May’s try gives England much needed victory
A tour in which English rugby has been given a massive dose of reality finished with a ray of light in Cape Town. Two weeks of errors being repeated and repeated and repeated gave way to a more disciplined and controlled performance in their final 25-10 victory to give the series a more respectable looking 2-1 finish to South Africa.
It was a game that perhaps lacked the expanse that particularly the first game had enjoyed, but provided an intensity from the visitors that had been missing up until that point. The match started in a miserly manner, with the only points in the first half coming from two Owen Farrell kicks to one from Elton Jantjies. After the interval, Farrell extended the lead, only for his side to give it away when Jessie Kriel barrelled over a few minutes later. It was finely poised, but the captain’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over and then the moment of magic that England fans had been waiting for sealed the game. Danny Cipriani, the man everybody had been clamouring for, justified his start with a fantastically ambitious kick to the onrushing Jonny May to seal England’s victory late on.
A number of questions still need answering, but Eddie Jones now has a good few months to think on how best to include the likes of Cipriani in his team and how to blood some much-needed options in his side. We now have a one-year rugby cycle before the world cup and the coach needs to show that he himself has learned from the errors of the first six months of 2018 if England are seriously going to get the chariot back on track to challenge at the showpiece event.
What happened elsewhere?
Arguably the series of the summer went right down to the very last play of the game in Sydney. Ireland went in knowing that anything other than a series victory would put their magnificent achievements so far this year into perspective and Australia needed to get their summer off to a flyer by beating the second best team in the world on home turf. It went the way of the visitors courtesy of the evergreen Johnny Sexton’s boot carrying them home 20-16.
France’s habit of letting their heads drop reared its head once more in Dunedin. They were competitive in the opening half and could and perhaps should have been leading. However, the second half was one way traffic with the superb Rieko Ioane running in a hat-trick during New Zealand’s 49-14 win.
Scotland managed to atone for their woeful defeat last weekend by beating Argentina 44-15. I’m sure fans of Gregor Townsend’s side would welcome a little more predictability and consistency.
There were also victories for Japan, who beat Georgia 28-0, and USA, backing up their tremendous result last week with a comfortable 42-17 victory over Canada.
Hero of the week
To my mind, there has been one saving grace to England’s tour of South Arica. Whilst many of his peers have been falling well short of their own high standards, Jonny May has consistently shown his class with ball in hand and his markedly improved defence. It was only right that he scored the decisive try on Saturday.
Villain of the week
France can feel rightly aggrieved after decisions yet again went against them against the All Blacks. Every week they have been on the receiving end of some inconsistencies or indeed some outright unfathomable calls. They can’t allow themselves to fall apart like they do, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that these capitulations have occurred immediately after these moments.
Try of the week
Rieko Ioane has absolutely scorching pace, which, when combined with slick hands and running lines, is always going to end up in a try. His first of his hat-trick was a prime example of this.
What are the next steps for England?
Has Cipriani done enough to convince Jones and get a run?
Will Ireland be able to climb above New Zealand in the rankings any time soon?
What are we going to do with no Northern Hemisphere rugby for a couple of months?
by Joe Large