to be one winner.

Interesting listening to the Kiwi commentators, they were unhappy with Nigel Owens who is considered the best referee in the Northern Hemisphere. His banter was on form asking Farrell if he had forgotten the instructions given earlier. Also good to see him backing up what he said on Brian Moore’s radio show, that he doesn’t blow for the scrum going forward but the one who is behaving.

Wales 28 v 33 Australia

So Wales have no metal issues when playing southern hemisphere teams? Well it’s another chance to prove that come and gone. Clearly Australia will be happy with their victory but this win was also caused by Wales missing tackles and throwing interceptions.

Gatland is already saying that Wales at the world cup will be a different animal. Well why have we not seen it so far? It’s not like Gatland hasn’t had enough time with the team. Again the allowed Australia to get field position towards the end of the game to win it. Fiji next week is a must win and then one of the All Blacks or Spring Boks also needs winning for Wales to be considered credible contenders.

For Australia, mission done but they can’t be relying on other teams to drop off key tackles and interceptions going forwards. Folau is continuing to prove that he is one of the games superstars and Australian rugby need to make sure he doesn’t head back to league after the world cup.

Key Stat: Tackles made/missed Wal 168/16 Aus 118/13

Wales had the better tackling success percentage but those 16 missed tackles turned out to be key ones.

Romania 17 v 27 USA

The USA gave back their premiership players and shed the attention that having the All Blacks in town created. The eagles took and early lead and never relinquished it. Using all the scoring possibilities including a drop goal they were in control of this game all the way through which will be grey for their confidence.

Romania will have a good feel for what they are going to face in a couple of weeks time and next year at the world cup when they face Canada. So this was not a good start for them as the Canada game next year will be their world cup final. It’s going to be interesting to see how they progress over the next two weeks.

Italy 24 v 13 Samoa

Samoa built a good lead in the first half but Italy managed to restrict the islanders to just one penalty goal in the second half. Italy really needed this victory for their confidence after not having a victory since November last year. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Italy took some time to get into their groove as they had a new fly-half pulling the strings.

Having won the last two games between these teams Samoa will be disappointed to have kicked off their campaign with this loss. I feel sorry for Canada next week who will have this taken out on them.

Key Stat: Meters run with ball Ita 355 Sam 233

Considering that Italy had less possession and territory this one really surprised me. We all know that the Samoans are great with ball in hand with their 7s heritage. To be so out run by a team that we normally think of as not being so great passing the ball is noteworthy.

France 40 v 15 Fiji

We were all wondering which France would turn up after their June disaster and the ongoing club v country infighting. Well a dominant side is what. This will add some much-needed feel good to the squad.

The French side took and early lead and didn’t look back, managing to stop Fiji from scoring any points int the first half. Thomas scoring a hat trick on début will obviously take the headlines. Having several débuts is probably what the side needed and maybe this will carry through the rest of November.

A tough start for Fiji and Wales next up isn’t going to be any easier, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the USA who ideally they would have faced first.

Ireland 29 v 15 South Africa

A massive victory for the six nations champions, looking at the stats they shouldn’t have won this. Behind on just about everything but strong defence plus a fly-half controlling the game won this one. They will say that the yellow card swung and they did score 10 points whilst one man up. But they were already in front.

For South Africa there were some questionable decisions such as not taking points when they were on offer and going for the corner. They also weren’t helped by a couple of missed kicks but the margin was bigger than that.

Scotland 41 v 31 Argentina

Of all the games this weekend you would not have picked this one to be the try fest. This is a magnificent win for the Scots for 2 reasons, first up many of us thought that they would lose. Secondly, to have also scored so many tries and been so dominant, will really give them belief. They took control of this game just before the half hour mark and even though Argentina scored two tries in the last 10 minutes it was too little too late.

I’m now going over the top but this is a wonderful start for Scotland and let’s hope the feel good factor carries through what will be defeat to New Zealand next week.

This is a real bump to earth for Argentina who landed their first Rugby Championship win last time out. They would have looked to build on that during this tour. Now they need to go away and do some hard work over this week, before facing Italy who had a moral boosting win this weekend.

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