Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ireland Scotland, Wales and England all do OK and the All Blacks shine

Saturday , August 6
 Scotland 10 - 6 Ireland
 England 23 - 19 Wales
 New Zealand 30 - 14 Australia

Starting off with Ireland/Scotland, this was a match where I was expecting to concentrate on the Irish ‘performance’, to draw attention away from the fairly sizeable loss they were likely to incur. Well, never mind that, they nearly pinched a win, leading up until the last 5 minutes. Scotland were fairly near full strength, whereas Ireland only had 3 or 4 potential first choices playing. So it went pretty right for Ireland, and fairly wrong for Scotland, they beat our first team last year, and I was expecting a bit more from them. Sean Lamont was their stand out player, the only one who seemed to be able to make a break. It’s a bit harsh, but Scotland so badly need a bit of flair in their backs, a bit of incision otherwise it’s just waves of attacks with players running straight into tacklers.

Now to that Ireland ‘performance’ - stand out players were Fitzgerald, getting back to his best, Kearney who has a few rough edges but looks his back, and to my amazement, Leamy who lead from the front, give away no penalties/yellow/red/cards and did everything you’d expect from a captain and an international professional. Trimble also played well, and depth in the wings is looking good. O’Leary did OK, his all round play is good, but he needs to pick the pace up, as that suits Ireland’s game. Boss look faster and passed crisper when he came on. Ireland defended really well, that was a fantastic effort, and looked much sharper than Scotland on attack. Pity the match wasn’t 5 minutes shorter! Flannery had a good little run at the end.

All Blacks/Australia

There was a marked difference between this match and the other two, these sides were both full strength and up to speed. Speed was a big difference, the pace was breathless. And you’d have to say, the Wallabies aren’t often going to play that well and lose. They were made to look ordinary by a masterclass from the All Blacks – defend, defend, then score with the one opportunity presented. Dan Carter was godlike, from the kicking tee, kicks out of hand, line breaks, tackles turnovers, drop kicks, he was unbelievable really. All the New Zealanders were excellent, with Conrad Smith putting in another star turn.

Quade Cooper was given no space, put under huge pressure and didn’t cope too well, but he’ll be back. O’Connor and Genia played well, Higginbotham made some good runs, and Ioane was excellent as always. They need a bit more beef at lock, and look a bit short of ideas at centre. All the sides preoccupied with size at centre (England, South Africa, Australia at the moment) should have a look at Brian O’Driscoll and Conrad Smith and think about skill over size. So a loss for the Aussies, but I’d say they’ll fancy their chances against the Boks.

Finally England/Wales. Don’t much like the England black, especially at home, what’s wrong with the white? Wales looked closer to full team than England, but quite a few late minute changes, with Stephen Jones dropping out at the last minute, and Stodart leaving the field injured in the second half, they ended up a lot more experimental. England had size, size, size all over the pitch, new/returning players to look at, and some them put their hand up. Tuilagi had a good debut, Armitage looked really sharp, and Stevens put in some sterling work. Some put their hands down as well – Flutey was pretty invisible, and then probably in no danger but I didn’t see Tom Palmer do too much.

Wales defended well, and looked more incisive than England, with Williams, North and Warburton all having fantastic matches. I know England are going to get better, but they have work to do, and need to get more creativity into centre – I was thinking maybe Armitage? Fodden and Flood will get them pumping again I’m sure. Wales with a few more first choice players are going to be really hard to beat at home, next week. England Won, but it was prey well honours even performance wise.

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