Best of the Weekend: Big Three remain unscathed

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England stumble in Dunedin

A much-improved performance from New Zealand saw them take a decisive 2-0 lead in their test series against England, following a thrilling 28-27 victory in Dunedin. In all honesty, the scoreline flatters England, who scored two late tries, as the visitors were blown away by a dominant 30 minute spell after the interval by New Zealand. England were actually in charge of the game at half time, leading 10-6 thanks to a well-taken Marland Yarde try, and perhaps should have taken a bigger margin into the break.

The Ben Smith-inspired All Blacks then kicked into another gear in the second half, and tries from Smith, Julian Savea and Ma’a Nonu gave the hosts an unassailable lead with time beginning to run down. Credit should be given to England however, who didn’t give up, and although the TMO awarded Mike Brown’s try, which looked not to be grounded, a well-worked score for Chris Ashton at the death allowed England to narrow the deficit to a single point.

Two penalties silence France

There are a lot of adjectives that could be used to describe Australia’s 6-0 victory over France in Melbourne, none of them flattering. It was a dire game, strewn with errors, and although neither team seemed determined to win the game, it was Australia’s unwillingness to lose it which seemed to swing the result in their favour. France deserve some measure of praise for recovering from one of the worst international performances in recent memory last weekend, but they were still well below the standards they would usually expect of themselves. A hard-earned edge at the set-piece, particularly at scrum-time, will give Philippe Saint-Andre some hope ahead of the final test, but optimism certainly won’t be abounding in the French camp this week.

Wales put to the sword by efficient Springboks

The ‘Big Three’ rounded off a clean sweep of their northern hemisphere opponents this weekend as South Africa clinically dispatched a weakened Welsh team in Durban, winning 38-16. With high-profile stars like Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny ruled out of the tour through injury, expectations for Wales were restrained, but South Africa’s dominance in almost all facets of the game will still have been very disappointing for Warren Gatland and his charges.

Like Ben Smith earlier in the day, Willie le Roux was on fire for the Springboks, and involved in almost everything good that the South African backs conjured up. Bryan Habana crossed the try line twice, and he was joined by Duane Vermeulen, le Roux and Cornal Hendricks, whilst Wales were only able to offer a superb solo try from Alex Cuthbert in response.

Ireland wrap up a 2-0 series win in Argentina

Ireland were victorious in Tucuman, beating hosts Argentina 23-17, and secured their first ever series win in Argentina in the process. Tries from Simon Zebo and Ian Madigan lit up a fairly lacklustre game, but once again, Ireland will be frustrated that they were not able to put away a severely-depleted Argentinean side with more aplomb. A number of Irish players improved their stock heading into the Autumn Internationals later in the year, but there are still significant questions about their midfield combination. You can only beat the opposition in front of you, which Ireland did this summer, but with neither youngsters blooded nor comprehensive victories recorded, there’s a buzz of apathy towards their tour of Argentina.

Scotland almost scalped by Canada

Scotland were made to work extremely hard by Canada, but ultimately emerged with a 19-17 victory in Toronto. Two unconvincing performances from the Scots this summer have not prevented them from beating the best North America has to offer, and Vern Cotter will happily take a 100% record in his tenure as Scotland coach into their game against Argentina net week. It’s hard to lay too much criticism at Scotland’s door given that they are adapting to a new coach, but given what we have seen from Argentina so far this summer, Scotland will need to take their game to another level if they are to avoid a humbling defeat in Cordoba.

England and South Africa make JWC final

England and South Africa teams took contrasting routes to the final, with the former putting Ireland to the sword, 42-15, whilst the Baby Boks were made to work hard by an improved New Zealand side, but managed to grind out a 32-25 victory. An intense battle between their two packs awaits on Friday, with both sides eager to win their second Junior World Championship trophy, whilst Ireland will take on New Zealand for third place, and top seeding for next year’s tournament that goes along with it.

