Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Springboks finished their year on a high by beating Les Blues in France for the first time since 1997, and finished with an impressive 10 wins from 12 matches. The 19-10 victory in Paris completed their statistically best campaign in 16 years.
JP Pietersen silenced the Stade de France with a try in the opening minutes following a Morgan Parra attempted clearance. Morne Steyn converted from the sideline as the Springboks started well.
France came back with a try just before halftime but in the end the visitors were the stronger side and they capped off a good year with the win, and a record second only to the All Blacks.
"The great thing about this team is that we just go out and play. It doesn't matter if we're at home or away. We adapt," said coach Heyneke Meyer. "What makes this team special is that guys really step up if they need to. You win these games by being mentally very tough and struggling through."
Their win vs Wales was only the second time since 1994 that the Welsh didn't score a try against them, and a week later they kept Scotland pointless for the first time since 1951.
Including last year's wins over Ireland, Scotland and England, they've won 13 of their last 15 matches. They are also the only team to have gone unbeaten for the last two End of Year tours.
France, the 2011 Rugby World Cup finalists, have had a poor year, finishing last in the Six Nations, losing four times to New Zealand and only beating Scotland and Tonga.
"I must congratulate my players for the commitment they showed out there, but you can't start against one of the best teams in the world by giving them seven points," said Philippe Saint-Andre.
While it was a hard-fought match and wasn't a perfect performance from the Springboks, they were pleased with the end result. "We have massive respect for France, we knew it was going to be ugly but we just had to win," said Bok captain Jean De Villiers, who will skipper the Barbarians vs Fiji.
Posted at 8:16 pm | 47 comments
Monday, November 25, 2013
New Zealand came from 19-0 down to beat Ireland 24-22 in an incredible game of rugby in Dublin on Sunday. With the win the All Blacks cement the record of the first ever top tier Test side in the professional era to win every match in a calendar year.
The visitors had to dig deep to snatch a late win, with replacement Ryan Crotty going over with time up. The TMO had to check both of the last two passes to see if they were forward, and once the try was awarded, Aaron Cruden had two shots at goal. This just wasn't meant to be for Ireland.
They shot off to an early lead though, and the home crowd thought the impossible was happening as Ireland led 22-7 at halftime thanks to tries from Conor Murray, Rory Best and Rob Kearney. They didn't score a point in the second half though, and Jonny Sexton missed a late penalty kick.
"I thought if that had gone over it would have been game over but instead it missed and I could feel our players get a lift from that," said 124 Test All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. "The Irish guys then tried to eat up time but I have always felt as a player that can backfire and so it did here."
Crotty's try tied things up at 22-22, with Cruden tasked with attempting the conversion. He missed the first kick, but the Irish players charged too early, so referee Nigel Owens - who contributed greatly to a freeflowing game - allowed Cruden to have another shot, which he duly slotted.
In the history books this will go down as a 27th loss for Ireland against New Zealand, and while they have one draw to look back fondly on, this was an absolute heartbreaker for fans and players.
"This is probably the low point, for me, in my rugby career," Gordon Darcy told irishrugby.ie. "That is one of the toughest games I have ever played in. They are not walking away from that saying that was an easy game.
"We talked a lot about the body language. I'd say over 50% of the game we won the body language battle that was going on. They had the hands on hips. They were blowing out their ass and we were winning those battles. You just have to be a little more clinical maybe," he added.
The fairytale year for the All Blacks ended magically, almost defying belief. They've now won 14 from 14, and having taken an approach that involves blooding young players and rotating their squad regularly, this group looks well placed two years out from the next World Cup.
The Irish deserve massive plaudits though, and Steve Hansen was quick to pay them their dues.
"I'd like to compliment Ireland on a sensational performance, they rattled us and had us 15 points down. They were outstanding," he said. "That wasn't in the script, that is for sure. It [the manner of victory] was special and is a great achievement. It has been a great year."
