We witnessed a wonderful weekend of rugby both at the Rugby World Cup and in the domestic competitions some of which were kicking off and others at their finals. Here is my review of the weekend’s action.
Rugby World Cup
South Africa 18 – 20 New Zealand
Argentina 15 – 29 Australia
1 from 2, it appears I over thought it.
New Zealand dominated the territory and possession in the first half despite giving up more penalties. Only 1 try though meant that they trailed South Africa’s 3 penalties at held time. The Boks were being very disciplined even if they couldn’t breakdown the All Blacks defence and so Carter resorted to a drop goal to keep in touch. Barrett then finished off a move to score the winning try. The All Blacks were more dangerous with ball in hand beating 20 defenders to 3 by South Africa. From all the talk you’d think that New Zealand used offloads but this was an attritional game with only 3 offloads. The reason that South Africa couldn’t take advantage of those penalties was that surprisingly the Boks lineout failed losing the ball 4 times.
Australia had clearly done their homework as they read the Argentine attack and got 2 interceptions in the first 2 minutes. The second of those led to the opening try and Australia didn’t look back. Ashley-Cooper picked up 2 tries by keeping his width and picking up miss passes to finish off moves. Argentina did look dangerous being able to break the Australian line but losing the breakdown meant that they turned over the ball too often. Early in the second half the Pumas lost Hernandez who had been pulling the strings and they didn’t look capable breaking down the Wallabies after that. Australia put in a big defensive shift and for the second time this weekend the team with the higher penalty count won.
Gloucester Rugby 15 – 17 Saracens
Sale Sharks 27 – 13 Worcester Warriors
Northampton Saints 42 – 16 Newcastle Falcons
Wasps 16 – 9 Bath
Exeter Chiefs 38 – 11 London Irish
Leicester Tigers 22 – 19 Harlequins
5 from 6, a second week where I’m only 1 pick away from a clean sweep.
Twelvetrees again had a good game with the boot but this time is wasn’t to be enough. With both sides happy to put boot to ball, it was an early try (the only of the game) followed by defence that won the game. Gloucester were the more attacking but couldn’t break down the Saracens defence.
Sharks got an early try though Cipriani and even though Warriors came back to led through a couple of penalties it was short lived. Sharks quickly replied with another try and a penalty stretched the gap to 7 points. The dominance told with another try early in the second half that sealed the win. Warriors did pull a try back but Sharks picked up an important TBP at the death with their 4th try. Warriors were forced to make 186 tackles to only 48 by Sharks, that will not only tell in this game but also in recovery and over the season will take it’s toll.
Saints bounced back from their opening weekend loss. The pack laid the foundation with and early try. The flyhalves then had a battle with the boot that led to 3 penalties each before halftime. In the second half Saints took full advantage of Falcons being reduced to 14 men to rack up 2 tries and put the game to bed. The TBP was claimed with quarter of an hour to go and there was still time for a try apiece.
Wasps Bath was a tight affair which will shock many as these two reputations for running exciting rugby. In the first half that led to two penalties for the home side to just one for the visitors. The game then changed before the hour mark when a penalty try was given for holding back a player after a charged down kick. Two late penalties for Bath got them the LBP but was too little to challenge for the win.
Exeter proved to be the dangerous with ball in hand as both sides had to put in defensive shifts. Steenson who is known as a kicking flyhalf played what was in front of him to score the first try. Irish pulled a penalty back before the Exeter forwards scored 2 tries to put the home side in control by the half hour mark. Irish did get another penalty but still trailed by 13 at half time. The TBP and game were effectively sealed just after the break when Exeter scored another try. The icing on the cake was two tries for Nowell on his return from World Cup duty.
Tigers won a tight game against Quins where both tries came from lineouts. In the first half Bell’s boot initially gave Tigers the lead until a late try by Clifford gave Quins a 1 point advantage at half time. Evens boot then stretched the lead in the second half until Tigers lineout try with a little under 10 minutes left won the game.
Lions 32 – 24 Western Province
Lions took the title and in doing so ended the season unbeaten.
Canterbury 25 – 23 Auckland
Hawke’s Bay 26 – 25 Wellington
Canterbury won their 7th title in 8 years and Hawke’s Bay may have lost the Ranfurly Shield but get promoted to the Premiership.
University of Canberra Vikings 50 – 34 Melbourne Rising
Brisbane City 47 – 32 Sydney Stars
As expected Brisbane will host Canberra in the final.
Racing Metro 92 27 – 18 Stade Francais
Castres 23 – 31 Grenoble
Section Paloise 13 – 18 Brive
Toulon 61 – 3 US Oyonnax
Bordeaux Begles 12 – 10 Toulouse
Montpellier 24 – 19 Clermont Auvergne
La Rochelle 23 – 6 Agen
Clermont suffered their first defeat of the season allowing Montpellier to close to within 1 point. At the other end Agen and Oyonnax prop up the table and need to pick up points before they start to lose touch.
Scarlets 25 – 22 Munster
Newport Gwent Dragons 19 – 12 Benetton Treviso
Ulster 24 – 17 Cardiff Blues
Leinster 23 – 18 Glasgow Warriors
Ospreys 16 – 21 Connacht Rugby
Zebre 19 – 11 Edinburgh
Scarlets are unbeaten and top of the table but due to bonus points Connacht are equal with them on points. Even with that win by Zebre the two Italian sides are still at the bottom of the table.