Try of the Week goes to Alex Cuthbert for his excellent solo try against South Africa. The wing went almost the length of the pitch and beat both Habana and le Roux on his way to a consolation try for Wales (skip to 3.18 in video below).

Video credit: NZAUTV

Two fairly obvious candidates for Heroes of the Week in Ben Smith and Willie le Roux, but I’m ignoring both of them for a pair of hookers, Nathan Charles and Matthew Rees. Charles, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and Rees, who recently recovered from a battle with testicular cancer, have both overcome huge adversity to be playing at the pinnacle of rugby union. Both players have inspirational stories, but let’s not forget, they’re also cracking rugby players.

Not much trouble naming the Villain of the Week, as it was certainly the Australia vs France game in Melbourne. To those of you who watched it, it really was a case of 80 minutes of your lives lost – more so if you stuck around for the half time and full time analysis.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

8 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Big Three remain unscathed

  1. The Junior World Cup has been displaying some great rugby and the two games this weekend where excellent viewing. From the looks of it England have the talent under development to be competing at the highest level for the next decade.

    More coverage of this event please!

  2. Cuthbert’s try was amazing. We all know he had the pace to do it but I wasn’t sure he’d evade all the defenders.
    The swerving he did was genius, he simply knew exactly what line he had to take to beat the not inconsiderable amount of men in front of him.
    He’s been quiet as of late but that was a world class solo effort, more of that please.

  3. Try again…

    Wales were pretty abject. Need to start with the finishing XV next weekend to see if the improvements when they came on were 100% SA slacking off or not. Dan Biggar needs to learn how to pass and/or not throw the ball forward when 2 feet from the line. Would love to see JW on for Cuthbert or North to see if we could use the pace that Morgan and Davies generated when they came on. A watershed moment for this team – will we stick with the team that shipped the first 30 points or go for the team that scored a try and made a stack more line breaks?

    England were looking good I thought but then NZ just went whoosh .. blistering attacking rugby for 20 mins, blew their opposition away. Agree with this blog that the score slightly flatters England – comfortably second best on the day.

    Argentina, so, so close and with a lot of 1st teamers missing. Ire look a bit lost in the midfield without a BOD or D’Arcy to bring some direction sometimes.

  4. 3rd time?

    Wales were pretty abject. Need to start with the finishing XV next weekend to see if the improvements when they came on were 100% SA slacking off or not. Dan Biggar needs to learn how to pass and/or not throw the ball forward when 2 feet from the line. Would love to see JW on for Cuthbert or North to see if we could use the pace that Morgan and Davies generated when they came on. A watershed moment for this team – will we stick with the team that shipped the first 30 points or go for the team that scored a try and made a stack more line breaks?

    England were looking good I thought but then NZ just went whoosh .. blistering attacking rugby for 20 mins, blew their opposition away. Agree with this blog that the score slightly flatters England – comfortably second best on the day.

    Argentina, so, so close and with a lot of 1st teamers missing. Ire look a bit lost in the midfield without a BOD or D’Arcy to bring some direction sometimes.

  5. Seriously Australia v France 6-0, good grief!

    Scotland showing their world beating qualities again almost slipping up against Canada, I know they are playing Argentina and South Africa next but what have this game and the one against The USA proved apart from Scotland are arguably the second worst top tier side in the Northern Hemisphere?

    If they are wanting to compete why are they not testing themselves against Fiji, Samoa or even Tonga whilst the top four Northern Hemisphere sides test themsevles against to best of the South, remember the Scottish Chief Exec said there aim was to win the next World Cup, good luck with that fella.

    1. That is hilarious!! Might be the only table Scotland top for a while though so let’s cut them some slack…

  6. 3rd final in 4 years for eng U20. Can I dream that the incompetent RFU have finally got their act together and we start seeing the dominance our resources should produce! Baby Black’s NOT in the final for 2nd year running and beaten twice in the tournament. Could we be seeing the end if their dominance?

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