November Internationals 2014 Round 3 Review

Another weekend of good International rugby with more close games and a couple of surprises. Here’s my round-up.

How did the predictions go?

First up here is the link to my predictions.

7 out of 9 isn’t bad, I trusted my English lads too much and France really seemed to have turned a corner. Nailed all the second tier games this week which is a little surprising.

Samoa 23 v 13 Canada

Samoa scored first and never gave up the lead, but it wasn’t as simple as that. There were plenty of scores against the run of play and this was a lesson in execution. Canada were simple not precise enough and Samoa showed how quickly they can punish you if you make a mistake. A predictable result but the Canadians were more competitive than expected.

Canada take on Romania next weekend in another game that be repeated next year at the world cup. Where as Samoa have a date at Twickenham.

Key Stat: Not Available

England 28 v 31 South Africa

If you look at the stats you wonder how England lost this, South Africa only had 3 clean breaks and 1 defender beaten to England’s 8 and 22. England only miss 1 tackle all day compared to South Africa’s 22. We talked last week about Ireland having better game nous than South Africa but they turned the tables this weekend.

England were slow and indecisive, when balls didn’t go to hand players were standing looking around, the same thing happened to the All Blacks but they were all moving to recover straight away. The stats and close scoreline show that England have the basic skills to win these games but it’s the thinking or ability just to react that needs sorting out.

South Africa will be very please with this result after last week’s loss. With Italy up next they should be able to build some momentum heeding into the Wales game.

Key Stat: Drop goals England 0 South Africa 1

When they needed to, South Africa could get themselves into the right position to get the vital points to go two scores up and close it out.

Romania 13 v 18 Japan

Romania’s autumn campaign is quickly slipping away from them, they managed to score the only try of the game but even that was a penalty try. The problem is they went for 50 mins without scoring from just before the half hour mark to near the end. During that time Japan were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over with penalties.

This was a much-needed win for Japan after back to back defeats to the New Zealand Maori. It gets them back on track but they will be worried that they weren’t able to get across the white wash but the travel from Japan during the week will have taken its toll.

Key Stat: Not Available

Italy 18 v 20 Argentina

As anticipated both scrums slugged this one out. The differences were that Italy played in the right areas of the pitch gaining kickable penalties but weren’t able to score a try. Argentina defended well and managed to score a couple of tries which was enough to take this one.

Argentina will need to put up a good performance against France to erase last weekends defeat to Scotland and consider this window a success. Italy have South Africa next and will know that there is a lot of work to do over the next year.

Key Stat: Territory (1H/2H) Italy 52% (35%/70%) Argentina 48% (65%/30%)

Winning at halftime and 70% territory in the second half but still losing? Italy really need to find a cutting edge and an ability to score some tries. Where as Argentina need be less naive.

Wales 17 v 13 Fiji

Wales used one of their get out of jail free cards here and that’s with Fiji down to 14 men for nearly half the game. Both sides should have scored more, with Wales being denied a try when the player wasn’t held in the tackle. But Fiji should have scored two more tries with one knock and a butchered overlap to blame. As you can tell this wasn’t a game of great quality. But if Gatland is blaming the ref in team meetings like he was after the game then he is being delusional. Again the crowd was well down on capacity and if they keep playing like this that’s not going to change.

Wale are really going to have to step it up because this kind of performance is not going to worry either New Zealand or South Africa. Fiji finish off with the USA that is a must win game after coming up short in both games so far.

Key Stat: Meters run with ball Wales 574 Fiji 478

This wasn’t a Barbarians exhibition game, those numbers are crazy. Especially with such a low score line, but pairing this with turnovers conceded Wales 20 Fiji 15 and tackles missed Wales 16 Fiji 33 tells the story of poor quality rugby.

Scotland 16 v 24 New Zealand

Something is going on up there north of the border, Scotland were in this game until an All Black try 8 minuets from time. Yes this was a very much changed New Zealand side but even so there were plenty of players who would walk into most international teams. I’m not trying to suggest that Scotland looked the better side but they were competitive.

In the first half Scotland gave New Zealand took much respect but after the break clearly they had been told to throw it around some more. It was only once they had run out of ideas and energy, so the ball was being passed to stationary surprised people, that New Zealand got the field position to close out the game.

Scotland need to finish strongly against Tonga and then we find out in the 6 nations if this is a false dawn or finally Scotland have a coach who can bring the best out of them.

New Zealand were much changed but still had a couple of players who would be in some people’s all time 15. The All Blacks just aren’t putting teams to the sword at the moment and that’s got to be slightly worrying as we close in on the world cup.

Key Stat: Passes Scotland 129 New Zealand 217

As someone said on twitter, the All Blacks get electrocuted in training for holding onto the ball. You could see the difference in the first half with Scotland going from ruck to ruck with players taking it up into contact off 1 pass. New Zealand just had so much more going on so there were always offloads, options, movement and all at pace.

Tonga 40 v 12 USA

The USA may have scored the first try and managed to be within two points at the break but the second half was all one way traffic. But 3 tries in 6 minutes starting on 49 minutes really cemented this one. At least this will give the USA a good idea of what they will probably face next weekend against Fiji. For Tonga it’s Scotland and trying to win three in a row.

Key Stat: Not Available

France 29 v 26 Australia

How did France get 6 shots at goal (making 5) with less than 40% territory? Never mind also score 2 tries. France may just be coming out of their doldrums, Thomas has been great on the wing but there are several new faces in the side. This week they had to defend for large parts of the game making nearly twice as many tackles as Australia. That shows great togetherness and fight for the cause.

Australia had the ball and territory but could just not get the points and struggled in the second half until France had a player yellow carded but by then it was too little too late.

France finish with Argentina where they will be looking for their third win in a row, whilst Australia carry on with European power houses in Ireland and England.

Key Stat: Tackles made (missed) France 167 (14) Australia 87 (17)

This was a resolute performance by France and promises much more to come.

Ireland 49 v 7 Georgia

Georgia managed to keep this close win the first half only giving up 9 points. After the break it was a different story with Ireland running away with it. Schmidt will have learnt that his second string will keep going for it and won’t let frustrations like they must have felt in the first half get the better of them. Ireland have Australia next up and a win there will shorten their world cup odds and make for a very good November series.

For Georgia it’s probably not far off what they expected and their main game comes up next with Japan. They may be a player short as surely their flanker is going to get cited for his boot in a Irish players face accidental or not.

Key Stat: Tackles made (missed) Ireland 100 (11) Georgia 187 (32)

It would be interesting to know how many of those missed tackles were in the second half as the side tired. Great shift by Georgia and well done to keep it tight in the first half.

French Barbarians 35 v 14 Namibia

I didn’t realise that this one was happening until I saw the result. So sorry it got missed in the predictions. Namibia took an early lead before the barbarians took control of the game. Mass substitutions destroyed the second half otherwise the score would have been higher. Clearly Namibia now know that there is loads of work to do before the world cup next year. Or to be honest they are going to struggle and best just enjoy the experience.

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