The Rugby Championship finished with the All Blacks maintaining their dominance and the European leagues all had their last rounds before the Champions and Challenge Cups start next weekend. Here’s my round-up of all the action from around the globe.
The Rugby Championship
South Africa 15 – 57 New Zealand
Argentina 21 – 33 Australia
2 from 2, I had a 100% prediction record for the tournament!
There was a lot of talk about South Africa v New Zealand being close until halftime as the score was 9-12. But that ignores that Barrett’s kicking meant that points were left out on the field and that All Blacks spent 80% of the time in Springbok territory. Having to defend for that amount of the time was always going to mean tired players and gaps opening up in the second half. There’s lots of talk about how the Springboks were just kicking everything and Steyn did kick it 11 times and only pass it 10 but the All Blacks also kicked. The real difference was that when the All Blacks kick it’s normally contestable or hitting grass. Rarely were the Springboks kicks contestable. The predictable avalanche of tries arrived in the second half and the gap should have been bigger as the All Blacks only made 60% of their kicks at posts. What I found really apparent in this game was that the All Blacks were happy to give up penalties outside their 22 and allow South Africa the 3 points. It felt like they weren’t going to allow South Africa to get close enough to score tries and that’s what you need to do to beat New Zealand. Some would say cynical play others that it’s game smart.
2 yellow cards for Australia and over 60% of possession and territory and Argentina still couldn’t win. Their kicking at sticks really let them down, I remember in the first half that the gap was 8 points and that was how many points the Pumas had missed with kicks at that point. If the scoreboard had been closer this would have been a different game as Australia would have had to play more rather than wait for Pumas errors. 2 of the Wallabies tries in the second half came from Argentina’s mistakes and that made all the difference. Argentina didn’t help themselves only making 67% of their tackles but some of the running with ball in hand by Australia was great. Kerevi and Haylett-Petty in particular had stand-out games and helped Australia make about twice as many meters per carry. When Argentina cut out the mistakes they will be exceptionally dangerous, for Australia they are work in progress but they have a couple of new stars and have finished second in The Rugby Championship.
Bath 30 – 3 Sale Sharks
Exeter Chiefs 27 – 27 Gloucester Rugby
Harlequins 20 – 9 Northampton Saints
Leicester Tigers 34 – 13 Worcester Warriors
Newcastle Falcons 19 – 14 Bristol
Saracens 30 – 14 Wasps
4 from 6, not so bad when there is a draw in there.
The scoreline was dominant but Sale spent a lot of time with the ball and in Bath’s half. This was a defensive display backed up by a couple of intercept tries that nearly bagged the bonus point. Bath made nearly twice as many tackles than Sale and only missing 9 compared to 16 missed by Sale. This is a solid base for Blackadder to build from but they will need more in attack against other sides.
Exeter continue to stutter this season after first half where they kept pace with Gloucester they got left behind in the second and it took a late comeback to draw the game. Exeter made 217 passes to Gloucester’s 67 and ran with the ball nearly 100 times more. But they just weren’t going anywhere making 422 meters will ball in hand compared to 357 for Gloucester. You really have to take you hat off to Gloucester’s defence which made nearly 200 tackles and achieved an 87% success rate but it wasn’t quite enough.
Quins bounced back from a big loss to Wasps last weekend. They didn’t allow Saints to score a try but this was still in the balance until near the end. They were the more creative side and had 2 tries disallowed. With that in mind Quins will be happy that they are heading in the right direction even if they are in the bottom half of the table. Saints on the other hand who are only 1 point behind Quins will be getting concerned as they didn’t get over the whitewash and whilst they were in the game on the socreboard didn’t look like winning it.
Tigers picked up the TBP win that they were looking for. It was their backs that did the damage in the first half leading to a 20-0 lead at the break. Warriors got some joy in the second half and scored 2 penalties before Tigers forwards did the job getting 2 tries to seal the TBP. That was interspersed by Warriors getting a try of they own but they never really trepanned to gat a LBP from the game.
Bristol gifted Newcastle their first try and then their defence couldn’t contain Falcons flowing rugby. This meant Falcons dashed out to a 19-0 lead after 33 minutes. After that though they did’t score anymore points. Bristol tried to come back in the second half but couldn’t get enough points. Bristol have to be worried after only picking up 2 points in the opening 6 games even if the first 5 in particular were very difficult. Falcons sit sixth and can start to think about trying to stay up the table rather than worrying about relegation.
Wasps lost their first game of the season at Saracens. Saracens had an early try via a lineout maul in the corner. Cipriani spotted forward in front of him and setup a Wasps try to even things up. Wasps did stay in this contest until the last 10 minutes but never managed to get their heads in front. It was Saracens forwards who were so effective especially when they got into the opposition 22 that sealed this TBP win.
Ospreys 46 – 24 Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh 45 – 10 Benetton Treviso
Connacht Rugby 30 – 25 Ulster
Leinster 25 – 14 Munster
Zebre 28 – 33 Glasgow Warriors
Scarlets 31 – 27 Newport Gwent Dragons
4 from 6, I took some flack on Twitter for picking the Blues.
Ulster lost their first game of the season but remain top of the table with Leinster on the same points in second. Just 1 point back are Ospreys and Glasgow. Scarlets and Connacht wins put the fairy tale teams from last season into sixth and seventh. The Italian sides remain at the bottom of the table.
Racing Metro 92 29 – 22 Stade Francais
Bordeaux Begles 27 – 25 Brive
Grenoble 44 – 16 Bayonne
Montpellier 28 – 19 Castres
La Rochelle 17 – 17 Toulon
Lyon 27 – 22 Pau
Clermont Auvergne 29 – 25 Toulouse
6 from 7, that beeping draw!
Move than half the teams have registered a draw this season! Clermont lead the way from Montpellier, La Rochelle and Toulon who are all on 22 points. That win for Racing moved them up to eighth which is still lower than they would like to be. This league is still extremely tight on points though with Pau in twelfth only 6 points behind Montpellier in second.
Manawatu 50 – 28 Wellington
Auckland 31 – 49 Tasman
Canterbury 47 – 18 North Harbour
Southland 39 – 31 Northland
Otago 14 – 16 Counties Manukau
Waikato 46 – 22 Hawke’s Bay
Wellington 31 – 54 Taranaki
Bay of Plenty 38 – 33 Manawatu
3 from 8, not only did my team lose but I had a real shocker!
This week is the final round of Mite10Cup games before the finals. Canterbury top the Premiership table and are the only team certain of qualification. Taranaki, Counties, Auckland and Tasman are fighting it out for the other 3 places. It should be a great round as many of these teams play each other and Tasman still have 2 games to play. Hawke’s Bay have finished last and will be relegated after gaining promotion last season.
In the Championship Wellington have moved ahead of Otago and both these sides will have home semifinals. Manawatu, North Harbour (who have 2 games to play) and Bay of Plenty are fighting it out for the final 2 places.
Western Sydney Rams 40 – 44 NSW Country Eagles
University of Canberra Vikings 36 – 42 Perth Spirit
Melbourne Rising 32 – 38 Sydney Rays
Brisbane City 58 – 52 Queensland Country
2 from 4, I went against conventional wisdom and was wrong.
In a Sydney revival Eagles topped the table ahead of the Rays. They were followed by 2 Super Rugby associated teams in the Rising and Spirit. Last years finalists who were the Vikings and City don’t even make the semi-finals this time around. As City have won the first 2 seasons of this competition we are going to see a new champion.
Join the #RugbyChat on twitter for an hour of discussion about the action this weekend. If you can’t make the hour then you can still give your view as the conversation keeps going over the following day.
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