Two much needed wins close out this international window of games. Here is my review of the weekend.
So how did the predictions go?
First up here’s the link to my predictions.
1 out of 2, decidedly average. This was one of my best opportunities to get a clean sheet and I missed it.
England 26 v 17 Australia
England picked up the much needed win in a very traditional way using the scrum to good effect and being clinical when opportunities presented themselves. Whilst the scrum will take the headlines it was the defence that won the day. England made nearly three times as many tackles as Australia and whilst England missed 25, the key try saving ones were made. This still wasn’t a great November for England, it was OK and at least they won against the team they will meet next year at the world cup. England now need to select as settled a set of backs as possible for the 6 nations and carry that through next year. Even though I don’t agree with the players he has selected they do need to keep playing for England.
For Australia it’s been a poor November but it could have been so much worse. At least the squad seem to be united and happy with their coach. They have only won one test match but Cheika didn’t get to select this squad and the off field issues could have spiralled even more out of control. All the games were close (+5, -3, -3 and -9) so they could easily have been heading home with a winning record. In this last game they had 70% possession and territory running 595 meters compared to England’s 203, if they can fix the scrum then they can be extremely formidable. But we have been saying things like that for over a decade.
Key Stat: Tackles made/missed Barritt 16/0
Most of us would not have Barritt playing outside centre for England. He might not have been man of the match but to make 16 tackles and not miss one, takes some doing. He is probably the first player to make way once Tuilagi is back but he put his body on the line and lead by example. Leadership is one of the things I have questioned in this team and his leadership may be sorely missed.
Wales 12 v 6 South Africa
This is what happens when you take two of the most physical sides in international rugby and put them on a pitch. Being at the Millennium Stadium with the roof closed, the elements weren’t to blame for no tries being scored.
Wales managed to stay a head on the scoreboard and can be very important mentally in these games. It helped the half backs to control the game and keep South Africa at arm’s length if only just. It came down to the last few minutes of the game but here Gatland’s master plan worked. Working on fitness clearly helped as Wales were able to last the full 80 minutes. I think that if the fixtures had been in a different order, Wales would have beaten Australia in this fixture. Wales will take a lot of confidence out of this fixture and Gatland not being able to watch the last few minutes tells you that losing to southern hemisphere teams has been taking a toll on this squad. This makes it a successful set of games even though it’s only 2 from 4 as it has been so long since they won a game like this.
South Africa will be disappointed but also glad the season is over. They were missing key players due to this game being outside the international window and it has been a long season. Losing to Ireland and Wales was never part of the plan but they did beat England and Italy. They have an All Black scalp from earlier this year, so they won’t be too upset with the season.
Key Stat: Penalties conceded Wales 9 South Africa 12
This was a close game and the stats show that in nearly every category. In the end game management and decision making were probably the most important such as South Africa kicking for touch rather than goal. But also Wales being the right side of the penalty count was important as it always is when it comes down to kicks. They will be happy with their discipline, especially in their own half.