Sunday, February 10, 2013
Wales ended an eight-match losing streak with a hard fought 16-6 win over France in Paris on Saturday. The only try of the game was scored by George North from a perfectly placed Dan Biggar crosskick late in the contest.
Pre-tournament favourites France were expected to bounce back from their surprise defeat to Italy last weekend but coach Philippe Saint-Andre instead faces the reality of having lost their opening two matches in the Championship for the first time since 1982.
In an error-strewn match that could best be described as attritional, Wales won in Paris for just the fourth time since 1975, giving coach Rob Howley his first win in charge.
It was all square at halftime at 3-3, with the biggest talking point being the Stade de France pitch, but a superbly converted North try in the second half gave Wales the lead they needed.
Fullback Leigh Halpenny added to his earlier conversion with a superbly taken long distance penalty late in the game, which despite France's late surge, put Wales out of reach.
"Words cannot describe how much this means - what a fantastic feeling," said Halfpenny.
"The boys played unbelievably well. We dug deep to get this fantastic win - it's been a long time coming," added the nuggety fullback, who picked up the well deserved Man of the Match.
France now face the daunting prospect of away matches against England and Ireland as they hope to avoid the wooden spoon. "We are at the bottom of the Six Nations," Saint-Andre said.
"We were flying in November and at the moment it's very, very tough."
Posted at 1:37 pm | 12 comments
Scotland claimed a record 34-10 Six Nations win over Italy at Murrayfield on Saturday. It was their first win in the championship for two years, bringing Italy crashing back down to earth after their famous win over France just a week ago.
Just a few days back we were singing the praises of Italy, and Luciano Orquera in particular, but as the cliche goes, a week is a long time in rugby. Orquera didn't play to the high standard he set in Rome and was yanked from the field directly after throwing an intercept pass to Stuart Hogg.
Hogg scored from it with an impressive sprint down field, adding to tries from Tim Visser, Matt Scott and Sean Lamont. Italy scored a consolation try through Alessandro Zanni, but Scotland achieved a runaway victory as they took their chances well, pleasing interim coach Scott Johnson.
"We are really happy with the win as we are now in this championship and want to win it," said Johnson. "I liked the intent from our boys. We spoke about the contact area all week and straight from the start we were aggressive and turned over the ball.
"We had our chances and scored from them. There were areas we showed improvement but there were others where we let ourselves down as we should have put Italy out of the game. There was still plenty left out on the pitch. If we get our part right then we will start killing teams off earlier.
"If we had lost then we were out of the championship. We proved we can score points but sometimes the scoreboard disguised some of our ills," he added.
Official highlights from the game are shown below. Unfortunately there is no commentary with it.
Posted at 10:02 am | 7 comments
Saturday, February 09, 2013
The USA leg of the Sevens World Series commenced in Las Vegas yesterday, with four teams - Samoa, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand - winning going unbeaten. Eight pool games and the playoffs are on Saturday, with the Semis and Finals on Sunday.
There were also a few upsets, as Spain achieved a top quality 24-14 win over Australia and Portugal beat Wellington winners England 21-5. England also lost to Fiji earlier in the day.
"I think the Series is very even, anyone can beat anyone and that shows by the results," said Portugal coach Frederica Sousa. "We just need to consistent. For us it is very important, unfortunately we had that narrow loss against Scotland but we will fight back against Fiji."
Canada picked up a good win over Kenya, while host team the USA struggled in front of their home crowd, losing both their opening games, despite Carlin Isles grabbing a well taken try.
All 16 teams are in contention for Cup quarter final spots ahead of the remaining pool games.
Defending champs Samoa, one of the four sides to go unbeaten on the first day, had to come from 12-0 down against the impressive Spain team, winning 19-12 in the end.
Coach Faamoani Lalomilo paid tribute to the opposition, and the fans at the Sam Boyd Stadium.
"It was really tough. Spain, they wanted to win the game, but I am happy with the boys, especially in the second half. It is a second home, a big ground for Samoa, and the boys have to work hard for the fans too. It is not easy to defend the title, but we have to work hard on our plan," he said.
Posted at 9:44 am | 1 comments
Friday, February 08, 2013
Sonny Bill Williams went the distance and won on a points decision in his WBA International Heavyweight title bout against veteran Francois Botha. The clash ended controversially as it was reduced from twelve to ten rounds shortly before the end.
Williams, now unbeaten in six fights, was better overall but 44-year old Botha, who has fought the likes of Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield, landed some punishing blows at the end as gutsy Williams somehow managed to stay standing.
While Botha can't argue that Williams got the better of him points wise, he was unhappy with the sudden change of script as the fight was sanctioned for twelve rounds.
