A great weekend of rugby with plenty of skills and upsets, here is my review of all the action.
The Rugby Championship
South Africa 20 – 27 New Zealand
Argentina 9 – 34 Australia
2 from 2, a perfect record so far in this competition.
This was the 90th game between South Africa and New Zealand and it was a fitting match. Early indiscipline allowed the All Black to knock over a penalty but it wasn’t long before the Boks took the lead. The All Blacks tried to change the point of counter attack when fielding a high ball but it was beautifully read. A man and ball tackle forced the turnover and a try came straight away in the next phase as the ball was moved wide. There were big hits begin put in especially by the Boks but both teams were trying to push things and that led to dropped balls. The Boks ability to hit the gaps was causing the All Blacks problems and this led to a penalty. The All Blacks managed to even things up on the strike of half time with a wonderful counter attack with Sopoaga getting on Nonu’s shoulder and feeding Smith.
Early in the second half the wonderful lines that were being run by the Boks midfield eventually paid off with a second try. The All Blacks quickly struck back with a similar try of their own except it was Dane Coles the hooker who hit the line at speed. South Africa got close to the line but the TMO correctly ruled it short and they only came away with a penalty. Then came the defining point of the game, from the scrappy kickoff the Boks went the length of the pitch but couldn’t get across the line as the All Blacks lost a player to the bin. After a couple of dominant Boks scrums, they lost their second tight head prop. We then went to uncontested scrums even though the loose head that came on have played tight in Super Rugby. This played into the All Blacks hands as they went down the other end and used a trick line out move to put McCaw over for the match winning try.
Some lessons learnt include that South Africa have a talented but inexperienced midfield, Broardhurst played with plenty of energy but might not have the power at this level and Sopoaga has the nerves for this level.
Argentina led their own demise again, last week it was by having too slow a line speed in defence. This week it was poor kicking as they allowed Folau too much space so that in the first he returned a kick that led to a try. A couple of penalties means that they were only a couple of points down at halftime. It stayed close in the second half until just before the hour mark Dean Mumm avoided three tacklers and carried two over the try line. Eventually the ref lost patience with the Wallabies foul play and carded Cooper for a high tackle. There should have been a couple of cards earlier and they won’t be so lucky in future. Once Australia were back to 15 men they ran amuck and racked up the TBP with another couple of tries with good support running and offloads.
It now comes down to Australia v New Zealand for the Championship but do either really want to win it when no side that has won it and the Rugby World Cup in the same year?
South Africa are looking to be on the right track when their injured players comeback but Argentina need to do a lot of work.
The Pacific Nations Cup
Fiji 30 – 30 Samoa
Canada 18 – 28 Tonga
USA 23 – 18 Japan
1 from 3, doesn’t sound great but when all of the results were considered upsets on SuperBru and one was a draw so not so bad.
Draws are a rare occurrence and just like a couple of weeks ago against the Maori All Blacks, Fiji started strongly. They raked up three tries as they led 17-10 at half time and stretched that to 27-10 with half an hour to go. But Samoa weren’t going to lie down and fought back with a penalty at 5 mins to go evening things up.
Canada are having a tough tournament but started this game well pulling out a 15-0 lead. But a yellow card helped Tonga get back into it and only trail 15-10 at halftime. Tonga continued in the second half and managed to pull out a big lead. However losing two players to the bin late on, tested the Tonga’s nerves as they held on.
With the USA and Japan meeting in the Rugby World Cup later this year this game had all sorts of extra meaning. Japan ringed the changes testing their strength in depth and came up short. At halftime Japan held a slim 2 point lead via a try and a couple of penalties to three USA kicks. They even stretched that lead to 18-9 before the USA staged a come back. With a try from one of their sevens stars and 3 more kicks over the posts.
With no teams picking up two wins, there is lots to play for in the final group round before the finals.
Join in the predicting fun, I’m running leagues for the Currie Cup, ITM Cup and NRC. Also enjoy the excitement of the up coming Rugby World Cup by joining the August Internationals and Rugby World Cup leagues as well.