That was perhaps the busiest weekend of rugby this year with some wonderful rugby. Here is my review of the weekend’s action.
Rugby World Cup
South Africa 23 – 19 Wales
New Zealand 62 – 13 France
Ireland 20 – 43 Argentina
Australia 35 – 34 Scotland
3 from 4, I thought that one of the 6 Nations sides would make it.
Wales butchered a chance early in the game when Lydiate got in the way of Bigger passing the ball wide. An early score like that could have put Wales in a winning position. They did get the only try of the first half but Pollard’s boot gave the Boks a 2 points lead. In the second half the Boks dominated possession and territory but didn’t look like being able to break the Welsh down. In the end a poor defensive decision off the back of a scrum lost the game, the tightest of margins.
The All Blacks came out to put ghosts of 8 years ago to rest. This is a side that raises to the occasion and they played unstoppable rugby. They racked up a whole host of records as they went on a scoring spree. They only question is if they see playing the Boks a side that they know well as an occasion? Because when they are not trying to make a point they are much less of a side.
Argentina came out of the traps and blitzed Ireland with two early tries. Having lost another player to injury and with leaders missing Ireland could easily have collapsed. Through Fitzgerald though Ireland came back to trail by 10 at half time and an early second half try made it a 3 point game. Penalties were exchanged and then Argentina pulled away with 2 more tries in the last quarter to make a dominating score line.
All the talk is about the end of the game and the decision to give Australia a penalty that won the game. The story though should be more about how Australia failed to take their chances and let Scotland stay in the game. Australia only gave up 6 penalties but 5 of those were in kickable range. They also turned over the ball 17 times including an interception and charge down tries. Add into that the lack of defending around the ruck for the first try and it’s surprising they were in the game at all. The flip side is that Australia managed to create 5 tries and be part of an amazing game.
Harlequins 26 – 21 Wasps
Worcester Warriors 13 – 12 Northampton Saints
Newcastle Falcons 27 – 39 Gloucester Rugby
Bath 19 – 17 Exeter Chiefs
Saracens 41 – 3 Sale Sharks
London Irish 16 – 28 Leicester Tigers
4 form 6, not many folks picked Warriors start to the season and I put too much faith in some preseason games.
The Rugby World Cup meant there was no London double header to kick the season off. Quins hosted Wasps in a game with plenty running with the ball. Gopperth got some early points for his new club but the old warrior Evans started and completed a try to add to his two penalties. Wasps managed a couple of penalties but trailed by 4 at half time. Another early try in the second half put Quins clear and a late reply from Daly was too little too late.
Warriors pulled off the upset of the round. Saints took an early lead through Myler’s boot but Warriors came back through a penalty and a try. In a tight second half Saints pulled ahead with a further 2 penalties. The Heathcote dropped a goal with the last kick of the game to win it. It was an amazing kick considering that he had missed 4 kicks previously. They aren’t going to win many games though if they keep missing that many kicks.
Newcastle will be feeling very uncomfortable having seen Warriors result. Their poor discipline allowed Gloucester to build a lead through the boot before adding a couple of tries. That added up to a 24 point lead and it looked all over. The second half started the same with a another penalty. Then Falcons comeback started but three tries wasn’t to be enough as Twelvetrees boot kept Gloucester out of reach.
Exeter couldn’t have started better with an immediate counter attacking try. Soon after Exeter were held up over the line Bath replied with a try of their own. Steenson’s boot though put Exeter back in the lead by 1 point at half time. The second half saw the sides swapping penalties and it was a bit like pass the parcel with just a matter of when the music was going to stop. Ford’s late penalty won it but Slade still had a chance to snatch it back but the dropkick didn’t go over.
Saracens dominated and Itoje who must be one of the youngest players to captain in the Premiership must think life is easy. Saracens pickup an early try but they went about building a lead with a couple of penalties from Hodgson. Cipriani did reply with one of his own after missing on but that’s as good as it got. Saracens got another 2 tries to close out the half with a comfortable 24 point lead. It took time for Saracens to claim the TBP but that came on the hour mark and they added another one in the closing stages.
Tigers kicked their way to what was a much tighter victory than the score line suggests. They opened up an early lead through a penalty and their only try of the game. After an exchange of penalties Irish lost Ojo to the bin after 20 minutes. Instead of Tigers using this to pull away Irish got their only try of the game and closed to within 3. After a few more penalties Tigers half a 6 point lead at halftime. That was quickly trimmed to 3 in the second half but that’s as good as it got for Irish. There more penalties with two in the last six minutes pulled Tigers away. Amazingly Irish gave up twelve penalties the same as Tigers but 8 were in kickable range.
Blue Bulls 18 – 23 Western Province
Lions 43 – 33 Cheetahs
The undefeated Lions will host Western Province in the final.
Auckland 44 – 24 Tasman
Hawke’s Bay 33 – 26 Bay of Plenty
Canterbury 46 – 20 Taranaki
Wellington 34 – 14 Otago
Canterbury will host Auckland in the premiership final whilst Hawks Bay will host Wellington in the Championship final.
Connacht Rugby 34 – 15 Zebre
Glasgow Warriors 29 – 15 Newport Gwent Dragons
Scarlets 25 – 14 Leinster
Edinburgh 16 – 10 Ulster
Munster 35 – 27 Cardiff Blues
Benetton Treviso 22 – 25 Ospreys
Munster, Scarlets and Edinburgh have won all their games and at the other end of table Zebre and Treviso have lost all theirs.
Clermont Auvergne 35 – 10 Section Paloise
US Oyonnax 9 – 18 Racing Metro 92
Grenoble 19 – 30 Montpellier
Agen 16 – 31 Bordeaux Begles
Stade Francais 22 – 9 Castres
Toulouse 39 – 22 La Rochelle
Amazingly only 5 out of 14 teams have winning records with Clermont sitting top of the pile currently.
Queensland Country 8 – 42 University of Canberra Vikings
NSW Country Eagles 50 – 24 North Harbour Rays
Brisbane City 71 – 24 Greater Sydney Rams
Melbourne Rising 18 – 10 Sydney Stars
That’s the end of the regular season and next weekend will see the semifinals with Canberra Vikings playing Melbourne Rising and Brisbane City hosting Sydney Stars. There are 2 types of sides in this competition and we are seeing three of the sides closely associated with Super Rugby franchise making the playoffs.