Wow oh wow, everything about that game was just mesmeric, Chicago was history-making as was the game versus England at Croke Park in ‘07 but this will live long in the memory.
Yet again it was a game of fine margins, the All Blacks have gone through that scenario three times already this season, twice versus South Africa and in last weekend’s game against England. Ireland’s defence, orchestrated by former England and Lions defence coach Andy Farrell, was so determined and coherent that there was nothing New Zealand could do. Jacob Stockdale, the hero of the Grand Slam earlier this year, scored the one try that was the difference.
The defending World Cup champions threw the kitchen sink at the men in green but the Irish, backed by the rapturous crowd of the Aviva Stadium simply held on. This is a huge statement of intent from Joe Schmidt and co. but with the Six Nations yet to come and the fact that anything could happen in twelve months makes me apprehensive to deem the Irish favourites to win the World Cup in Japan just yet, but boy they have proved that Chicago was not a one off and they have avenged the close defeats of 2014 and 2016 in Dublin.
In the other Autumn Internationals
Wales raced out of the blocks in Cardiff to gain a 24-0 lead against Tonga but credit to the Islanders they fought their way back through their forwards to draw 24-24 just after halftime. However, the Welsh stepped up 2 gears and went on the onslaught, scoring tries whenever they had the chance.
Japan showed mettle but England managed to pull through, just. Led by talismanic captain Michael Leitch (in my opinion one of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest), the Cherry Blossoms surprised England to a 10-15 lead at half-time which silenced a Twickenham crowd so boisterous the previous week. Thankfully, England hit back through the introduction of co-captains Owen Farrell and Dylan Hartley as well as the destructive ball carrying of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes. Finally they prevailed with a 35-15 victory with debutant Joe Cokanasiga getting a try after an impressive first outing in the senior England jersey. Japan have proved this autumn they are not to be messed about next year at the World Cup while Eddie Jones will be less than impressed with his side’s performance against his former Employers’.
South Africa inflicted a rare home defeat on Scotland. Last weekend I was pretty vocal with my opinion on Sam Underhill’s disallowed try, but I was hasty to label it one of the worst decisions I have ever seen. That was until Saturday when Jaco Peyper thought that Willie le Roux’s genuine attempt at an intercept was a deliberate knock-on and a yellow card worthy offence, when Scotland were no where near the goaline. Despite that peculiar decision, the Springboks held on to win another close game in 2018 with the indiscipline from Scotland being the difference between the two sides.
Australia finally got a win, although against much inferior opposition Italy. The Aussies still weren’t brilliant though and somewhat laboured to a victory with Marika Koroibete grabbing a double and Taniela Tupou, the Tongan Thor, getting his 1st try in the gold jersey. Also Les Bleus went back to winning ways with a 28-13 win over Argentina.
Gloucester majestic in win over Leicester
For how much I respect Austin Healey as a pundit and as a former rugby player, he must surely now realise that mentioning Cipriani too much won’t get him back into the England squad. England head coach Eddie Jones doesn’t like being told what to do, especially by the media, therefore I think us journalists need to revert back a notch when talking about the England flhalf. Undoubtedly, Cipriani was very, very good on Friday night, his vision and execution was exemplary. But it was the whole Gloucester effort that just blew the Tigers away, the pack, the backline, the finishing. It was sublime. Leicester were left clueless (where have we seen that before?) and were riddled with errors. Ollie Thorley’s try of the season contender left Kingsholm in pandemonium and it meant that the Cherry and Whites had secured their biggest victory over one of their old enemies.
Harlequins ground to a win over Newcastle, with Francis Saili and Alex Dombrandt’s (I told you this guy was good!) tries crucial to victory, for some reason the Premiership is not a happy hunting ground for the Falcons at the moment. Sale pushed Saracens really close at Barnet Copthall but replacement Joel Kpoku (who’s really making a name for himself) grabbed the winning try in the last minute to bag another victory for the defending Premiership champions.
Bath ended Worcester’s honeymoon with a 30-13 victory over the Warriors. Flyhalf Freddie Burns was sublime in attack and off the tee and Bath were more dominant in the pack. A supercharged Taquele Naiyaravoro inspired Northampton to smash Wasps at Franklin Gardens, the capped Wallaby was simply unstoppable!
Finally, the Bristol Bears were seconds away from a famous home victory over Exeter Chiefs. The return of “million” dollar man Charles Piutau inspired Bristol to a 19-12 lead at halftime but the introduction of former Wallaby scrumhalf Nic White sprung the Chiefs into life and they got a contentious penalty try to steal the game from the death.
Key Talking Points:
– Do you think Ireland are now favourites to win the World Cup?
– Was Italy’s disallowed try a try?
– Is the offication of offsides becoming a joke?
– Has England had a successful autumn so far?