Extra pages: View Extended Highlights | View the Full Match
Posted at 2:25 pm | 80 comments
Scotland were unable to claim another Wallaby scalp at a wet Murrayfield as they lost 21-15 on Saturday. The field, suffering from a parasite infestation, broke up a lot and has since been mentioned as a possible reason for the Scots' missed opportunities.
The Wallabies were missing a whole host of players due to injury and suspensions, but managed to score two well taken tries and hold off a determined Scotland side, who were hoping for a repeat of their famous win at the same ground in 2009.
Greig Laidlaw kicked five penalties for the hosts but they failed to cross the whitewash, and both Sean Lamont and Dave Denton have said the state of the pitch was a possible reason for that.
"Our scrum was dominant, but the pitch didn't let us do much with that," said Denton, referring to the pitch that is suffering from a parasitic worm infestation.
Winger Sean Lamont said that he was brought down late in the first half by Folau because he couldn't get much traction off the surface, which will reportedly not be fixed by the time Scotland face France and England in the Six Nations next year.
"I had the angle but you can't really step much on that pitch," said Lamont. "It's a nightmare. Of course the condition of the pitch makes a difference. You always want a firm footing. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it.
"You can see what's happening in the scrum. The boys felt we had a dominant scrum and were getting a good hit, but when it came to putting a drive on the carpet rips up. But it affects both teams, not just one side. It is disappointing, one of these unlucky things."
Coach Scott Johnson was full of praise for Israel Folau, 'a special athlete and a special player'.
"Freakish athletes like that don't come along very much," Johnson said. "We like to sit as coaches and take a lot of the credit for it but you can't put in what God left out and he stood in the front of a few genetic queues."
With the win the Wallabies have jumped back up to third on the official IRB World Rankings.
Below is a look at the two tries that the Wallabies scored. They face Wales this coming weekend.
Posted at 12:50 pm | 11 comments
Wales picked up a 17-7 win against Tonga in Cardiff on Friday night, but more was expected of them ahead of a meeting with the Wallabies. All the points were scored in the first half, with Owen Williams and Ashley Beck scoring for the hosts.
The tries that Wales did score were nicely taken but the home crowd expected a big second half, but the Tongan's frustrated them and kept them scoreless after their 25th minute conversion.
"It was pretty ugly out there. We knew going into the match how good a side Tonga were and we were not clinical enough, said Man of the Match, lock Luke Charteris.
"A team dogged like this will keep putting us under pressure but we won the game. I should have had two tries but didn't manage to get them," he added.
Charteris will be unavailable for the upcoming Test against Australia as he will be on club duty with Perpignan in France. Team mate James Hook and Bath prop Paul James will also be unable to play.
Coach Warren Gatland said that as far as he knows everyone else will be available. Referring to the match, his 100th Test as a coach, he said that Tonga frustrated Wales.
"I think there was 11 minutes ball in play in first half, which for me was probably the lowest I've ever seen in an international game in a first half.
"And that was kind of the way it was played; re-set after re-set and slowing the game down and stopping. And that made it difficult for us to get some momentum."
"It's an ugly win, but we'll take it. It's frustrating, but there was the ambition there to go and play and put ourselves under pressure to play. We need to be better and more clinical next week."
Posted at 10:06 am | 7 comments
Friday, November 22, 2013
Springbok winger JP Pietersen marked his 50th Test by finishing off a fantastic try and making a thumping hit on Scotland number eight Dave Denton. Pietersen then got a bit overzealous and rubbed Denton's face in the dirt, quite literally.
Some fans and pundits weren’t amused by what he did, saying it was unsportsmanlike and a bit dirty. Others viewed it as simply a bit of gamesmanship, questioning why some are so sensitive in a sport that fundimentally involves getting the better of your opponents physically.
The tackle itself was perfect. It was a rare chance for Scotland but Pietersen ushered Denton towards the touchline then went in and smashed him. It wasn’t the first knock the South African schooled Scotland number eight took, as Fourie Du Preez also levelled him earlier in the game.
