Sunday, December 2, 2012

England crush, Wales falter (again!) and Leinster, Ulster and Munster look good

CJ Stander (picture http://bit.ly/SEGbKm)

So I called one Northern Hemisphere win, but I got the wrong one… I put Wales/Australia on Sky+ and I have to say was blown away by England, and especially by their forwards. Their front row was epic, the locks majestic, and the lose trio hungry and aggressive. Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Joe Launchbury, Tom Woods – not fair on the players I left out, but they really stood out. The back line came to the party too, Ben Youngs had his best match in a white jersey, Owen Farell did everything he was asked, and Manu Tualagi came of age in the center. There’s been a touch of arrogance about the All Blacks this tour, and it came back to haunt them on Saturday. Of course, some of the English players got arrogant before the end of the match, Ashton with his swan dive, and Tulagi sauntering in for his try. They should both have been touching down and running over to forwards to thank them for all the hard work. Several AB’s went missing – was Messam even playing? DC was invisible, Aaron Smith was woeful, the front row only featured in England scrum penalties, and Conrad Smith was at his worst and best. Fair play for Lancaster for emptying his bench early, and giving his whole squad a taste for beating the All Blacks. And fair play to the England ladies for their 3-0 shutout of the Black ferns.

After that I watched the Wales Australia match, which like drinking Tesco value cider after Veuve Clicquot. Wales should have won that match, and only finally butchered it in the last two minutes. Neither side was firing much, Leigh Halfpenny is a perennial performer for Wales, Warburton was good, and Cuthbert was willing and able. But the Welsh line out was shocking, and I don’t know what’s happened to their attack but they don’t look capable of scoring a try at the moment. Australia did the basics Ok, tackled, hung in there and got a barely deserved win.

Pretty well straight after that I went into the Leinster match, and saw them fecking a round a bit before they settled into their rhythm and got the scoreline moving.  Sexton is a in a class of his own right now, he’s just oozing with confidence, Mc Fads is such a consistent performer for Leinster, and D’Arce is revelation at 13. Bent looked dead handy too. Bring on Clermont!

I missed the Munster match, which was pity because it sounded like a stormer, and a great home debut for CJ Stander.  Connacht nearly cracked Edinburgh, and missed by a whisker.

Finally, I caught the Scarlets /Ulster match, played in atrocious conditions in front of just about nobody. What is it with Welsh teams and their crowds. Could they not do deals for schoolboys to at least get some bums on seats? For the record, Ulster put in another good performance, playing at theright end of the field, and grinding out the win. Great to see Rory Best back, and Roger Wilson had a decent outing.

International Match
Saturday , December 1
England 38 - 21 New Zealand 
Wales 12 - 14 Australia
RaboDirect PRO12
Sunday , December 2
Scarlets 12 - 19 Ulster 
Saturday , December 1
Benetton Treviso 32 - 13 Newport Gwent D'gons 
Connacht 23 - 24 Edinburgh 
Leinster 37 - 7 Zebre 
Munster 31 - 3 Glasgow 
Friday , November 30
Ospreys 33 - 12 Cardiff Blues

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