Eddie Jones’ England has gone through two grand-slam deciders yet this opening Autumn Internationals test was probably the most significant of the Aussie’s career. The heat was on for him and in a very tense match, England held on for victory.
The game was not without controversy as Owen Farrell, who had been tremendous up to that point, made a shoulder-charge type tackle on Springbok replacement André Esterhuizen with the clock in the red. The TMO decreed that Farrell had attempted to wrap the arm and the referee blew for full-time. While the men in white had failed to score any tries, they certainly did show signs of attacking intent and England’s depleted pack (especially the backrow) definitely stood up. This leaves Jones with a sigh of relief and England co-captain Farrell even more so.
In the other November Internationals, the All Blacks convincingly beat Japan 31-69 with the hosts offering plenty of attacking potential but at the end of the day were never going to beat the World Champions. Dane Coles made a try-scoring return to international rugby and powerhouse Ngani Laumape got a barnstorming hat-trick. Japan showed a lot of spirit from the off with a powerful response to the All Blacks Haka and scored some great tries, and they are not to be taken lightly.
Wales showed promising signs according to head coach Warren Gatland as they beat Scotland 21-10 in the inaugural Doddie Weir Cup. Scotland were inconsistent in defence and winger George North was close to his very best as he scored a try and was rampant across the field.
In a day of three international test matches (two men, one female) at Soldier Field in Chicago the Black Ferns obliterated a very inexperienced US Women side. An experimental Ireland team, who enjoy considerable support in the Irish descended population in Chicago, smashed Italy 54-7 with Jordan Larmour irresistibly good with his hat-trick performance.
The Maori All Blacks convincingly beat the USA in Chicago 59-22, the Eagles missing key men like Paul Lasike, Joe Taufete’e and Captain Blaine Scully because the match was played outside the test window and key flyhalf AJ MacGinty is out for the season. The game was entertaining but it was rife with indiscipline from the Maori with three players sin-binned.
Meanwhile in the Pro14…
Glasgow pulled off a bonus point away victory in Swansea with a hatrick from early-replacement Nikola Matawalu and Edinburgh upset the bookies and the online predictors as they beat Scarlets at Murrayfield with a bonus point, Number 8 Viliame Mata further reinforcing his claim to be world class with another two tries to his name and a powerhouse performance from the Olympic Gold Medalist.
Ulster beat Benetton Treviso 10-15 away in Italy in a game that was certainly an eyesore. Connacht have continued their reasonable Pro14 season with a bonus point win over the Dragons, the Welsh province again looking woeful and an embarrassment to Welsh Rugby.
In another high-scoring affair at Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Stadium, Leinster beat Southern Kings 31-38 in a match with 11 tries. Despite being ousted, the hosts get another two bonus points but on the whole the Kings still have far to go if they are going to seriously challenge in the Pro14 next year. In the other fixture taking place in South Africa, a late Mike Haley try stole the game for Munster over the Cheetahs as the Irishmen won 26-30.
Welsh rugby and World Rugby legend Gethin Jenkins got the perfect send-off he deserved as Cardiff Blues smash Zebre 37-0. Kiwi Number 8 Nick Williams was once again to the fore, the fact that he hasn’t been an international for either Ireland, Wales or New Zealand is simply incomprehensible. However, the game will be remembered as a Welsh Great’s last, a man who revolutionised the role of a prop, he was a loosehead who didn’t just scrummage he was an awesome at the jackal and scored some memorable tries in his career. Thank you Gethin!
What happened elsewhere?
In the Premiership Rugby Cup, Bristol beat Gloucester to increase their impressive home record from all competitions this season, Saracens drew away at Sale with Joel Kpoku once again impressing. A strong Worcester outift unsurprisingly smashed a developmental Leicester side at Welford Road, 2016/17 champions are already out of contention for the play-offs with zero points from the last two weeks. Exeter beat Bath to claim top spot in their pool, Northampton Saints won a close affair 14-15 at the Ricoh Arena and Demetri Catrakilis missed a match-winning penalty meaning the Falcons won 21-23 over Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.
In the Pro14, Toulon returned to winning ways with victory over Perpignan, Racing got a big away win over Montpellier and Toulouse smash Bordeaux to close the gap on leaders Clermont who drew away at Grenoble.
Key Talking Points:
– Was Farrell’s “tackle” a penalty to South Africa?
– Can England topple the All Blacks next Saturday?
– Should Pari Pari Parkinson have been red carded for his body slam tackle on Shaun Davies?
– Should the rules be changed for the Premiership Rugby Cup to prevent teams from fielding first teams?