The All Blacks officially won The Rugby Championship with 2 rounds still to go and there was a host of other games on. Here is my round-up of all the action.
The Rugby Championship
New Zealand 41 – 13 South Africa
Australia 36 – 20 Argentina
2 from 2, I maintained my 100% record in this competition.
This game was deja vu with the Springboks staying in contention for about the first hour and then the All Blacks just running away with the game. Habana got the Springboks a good early try but straight from the kickoff Jantjies spilled the ball and Dagg walked over to touch down. The All Blacks just stepped up the pace and Julian Savea, who’s right back in form, bashed over in the corner. Suddenly it was 15-7 and basically it was all over. Again the All Blacks made the opposition miss a lot of tackles with the Springboks only making 75%. Also their lineout is going really well stealing a couple from a team that has been renowned for their lineout. However the stat that’s really telling is that the sides had similar possession, territory and runs but the All Blacks made more than twice the distance. It’s that ability to keep the ball alive to breakup the opposition defence that’s so devastating.
The Wallabies won this game in the first 13 minutes with 3 quick tries. Then they defended resolutely as the scoreboard pressure did all the rest. The Wallabies made the same number of tackles (168) as both sides combined in the All Blacks v Springboks game earlier. The scoreboard pressure really told on the Pumas as several times in the first half they kicked for the corner rather than take the points. There was plenty of time to go in the game and they really should have shown more composure but it wasn’t to be and they never really got close. This was the Australians back to something like their Rugby World Cup form and basing their game on a massive defensive effort and taking their opportunities when they came. The Pumas were shell-shocked but kept hold of the ball well and dominated possession and territory but with out Hernández providing that steadying influence could never get themselves back into the game.
So New Zealand were official crowned champions with 2 rounds to go. The battle for second is really on as the other sides have all beaten each other at home. It does really mean that this could be decided by Argentina taking their final “home” game against Australia to Twickenham. The Rugby Championship now takes a weekend off as we move from Australasia to Africa and South America for the next round of games.
Sale Sharks 13 – 26 Gloucester Rugby
Bath 37 – 22 Worcester Warriors
Exeter Chiefs 36 – 25 Harlequins
Saracens 27 – 12 Northampton Saints
Wasps 70 – 22 Bristol
Newcastle Falcons 13 – 14 Leicester Tigers
5 from 6, Gloucester upset Sale’s fantastic home record otherwise it was a good week of picking.
An early try as Burns spotted forwards in front of him and attacked the line set up Gloucester well. However a good team try from Sale was a good reply and it wasn’t until just before half time that Gloucester pulled away through a try after Morgan made a good break. After that it was the boot of Laidlaw that took the game away from Sale as they couldn’t breakdown a good Gloucester defence that made 150 tackles. Also Gloucester hands were good only giving up 1 scrum all game.
Worcester will be really disappointed after 2 lovely tries gave them a 6-17 halftime lead. However this was the old proverbial game to 2 halves with Bath dominating the second half. It was a mixture of good hands and running lines mixed with George Ford showing moments of lovely skill. Worcester did stem the tide briefly with 1 try as Watson missed his tackle but that was only a momentary respite. After such a good first half Worcester deserved something from this game.
Once the Chiefs got themselves going Quins weren’t really in this game. They did lead early on with 2 penalties in response to an Exeter try but after that they were always at least a converted try behind. 4 tries through both their forwards and backs before halftime secured the TBP for Exeter. Quins didn’t give up and their try in the second half did show their class with a couple of classy tries but they will need to be more resolute in defence to challenge the top 4.
In an encounter with plenty of pushing and shoving was initially a battle of the boot between Saracen and Saints. Saints were edging it 9-12 after 51 minutes when Waller who had been involved earlier got Yellow carded for dumping a player out of the ruck. During that 10 minutes of 14 men Saracens took control and scored 2 tires. Saints lost another player to the bin late on for repeated infringements and Saracens kicked themselves to victory. It looked like Saints had managed to get under the Saracens players skins but in the end it was their discipline that let them down. There are claims of biting by Ashton and there may be other citings from this game so the impact might be felt for sometime.
