Best of the Weekend: Wales emphatic, England encouraging

England fall short at Twickenham, albeit in impressive fashion

England came very close to beating New Zealand for the second time in a row at Twickenham on Saturday, but a clinical All Blacks side were able to hold off England’s challenge, and showed just enough to composure to record a 30-22 win. New Zealand raced into a 17-3 lead thanks to tries from Julian Savea and Kieran Read, but England delivered the perfect riposte, and managed to establish a 22-20 lead early in the second half, thanks to an intense and physical approach in both attack and defence. Unfortunately for the home side, a second try for Savea sealed the victory for the All Blacks, but Stuart Lancaster will be pleased with much of what he saw from his young charges, with Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes in particular both turning in superb performances from the engine room.

Wales put the Pumas to the sword in emphatic win

Wales were able to cut loose against Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, scoring four tries and beating a sorry looking Pumas side, 40-6. Toby Faletau, George North, Mike Phillips, and Ken Owens all went over the try line for Wales, whilst Leigh Halfpenny was consistent as ever with his goal kicking. Although Argentina have lacked form this season outside of trips to New Zealand and Australia in The Rugby Championship, the score line will give Wales a much-needed confidence boost ahead of their game with Australia in two weeks time. A match with Tonga lies between now and that game with Australia, and if Warren Gatland’s men can escape that game with no fresh injury worries, then they have a very real chance of claiming the big Southern Hemisphere scalp they crave.

Lacklustre Ireland fail to upset the Wallabies

There was genuine optimism surrounding Ireland’s chances of upsetting an Australia side still trying to find its identity of Saturday, but apart from a strong spell at the end of the first half, Ireland were outplayed by the visitors, and ultimately succumbed to a 32-15 defeat. Most troubling for new coach Joe Schmidt will be the fact that Australia were able to score four tries to Ireland’s none, and outside of a couple of breaks from Tommy Bowe and Luke Marshall, Ireland looked bereft of ideas to penetrate the Australian defensive line. A clash with the All Blacks lies just a week away, and Schmidt’s side will have to find two or three extra gears if they are to be competitive against the number one side in the world.

Scotland humbled by South Africa

Until poor discipline ruined their chances, Scotland were going toe-to-toe with South Africa in the summer, but they were unable to replicate that kind of performance at Murrayfield, falling to a 28-0 loss. A second string South African tight five completely dominated their Scottish counterparts, whilst their backs played with an incision which should see them continue to close the gap on New Zealand as the best in the world. Scotland did grow into the game, but were still unable to put any points on the board (despite 70% possession in the second half), as the damage was done by the interval, thanks to tries from Willem Alberts, Willie le Roux, and JP Pietersen, helping the Boks into a 21-0 lead.

Upsets galore in Round 2 of the LV= Cup

The LV= Cup offered up some surprising results this weekend, perhaps no less so than Cardiff’s 21-13 win against the Ospreys in the all-Welsh clash of the round, whilst Sale’s 31-26 win over defending champions Harlequins, also raised an eyebrow or two. Newport continued the theme of upsets, beating London Wasps 20-8 at Rodney Parade, and the loss is Wasps’ second of the tournament, and effectively ends their aspirations in the tournament for another year. Saracens and Northampton Saints wrapped up the weekend with convincing wins over the Scarlets and London Irish respectively, maintaining their good recent form.

Try of the Week officially goes to Julian Savea, but the try was made by one of the most sumptuous offloads you will ever see from Kieran Read. The Number Eight has been in superb form recently, but this piece of skill will certainly be one of the highlights of his year. JP Pietersen’s try came close, but the result already seemed inevitable at that point, such was South Africa’s dominance.

Willie le Roux is Hero of the Week for his scintillating performance against Scotland, and narrowly held off the challenge of Julian Savea’s two-try performance against England. The South African fullback put in an immaculate performance, which included an intercept try and a fantastic kick to set up JP Pietersen’s try in the first half.

Villains of the Week are, unfortunately, Fiji, who saw five of their players go to the bin during their match with Italy. At one point in the first half, Fiji were reduced to a team of just 11 men, as both centres, and two members of the Fijian back row were all sent to the bin in the same 10 minute period.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images