The second round of The Rugby Championship brought us controversy and a close finish. Here’s my round-up of all the action from The Rugby Championship, Top14, Currie Cup, Mitre10 Cup and NRC.
The Rugby Championship
New Zealand 29 – 9 Australia
Argentina 26 – 24 South Africa
2 from 2, 100% after 2 rounds! It’s all going great.
OK let’s get the controversy out-of-the-way early, there are pictures of Franks at a maul putting his arms around the head of another player. It certainly looks like he has his hands in the oppositions face and he hasn’t been cited. BoD amongst many has tweeted this is wrong. Has Franks made contact with the eye area? I don’t know but it certainly needs a closer look at and should have been cited. When you remember Ashton’s ban last season where his arms slide up in a tackle this looks like there is more control/purpose on where Franks arms go. This inconsistency is one of the biggest issues for World Rugby on the officiating side of things and gives the appearance of preferable treatment for some teams.
Getting onto the game its self. Whilst the All Blacks got an early try with a 3-4 player overlap the Wallabies were much more in this game in the first half. Their defence kept its width much better and the line speed was quicker. However the Wallabies still only made 74% of their tackles missing 27 of their 104. The big culprits were Haylett-Petty and Foley with 5 and 4 missed respectively. The other thing that they brought was niggle. This can work really well but it’s a knife-edge tactic and the Wallabies stepped over the line losing a player to the bin. It clearly did rattle the All Blacks though and Coles was lucky not to go to the bin himself for a swinging arm in a ruck that was clearly an attempt to fight fire with fire. This niggle from the Wallabies and Moore’s inability to communicate with the ref really cost them later on. It got them on the wrong side of the ref and 50:50 calls were never going to go their way.
Even with the Wallabies playing better the All Blacks still went into halftime 15-9 up and feeling in control of the game. In the second half the All Blacks upped their game management and just camped in the Aussie half. The stats say 71% territory in that second half but it felt even more than that. If a team spends that much time in your half they will normally score points and that’s what happened. New Zealand will be particularly happy that they held Australia scoreless in that second half and are now set to be runaway winners of The Rugby Championship.
Argentina proved that they have come of age in this tournament and whilst New Zealand might be clear winners the other 3 spots are up for grabs. At the beginning of the first half between the Pumas and Springboks both sides were struggling to hold onto the ball. Once the Pumas passes and offloads started to stick they caused issues especially down the left flank. They got the opening try on the half-hour mark but could easily have had one earlier. Whilst the Pumas took a lead into halftime again the Springboks pulled things back in the second half. It was all even due to Habana try soon after the half only for the Springboks to fall to that age-old issue of conceding straight afterwards. This Pumas resolve meant they held the lead late in the game for the second week running. It looked like the Springboks might get out of jail again with a penalty on 74 minutes. This week though there was to be a final twist as the Pumas who were 100% kicking at sticks slotted 1 on 78 minutes.
That kicking % was a telling factor as the Springboks only made 56% of their kicks and that led to Jantjies getting hooked on 46 minutes for Steyn. It’s still early in Jantjies international career and I do hope that Coetzee has the backbone to stick with him.
We take a week off before New Zealand host Argentina and Australia host South Africa in the third round of games.
Section Paloise 18 – 22 Toulon
Bayonne 12 – 12 Castres
Brive 28 – 20 Stade Francais
Grenoble 19 – 22 La Rochelle
Racing Metro 92 29 – 16 Lyon
Toulouse 22 – 17 Bordeaux Begles
Montpellier 22 – 26 Clermont Auvergne
3 from 7, the home advantage rule didn’t work this weekend.
Toulouse top the table as the only side with a perfect record of 2 wins. At the other end Grenoble, Pau and Montpellier are all still looking for their first win of the season.
I don’t cover the second division in France but this clip in the link tweet below has some real sublime play by the 10.
Lions 60 – 12 Boland Cavaliers
Pumas 35 – 41 Griquas
Eastern Province Kings 6 – 36 Western Province
Sharks 26 – 19 Blue Bulls
4 from 4, it was a predictable weekend but still nice to get them all right.
The Sharks top the table with 4 wins being chased by the also perfect record Cheetahs on 3 wins having had a bye this week. The Kings and Pumas are the only teams still looking for a win.
Otago 44 – 21 Wellington
Manawatu 34 – 31 Southland
Auckland 37 – 15 Northland
Waikato 26 – 15 North Harbour
Taranaki 55 – 28 Hawke’s Bay
Canterbury 45 – 14 Tasman
Counties Manukau 39 – 34 Bay of Plenty
6 from 7, I got caught up in the romanticism of Harbour taking the Log’o Wood.
Canterbury are the early Premierships leaders with 2 TBP win, slice behind Taranaki also have 2 wins. Hawke’s Bay are at the bottom with 2 losses and will need to turn things around to avoid relegation. Otago and Manawatu are the clear leaders in the Championship both have 2 TBPs wins and are clear of the rest at the moment.
Perth Spirit 20 – 16 Melbourne Rising
NSW Country Eagles 22 – 12 Brisbane City
Sydney Rays 50 – 30 Western Sydney Rams
Queensland Country 20 – 58 University of Canberra Vikings
2 from 4, not a great start to my picking.
It’s only been one round but already the Vikings will be looking to go 1 better than last year as losing finalists. The big shock was the 2 times champions Brisbane losing to the Eagles.
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