"You know I love Sonny Bill, I think he's a great guy, a gentleman, but this was bullshit," said Botha, who won over the Brisbane crowd with his candor. He also called for a rematch.
"A rematch — if he can beat me he can go on, but if he doesn't he should throw in the towel."
Williams will now focus on his upcoming season in League with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.
The fight was the main event on a night that included an undercard fight between Quade Cooper and insurance salesman Barry Dunnett. You can view the Quade Cooper fight highlights here.
Posted at 1:36 pm | 10 comments
Late last year Carlin Isles broke onto the scene after a video of him scoring some great tries on the Sevens circuit shot to over a million views in a week. Since then, he's been widely touted as the fastest rugby player on the planet.
It's a big claim but one that is backed up by his impressive track times and sprinting resume. He's run against the best of them, but for now at least, those days are behind him.
"Growing up I played American Football, and also ran track and played basketball a little bit, and then I got a schlarship to run track and play football in college," Isles told the IRB.
"My time in the 100m is 10.13, my 60m is 6.65. I ran at the USA Nationals. I ran against Tyson Gay, Michael Rogers, Justin Gatlin, Trell Kimmons.. I ran against some tough athletes."
Isles has said that he aims to be at the 2015 Olympics whatever happens. If he continues to improve on the rugby field and masters the art of Sevens, he'll be with the USA Sevens team. If not, he'll no doubt be aiming to improve on those track times, and line up against the best of them.
Until then, debates will rage on about whether he has what it takes to make it. He'll be the first to admit that he's anything but the finished product, but one thing everyone can surely agree on is that his rapid rise to stardom can only be good for the game's popularity in both the USA, and globally.
This weekend you can keep an eye on the Las Vegas leg of the Sevens World Series, where Isles will play Sevens rugby at the highest level in front of his home crowd for the first time.
Posted at 8:39 am | 13 comments
Thursday, February 07, 2013
Luciano Orquera was a well deserved Man of the Match as Italy achieved a famous 23-18 upset victory over France in Rome on Sunday. Here is a quick look at some of Orquera's best bits on the day, which included setting up two tries and kicking superbly.
Flyhalf Orquera said post match that Italy were extremely motivated and had intended to do all they could for their second victory over France in three seasons, the last coming in 2011.
"We were mentally strong right from the beginning. After two years we have beaten France again in Rome. We wanted to win at any cost and we never gave up," the 31-year-old Zebre flyhalf said.
Italy coach Jacques Brunel has unsurprisingly stuck with Orquera for the upcoming game against Scotland on Saturday, keeping faith in the pairing he has with Treviso number nine Tobias Botes.
Italy beat Scotland in their final game of the Six Nations last year, so will be aiming for their third successive victory in the tournament, and are determined to avoid the wooden spoon yet again.
Scotland vs Italy | Date: Saturday, 9 February | Venue: Murrayfield | Kick off: 14:30 GMT
Andrea Masi, Giovanbattista Venditti, Tommaso Benvenuti, Gonzalo Canale, Luke McLean, Luciano Orquera, Tobias Botes, Sergio Parisse, Simone Favaro, Alessandro Zanni, Francesco Minto, Quintin Geldenhuys, Martin Castrogiovanni, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Andrea Lo Cicero
Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Alberto De Marchi, Lorenzo Cittadini, Antonio Pavanello, Paul Derbyshire, Edoardo Gori, Kristopher Burton, Gonzalo Garcia
Stuart Hogg, Sean Maitland, Sean Lamont, Matt Scott, Tim Visser, Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw, Ryan Grant, Ross Ford, Euan Murray, Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton, Rob Harley, Kelly Brown, Johnnie Beattie Replacements: Dougie Hall/Pat MacArthur, Moray Low, Geoff Cross, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Duncan Weir, Max Evans
Posted at 4:32 pm | 9 comments
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
O2 Inside Line heads to Dublin this week as England prepare for their Six Nations clash with Ireland at a packed Aviva Stadium. This week's show looks towards the game, and looks back on England's win over Scotland.
The good news for the visitors is that while new boy Billy Twelvetrees had a great debut, powerhouse Manu Tuilagi should be fit and ready to go should his services be be called upon.
"If you haven’t played for four weeks and there are guys who have performed exceptionally well at the weekend, then you need to make sure you have the tempo and the intensity when you do come in," said attacking skills coach Mike Catt.
"It's great to have a selection dilemma at this level," he added.
Brad Barritt will likely start, and in this week's show he discusses how the weather played a part in the win over Scotland, and touches on how England and Ireland's breakdown tactics differ.
James Haskell explains what women really want in a man, Joe Marler reveals how long he won't cut his beard for (and why), and England's communications manager talks us through his role.
Date: Sunday 10 Feb | Venue: Dublin | Kick off: 15:00 GMT
Posted at 6:12 pm | 5 comments