A packed weekend of international action as The Rugby Championship and Pacific Nations Cup kicked off, here is my review of the action.
The Rugby Championship
New Zealand 39 – 18 Argentina
Australia 24 – 20 South Africa
2 from 2, a great start to my predicting and if you would like to join in have a look at the bottom of this post.
There were some good signed from Argentina as they showed invention from the back of the scrum early on. Both sides were showing good ball retention as the first quarter had the teams swapping penalties. Discipline was proving to be a problem for the Argentines and eventually the All Blacks scored a try form a line out rolling maul. Even though I don’t agree with a man binding onto someone who breaks free it’s allowed. Unforced errors were creeping into the Argentine game such as the restart going out on the full and this was to continue to hurt them. They also had some poor decision making such as the awful drop goal attempt when they had just got hold of the ball. But they started causing the All Blacks issues with their counter rucking. The All Blacks stretched their lead to 18-6 with another try as Nonu powered through 4 players. The All Blacks appeared to have put the game to bed with two early ties in the second half. The Pumas gained the field position for two close line outs and both resulted in roll maul tries but they were still two scores behind and never really were going to come back. The All Blacks controlled the territory from there and even scored another try to add icing to the cake.
The lessons from the game were that you need a rush defence like Samoa or the All Blacks just have too much time to cause chaos. Also whilst we often talk about the skills of the All Blacks it’s their work rate that is impressive, you very rarely see lying around or standing out of position waiting to get back onside.
The game of the weekend was always going to be the Wallabies against the Boks and it lived up to the billing. The Boks had the better of the early exchanges and with their scrum showing it’s power picked up a couple of penalties. Then we had a moment of magic from the Australian back line, Cooper and Giteau linked up well to put AAC through a gap for the first try. The Boks hit back quickly with a cross field kick that was knocked back nicely but there was plenty of work left to do with a wonderful offload putting Etzebeth into the corner. That meant the Boks went into halftime leading 7-13 and they extended that with a good backs move creating an overlap for the debutant Kreil. From then on though it was all one way traffic as the Wallabies controlled possession and territory with the help of come wayward kicking. Still they trailed by 10 with 10 minutes to go, but a great destructive defensive scrum on the Boks line led to a scrum of their own. 2 phases later they got the try and conversion. A missed penalty kick to even up the scores with 2 minutes to go looked terminal but they pounded away at the line and got a TMO try over a minute after the 80. There are plenty of folks saying it wasn’t grounded but it looked like a try to me.
After the game Cheika was talking about how good this was after the last few years, so clearly there are still lingering issues in the squad. This was a very important win but there is a long way to go before all is right for the Australians.
Pacific Nations Cup
Fiji 30 – 22 Tonga
Canada 6 – 20 Japan
USA 16 – 21 Samoa
3 from 3, there were no upsets as the games all went with form/international rankings.
Tonga dominated the early play but were only able to come away with an unconverted try with their missed kicks coming back to haunt them. Fiji also showed a lack of execution but being unable to confer to line outs close to Tonga’s line. But the did lead by 2 going into the break after a try form some powerful running followed up by wonderful offloading and hands. In the second half Tonga struck back with a similar try of their own. Tonga then got another try after a couple of penalties put Fiji back in front, this trim it was from the forwards pounding at the line. Fiji trailed by 8 with quarter of a hour to go, they were able to use turnover ball to create a large over lap for their second try. Fiji power play for their third and the kicking of Volavola saw them home.
Japan strangled Canada as they kicked their way to victory. Remembering their game from last year they knew that had to be physical straight away out of the gate. They stepped up and scored the only try of the game on ten minutes, 5 penalties then led to a dominating scoreline.
Samoa raced out to large lead and then had to hold on as the USA fought back. Samoa’s first try came from an aimless kick from the USA. A Tuilagi cross field kick then led to another and with a few penalties led to a 21-3 halftime lead. The USA started chipping away at that with a couple of penalties early in the second half. After some powerful drives at the line managed their only try to get within 5 points with 5 minutes left. But that’s as close as they managed to get and Samoa held on for the victory.
Maori All Blacks 17 – 34 New Zealand Barbarians
0 from 1, totally got this one wrong as I found out how different the New Zealand version of the Barbarians is.
The Baabaas dominated territory in the first half and they got their first try when the Maori switched off. A tap penalty was spun a couple of players out and powered over. Then off the back of that forward pressure the scrum half snook over of the second. The ten man rugby was not what I was expecting from the Baabaas but it was effective and led to a 15-3 halftime lead. There was clearly messages given to both sides at half time as the Baabaars spread the ball much more and Maori retained possession better. McKenzie danced over as the Maori tried to mount a fight back. Poor defence though allowed the Baabaas to reassert their authority with power running as poor defence allowed them to score two more tries. The Maori did manage another try before the Baabaas produced a YouTube sensation play. An old school wall penalty move, there first one didn’t quite succeed but the second attempt did so go search YouTube it’s sure to be up there.
The Maori unbeaten 19 games record stretching back to 2003 has been brought to an end. My friends from Europe would not recognise this Barbarian side though. Not only did they wear red and not have club socks on but they also played a different style of rugby. All the players are from New Zealand rather than from different nations and it’s more a NZ Rugby side using the Barbarian tag. These were fringe All Blacks players trying to break into the squad or players in the squad that need game time.
I’m running a The Rugby Championship and Pacific Nations Cup prediction leagues on SuperBru if you want to have some fun trying to predict the results. Also starting soon I have leagues for the Currie Cup, ITM Cup and NRC. Click on any of the names to join in.