Tom Walker looks back at the first weekend in the Autumn Internationals series, and feel free to share your thoughts on the two games.
Gatland’s face sums it all up
Wales 12 New Zealand 17
Dan Carter shrugged off injury concerns to star for New Zealand as Wales fell just short in their bid to beat the All Blacks for the first time in 56 years.
Afterwards, coach Warren Gatland claimed Carter was lucky to escape punishment for a high tackle on replacement Martin Roberts.
And although a sin-binning may have changed the final outcome, New Zealand thoroughly deserved their victory.
Wales hurled themselves at the visitors early on but struggled to break down a ferocious defence and the two sides were level 6-6 at the break.
The fine line between losing against a southern hemisphere team and beating one was underlined when the All Blacks showed Wales how to translate intent into points.
Hooker Andrew Hore powered over after good work from Ma’a Nonu. Things almost went from bad to worse for Wales but two TMO decisions went their way to slow New Zealand’s surge.
With five minutes left, lock Alun-Wyn Jones intercepted a pass and raced towards the visitor’s 22 before the defence managed to regroup, but that was as close as they came to scoring. Despite injury problems of their own, Wales showed the promise to suggest they are closing the gap on New Zealand.
They will be buoyed by their performance, their pride at close losses has been replaced by a genuine disappointment at a missed opportunity – an opportunity not likely to go begging against Samoa next Friday, even if Gatland rings the changes.
England 9 Australia 18
Steve Borthwick’s post-match assessment of his side’s performance on Saturday is arguably the greatest yardstick of England’s current problems.
Borthwick claimed there were huge positives from England’s uninspiring showing “starting with the work ethic the boys showed,” despite losing to an Australian outfit who had only won one of their previous seven matches.
But England need more than commitment and a dogged defence when Argentina and New Zealand visit Twickenham to indicate some improvement since Martin Johnson took charge a year ago.
Despite a heroic performance from the returning Jonny Wilkinson, Johnson’s depleted England huffed and puffed without delivering telling blows.
Wilkinson, in his first international for eighteen months, opened the scoring after two minutes with a customary drop goal and soon slotted a penalty to double the lead.
But the alarm bells rang when the magnificent Will Genia crossed for his first try for his country and although in the 26th minute, the boot of Wilkinson stretched England’s lead, it was to be his team’s final points of the match. Australia cruised in the second half and Adam Ashley-Cooper bulldozed over late-on to finish the contest.
Quick ball will be paramount next weekend. Paul Hodgson should relieve the hesitant Danny Care of scrum-half duties and James Haskell will hope to start after impressing from the bench.
By Tom Walker