To Denton’s credit, in both cases he wasn’t entirely balanced and was there for the taking, and in terms of getting his face shoved into the ground, his non-reaction showed class.
If anything Pietersen let himself down a bit by doing that, a bit like Delon Armitage and George North did when they wagged their fingers at hapless defenders. It's not ideal and crosses the line a little, but the players themelves are aware that the excitement of the moment got the better of them.
The Springboks will be looking for more dominant tackles and performances when they take on France in Paris on Saturday night. They haven't beaten the French in away since 1997, when they won 52-10. The last time the two sides met, in Cape Town in 2010, South Africa won 42-17.
The home side are coming off a solid performance against the All Blacks, where they impressed by nearly sneaking a draw, so will probably fancy their chances of springing an upset.
What was your reaction to the tackle and 'afters' from JP Pietersen?
Posted at 4:46 pm | 78 comments
Thursday, November 21, 2013
While the Wallabies are winning matches again, discipline is costing them as they not only internally banned some of their players, but now centre Tevita Kuridrani has been suspended for five matches for the tip-tackle he made against Ireland at the weekend.
The Wallabies were convincing winners in Dublin but in the last ten minutes Kuridrani was red carded for what could be described as a silly, innocuous lifting tackle. These days the law states that it's a red card, which didn't affect the match, but he will also sit out the rest of the tour.
Kuridrani was charged under Law 10.4(j) which states 'Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst the player's feet are still off the ground such that the player's head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.'
The tackle was deemed to be a mid-range offence (8 weeks). An extra week was added as a deterrent, but it was then reduced by four due to the player's previous good record, and no doubt the fact that he wasn't the only player involved in the tackle.
Barring a successful appeal, he will miss their upcoming matches against Scotland and Wales.
"We put a lot of effort into that, because we thought we had a pretty good case," said coach Ewen McKenzie after the disciplinary hearing, stating that they will probably appeal if they have can.
"We went through it frame by frame for some time. It didn't look great in real time, but when you go through all the elements, there were other people involved in the tackle, we presented a good case I thought but didn't get the outcome we wanted.
"He's available for Super Rugby, that's the upside, but at the same token he's got that sitting on his record, so if there was a next time your starting point is way down the track. I'm fully aware of other situations of guys who've had multiple situations and got lesser outcomes.
"I feel for him at the moment. You look at like for like, that was part of our case, some of the other judgements that have been passed down," he added.
Wallaby team to face Scotland:
15 Israel Folau, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Christian Leali'ifano, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Sitaleki Timani, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Bernard Foley.
Do you think a five week ban is a fair ruling, or was the Red Card sufficient?
Posted at 10:28 am | 46 comments
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
RWC 2011 winning captain Richie McCaw handed over the Webb Ellis Cup to Rugby World Cup Limited Chairman Bernard Lapasset during an official trophy handover ceremony in Dublin earlier this week. The trophy will be used for promotions ahead of the 2015 RWC.
McCaw held aloft the Cup just over two years ago at Eden Park after the All Blacks beat France 8-7 to end a 24-year wait for a second RWC success and in the two years since the trophy has toured New Zealand and allowed thousands of fans to get up close to it.
Last year the Great Rugby Road Trip took the Webb Ellis Cup to 41 towns and cities from the far north to the deep south of the country.
The Cup recently embarked on another epic journey with Rugby World Cup 2015 Official Logistics Partner DHL, leaving New Zealand and stopping off in the three other countries to have lifted to trophy before arriving in Ireland on Sunday.
"It is a funny old thing to hand it back, but I think every time I see the Cup I always get reminded of the amount of energy and what you have got to put in to winning the thing," McCaw said.
"Looking forward to 2015 it will take the same amount of that type of work and attitude and everything coming together and you have got to be prepared to do that if you want to win it again.
"Having to hand it back I think that has probably been a reminder to myself what happens in two years' time as a lot of work needs to go in again," he added.
Posted at 1:15 pm | 2 comments