The international season has kicked off with a bit of a bang and a bit of rustiness, here’s my review of the weekend.
Samoa 16 – 25 New Zealand
Fiji 26 – 27 New Zealand Maori
South Africa 46 – 10 World XV
2 of 2, I forgot about the South African game when I did my predictions….
The occasion was great but the quality of the rugby wasn’t. The All Blacks had the early territory but the game was broken up by handling errors by both sides. Samoa struggled particularly with fielding high kicks and in the end offside penalties allowed the All Blacks to get some points. Samoa didn’t help themselves with some missed kicks to touch and trailed 3-12 at the break.
The second half started much the same with neither side getting much room, poor handling and dropped balls. Early in the second half though a cross field kick from a scrum got the first try for All Blacks but there were a couple of misjudged tackles that allowed it. It wasn’t really until 55 mins that we saw the running rugby that we expect from Samoa. Around the hour mark, Samoa had a period of good possession and finally a gap appeared near midfield. A couple of powerful runs later they got a try in response. The game was within 6 points with 10 minutes to go and the noise in the ground told you the game was still on. But a scrum penalty 6 minutes to go sealed it for the All Black and they finally got some of their running game going but no points came from it. It was a scrappy game and a combined 45 turnovers showed that there is plenty of work for both teams in the next few weeks.
It was interesting to hear that Tim Nanai-Williams has used the 7s/Olympics loop hold to change national allegiance to Samoa. Though I can’t figure out how he was tied to another country, presumably New Zealand, he is the first player I have heard to have used it.
Another interesting point is that Samoa only had 1 locally based player in their squad, which goes to show how difficult it is for them to get together for training.
Anyway onto the Fiji v Maori game, I have been impressed by Nadolo’s play this year but I didn’t know that he could goal kick as well! Anyway to the game, Fiji spotted an early mismatch to cut through in midfield leading to a try out wide. The Maori struck back with try from a scrum. Then we had a Nadolo try out wide, powering over but missing the conversion again. Then another try just before halftime added to some penalties gave Fiji a 26-10 lead. The second half though was one way traffic as the Maori racked up 17 unanswered points to continue their unbeaten run. McKenzie then danced through for a try to gain some revenge for being run over in the first half. Then Dixon’s try less than ten minutes from time won the game to seal an amazing week after being the man of the match in the Super Rugby final.
The Boks led from start to finish in this game. As can be the case when invitation sides are pulled together they get run over by the better trained and organised side. A lot of these players haven’t played for a month and it showed. 7 tries to 1 means that there isn’t much that can be taken from one-sided games like this but South Africa will be happy that they did rack up the points. Also the defensive effort was good if the ball retention was lacking at times. Anyway a win is a win and will be good for confidence going into the Rugby Championship.
We have the Rugby Championship and Pacific Nations Cup kicking off soon. Then in August the Currie Cup, ITM Cup and NRC will start. Click on any of the names to join in my prediction leagues and have a bit of fun.