Lots and lots of great rugby this weekend!
The Rugby Championship kicked off in the rain – a nuisance in Australia, a mini monsoon in South Africa. It’s obvious too, that the teams are not up to speed yet interms of handling and focus, how would be when they last played in June.
Bledisloe 1 was a real thriller. The All Blacks looked much more focused and coherent at the start, then gradually lost their way as the match went on, while Australia grew as the match went on. It was interesting to see where the reffing emphasis is this year. Scrum engagement was keenly watched – with the new engagement laws, it’s a critical moment, and defence in the 2 was under the spotlight. This resulted in a lot of penalties against the All Blacks – who could never be accused of a cynical bending of the rules. Two yellow cards for professional fouls in and around the 22 kept the match pretty well balanced. The Wallabies seem to be focused on a team ethic, with no big plays, while the All Blacks looked as deadly as ever on the break, but seemed to do more kicking as the match went on. The Wallabies look like they need more impactful loose forwards – apart from Hooper. It’s going to be all to play for next weekend, with the draw favouring the Springboks most.
Meanwhile, in Pretoria, the most exciting play happened in the first minute, as Pienaar finished off a great break away try. After that, it was armwestle, drop, niggle, and the point was a result for the Pumas – who could of got, and nearly deserved a draw. Pollard has been thrust a bit too far, a bit too fast, in that match it should have been all territory and keenly contested up and unders. The Boks have a lot of work to do in their scrums – and while their lineouts were wonly, they came good when the ref policed the line out gap. The Springboks look good on the break, but need to tighten up their handling. The Pumas need to start playing a style of their own, at the moment, it’s trying to disrupt the other team, and do things on the break – if they are going to get that elusive first win, we need to see more from them.
In the World Cup, Ireland played out a hard fought 18-25 loss against France. That was as intense as anything they’d played the whole tournament, with the score swing backwards and forwards the whole match. Great individual try from Grace Davitt, with a smart chip and recover. If France had had only an average scrum, Ireland would have taken it at a canter, but as it was, Irish no 8 Heather O’Brien was working a bit of wizardry to get the ball out of a scrum going backwards at a rate. Spence had a massive game, I’d love to see the stats on her carries. France ende with a try that give the scoreline a flattering look, but although we could have won, but, Get in! 4th! Great result all in all, the ladies have done us proud, and really put the ladies game on the map in Ireland. Looking forward to seeing them in action again in the 6N.
Finally, I saw Jonny Sexton do some great things, as Racing Metro ground out a great win over Montpellier. Some match!
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New Zealand
South Africa 13 - 6 Argentina