Wasps got an early try from a driving maul but Bristol kept it under control for the first quarter of the game. Then the flood gates opened as Wasps scored 4 tries and 29 points in the second quarter to lead 37-3 at half time with the TBP in the bank. Bristol were never going to comeback from that kind of deficit and all credit to them that they kept playing and scored 3 tries in the second half. Amazingly Wasps made more tackles than Bristol with 123 only missing 8! In comparison Bristol missed 25 of their 110 and whilst they knew there would be some big losses this was bigger than they would have hoped for. It will be interesting how they cope with this especially as they face Exeter next.
Falcons had a good opening quarter of the game scoring a try and taking a 10-0 lead. Despite having the majority of possession and territory they were unable score again until the 71 minutes. Tigers got the scoreboard ticking over but never could pull clear as they had a poor game. Both kickers struggled and should have done better only hitting 60% of their kicks at sticks. This really was an opportunity missed for Falcons as they missed a drop goal with time up to win the game.
Bath, Saracens and Wasps all have perfect records at the top of the table. Bristol are at the bottom on 1 point but Worcester are only a point ahead of them. Falcons have made the best start of the relegation candidates with 5 points from the opening 3 games.
Cardiff Blues 23 – 19 Glasgow Warriors
Ulster 19 – 8 Scarlets
Edinburgh 20 – 33 Leinster
Newport Gwent Dragons 16 – 20 Munster
Ospreys 64 – 10 Benetton Treviso
4 from 5, not many saw Cardiff winning that or Zebre/Connacht getting abandoned.
Ospreys, Ulster and Cardiff maintained their perfect records and are only separated by bonus points. At the other end there are 4 teams without a win, 2 of those though were facing each other this weekend when the game got abandoned. So Zebre and Connacht will have to get back together and play again.
Lyon 25 – 20 Toulouse
Pau 23 – 6 Stade Francais
Bayonne 9 – 21 Montpellier
Brive 29 – 28 La Rochelle
Clermont Auvergne 40 – 16 Bordeaux Begles
Castres 46 – 9 Grenoble
Racing Metro 41 – 30 Toulon
4 from 7, I moved away from the “back the home team” theory and it backfired.
That 1 point away loss for La Rochelle means that Clermont are the only unbeaten team and top the table. Of the big names Racing sit in third, Toulon are mid table and Toulouse are eleventh after losing their last 3 games. Grenoble are still bottom but Bayonne have been unable to take advantage and sit 1 point above them.
Cheetahs 37 – 29 Lions
Blue Bulls 57 – 20 Griquas
Sharks 53 – 0 Eastern Province Kings
Western Province 31 – 23 Pumas
4 from 4, a predictable week but you still have to call them right.
There are only 2 rounds left until the finals and 6 teams are fighting it out for those semi-final spots. The Cheetahs will be there and will probably be the top seed. The Sharks and Bulls have the points but the Griquas, Western Province and Lions have a game in hand. All 3 are more than 5 points back so unless other results go their way it looks like only 1 out of 3 will make it. The Kings are odds on favourites to finish last as they have only picked up 1 bonus point so far but it will come down to the last game of the season when they are away to the Pumas who are also winless.
Counties Manukau 29 – 30 Taranaki
Southland 29 – 43 Hawke’s Bay
Tasman 33 – 23 Northland
Wellington 24 – 10 Bay of Plenty
Otago 24 – 13 North Harbour
Manawatu 19 – 13 Canterbury
Auckland 26 – 30 Counties Manukau
Waikato 20 – 20 Taranaki
5 from 8, it was going so well as I got the first 5 right….
Despite picking up their first loss of the season Canterbury remain top of the Premiership by 1 point from Taranaki. Taranaki failed by the smallest of margins to win the Ranfurly Shield from Waikato as they drew in the last game of the round. Hawk’s Bay still sit in the relegation spot despite picking up their first win of the season.
In the Championship Otago are still run away leaders and are not the only team that has won all their games. Wellington. Manawatu and North Harbour round out the playoff places but Bay of Plenty are on the same points as North Harbour.
Sydney Rays 16 – 36 NSW Country Eagles
Melbourne Rising 46 – 28 Brisbane City
University of Canberra Vikings 22 – 16 Western Sydney Rams
Perth Spirit 66 – 36 Queensland Country
4 from 4, another perfect set of picks! What a week.
Eagles are still unbeaten and consigned the Rays to their first loss of the season. The Vikings and Spirit round out the top 4. The biggest shock is the poor form of Brisbane but they have been impacted by a lot of injuries. The Rams and Queensland are both still looking for their first wins.
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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