Friday, November 29, 2013
While in Dublin it was Ireland that came close to a big upset, Georgia surprised everybody in Tbilisi as they beat Samoa, a team ranked many places above them, 16-15. Below is a fascinating video report from the match.
Samoa were missing Northampton Saints centre George Pisi due to suspension, but they had the likes of his brother Tusi, scrumhalf Kahn Fotualii, and James Johnston and Ofisa Treviranus up front. They were missing eight players in total, but had many big names with plenty of experience.
Georgia on the other hand were led by the imposing figure of Mamuka Gorgodze, the man-mountain that has claimed notoriety in the Top 14 for his no-nonsense approach to the game.
The Islanders outscored the hosts by two tries to one, but Merab Kvirikashbili slotted the decisive kick late in the game, and then Georgia held on for a historic win in front of their home crowd.
After scoring two tries in the first half and looking in control, eighth ranked Samoa seemed en route to victory, but Georgia displayed the type of character that has earned them well deserved respect, and will likely do great things for the sport of rugby in the region.
"The fans have a special influence on the players and I want to thank them all. We won this match together," said skipper Gorgodze, saluting the 15 000 fans that braved the conditions.
Samoa coach Stephen Betham said that Georgia proved that they were worthy winners.
"Well done to Georgia on a brilliant and deserved victory. They, along with other second tier teams, must have the chance to regularly play the top teams," he said.
Below is an excellent official report, featuring some of the scenes before, during and after the match. It includes footage from the post match function, where we get to see the humble Samoans treating those on hand to a little piece of their traditions and culture.
Posted at 5:54 pm | 19 comments
The Barbarians and Fiji meet at a packed Twickenham this weekend. The Baa Baas have a formidable side and will be captained by Jean De Villiers, who along with Bismark Du Plessis and Steven Luatua, spoke of the honour of playing for the famous team.
With a strong South African and New Zealand influence, the Barbarians are coached by Steve Hansen and are looking for a good performance to end the year on a high note.
Captained by De Villiers, they have plenty of talent in the back and possess might up front in the form of Du Plessis, who maintains that he has plenty of respect for the Fijians.
"They're all about the same height, except the front row and scrumhalf normally, otherwise they're all the same size and they're amazing athletes," said Du Plessis, a huge man himself.
The Fijians are celebrating their centenary in international rugby, so will also be looking to impress in front of a large global audience. In 1970 the two teams played and the Fijians upset the Barbarians 29-9.
This rematch is set to be a Barbarians clash of old, with plenty of running rugby on display and no doubt a few big confrontations up front. Kickoff is at 14:30 GMT on Saturday, November 30th.
15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Gavin Williams, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Mick O'Driscoll, 3 Matias Diaz, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Luke Whitelock, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Tom Taylor, 23 Willie le Roux.
Posted at 2:48 pm | 5 comments
Thursday, November 28, 2013
England's Courtney Lawes returned to Aviva Premiership rugby with a bang this past weekend, making his presence felt with a few trademark tackles, including this belter on Phil Godman. He admitted post match that he was pleased to make some big hits.
Northampton Saints, despite still missing some international players, beat Newcastle Falcons 18-0 at Franklin's Gardens, with Lawes in more of a senior role this season, particularly at the lineouts.
He's said that it's quite different to get accustomed to Premiership life again, after the highs of playing Test rugby and being in camp with England for the last month or so.
"It's quite tough to come from the tough international games straight back into the Premiership, hard to get your head round it. It's different. There's so much pressure on you (with England), then you're relieved of that pressure and it's hard to keep yourself mentally focused enough to put in a good performance," he said.
"I worked really hard to get myself motivated this week. I thought I played solid with some good carries, didn't make any mistakes, pressured the 10 and made some good hits."
Newcastle's Phil Godman was on the end of one of the biggest hits of the game, as Lawes used that quick line speed - never more evident than in the huge preseason hit he made against Bedford - to get up and terrorise the flyhalf with a trademark tackle.
This is a short clip, but worth sharing and adding to the growing archive of tackles from one of the most athletic second-rowers in international rugby today. There's more in the related posts below.
Posted at 9:36 am | 21 comments
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Perpignan captain David Marty was shown a yellow card for a bizarre bit of play during their Top 14 Round 12 clash with Toulon at the weekend. The European Champions won the game 15-9, with Jonny Wilkinson kicking all of their points.
A number of first choice players were on international duty and the match itself didn't feature too much to write home about, with Toulon only managing to score a solitary penalty when the Catalan home side were reduced to 13 men in the first half.
Centre David Marty tracked back as Toulon attacked midway through the first half, but a bit of a possible brain explosion resulted in him landing headfirst after leapfrogging a ruck.
He was told the error of his ways by Juan Smith, then penalised and yellow carded by the referee.
Perpignan picked up a losing bonus point and with Toulon unable to get an attacking bonus point, they are fortunate to top the table after that performance. They are joint top with Clermont, but take the lead due to having a superior points difference. Toulouse are one point behind.
There is a another funny version of this floating about too, featuring R Kelly... View it here
Posted at 8:29 pm | 19 comments
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 | 79 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