Tuesday, June 10, 2014
The Midyear Tours are currently on the go but the Pacific Nations Cup is also under way, and featured a dramatic 18-18 draw between Samoa and Tonga in the opening game on Saturday. In the first half there was this huge hit, by a fullback on a prop.
Tonga scored through Otulea Katoa before Josh Afu helped them to a 12-5 lead at halftime, with Samoa's first half try coming through Fautua Otto. Northampton Saints star Kahn Fotuali'i came on after the restart, and while there were errors on both sides, things opened up late in the game.
Flyer David Lemi scored a try for Samoa on 65 minutes, which Tusi Pisi converted for a 15-12 lead. Tonga held their nerve though and Fetu'u Vainikolo beat a few defenders before Samoa killed the ball and replacement prop Census Johnston was yellow carded.
The kick was slotted and the scores were tied at 15-15 before another Pisi penalty looked like they were on track for a hard-fought 18-15 victory.
On fulltime a lineout infrigement left Wayne Barnes with no choice but to award a penalty, which replacement Fangatapu Apikotoa stepped up and slotted for a well-deserved 18-18 draw. Samoa attacked the line but Tonga held out, and looked the happier of the two sides at the final whistle.
We've got highlights of the match on page two of this post, but the featured clip here is of a massive hit by fullback Tevita (David) Halaifonua on big prop Sakaria Taulafo. The tackle was penalised by referee Barnes, and some might say Halaifonua was lucky to only get a talking to.
Posted at 11:30 am | 17 comments
The Springboks put in a strong first outing of the year to beat a star-studded World XV 47-13 at Newlands on Saturday. The home side scored six tries and linked well, despite a number of players having just returned from crunch matches in Europe.
South Africa built on their first half stability and piled on the points in the second half, after having only led 18-13 at the break. Their Toulon stars combined nicely, and with a few Top 14 and Heineken Cup champions in the World XV too, it provided for a niggly Test match type atmosphere.
Captain Victor Matfield, returning to the side after post 2011 Rugby World Cup retirement, said that his troops improved nicely as the game progressed.
"In the beginning we did not execute well, but once we managed to get into their half, we played well. It was a very good World XV, which gave us a lot of problems in the beginning," he said.
The match against the World XV, that featured the likes of Rene Ranger, Steffon Armitage, Hosea Gear, James O'Connor, Mamuka Gorgodze and Rory Kockott, did not contribute to Test caps.
There were no immediate injury concerns which was a plus for coach Heyneke Meyer, but squad players Juan De Jongh and Marnitz Boshoff have since been ruled out of possible selection for the Wales Test, with illness and injury respectively.
"This match was important to us, because we have to play together as a team to become better. I believe we are a very dangerous team when we play with quick ball and that was something that I was unhappy about at the break.
"I had some harsh words for the players about the penalties conceded in the first half. In the second half we applied ourselves better at the breakdown and we scored some very good tries. To score six, seven tries against a side with the quality of this World XV is very pleasing," said Meyer.
"Wales will be well prepared. They are a quality side with big backs which will give them go forward ball. They also played together in the Six Nations, while we are just starting out," he added.
World XV captain Matt Giteau, perhaps not so fresh from Top 14 victory celebrations, said "Our attitude was there but perhaps not the legs after a long season."
Posted at 8:17 am | 12 comments
Monday, June 09, 2014
Ireland got their series in Argentina off to a good start with a 29-17 win in Resistencia, but have a few injury concerns ahead of next weekend's match in Tucuman. Luke Marshall and Conor Murray are in doubt, while Jonny Sexton should recover.
Argentina scored the first try of the match when Manuel Montero was put in space and finished brilliantly, but a Chris Henry try shortly afterwards saw them lead 11-10 at the break. Sexton scored shortly after the break following a lineout steal from debutant South African, Robbie Diack.
Ireland added to their total around the hour mark as wing Andrew Trimble intercepted a long pass. Sexton converted the try but soon went off and was replaced by Ian Madigan, who added two penalties to put the Six Nations champions out of reach. Tomas de la Vega scored a consolation try.
"It was very hard going, we knew it was going to be physical which it was," said skipper Paul O'Connell. "We didn't know we were going to be as inaccurate as we were. We put a lot of balls down and missed some tackles.
"They put us under a lot of pressure, I think the result is great but the performance is disappointing.
"You look at what England did going down to New Zealand putting in a big performance against them, that’s what we needed to do and we didn’t do that. This gives us something to work on now and something to review over the next few days and knowing Joe Schmidt it will be a very tough review and hopefully our performance will improve next week."
Marshall suffered concussion, his fourth in 12 months, so will need to be assessed before the 2nd Test. Scrumhalf Murray suffered a dead leg, while Sexton has recovered from a knee cramp.
Posted at 7:28 pm | 9 comments
The Wallabies got their Test season off to an excellent start with a 50-23 thrashing of France in Brisbane on Saturday evening. They scored seven tries to France's two, but will be concerned about the loss of captain Stephen Moore to injury.
Israel Folau continued his great form by scoring the first of the night, followed by tries to Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hooper, Nick Cummins, Matt Toomua, Kurtley Beale and Pat McCabe.
"He is a class player," said France coach Philippe Saint-Andre when referring to fullback Folau.
"He's a match-winner. He showed that tonight. Australia were very strong in contact and won 70-80 per cent of the collisions. They were physical with a lot of urgency, and we panicked too much."
Hooker Moore limped off early with a medial ligament tear, so will be out for a large part of the year, while debutant Sam Carter is out for the series with an ankle injury that he played through.
"I thought he'd (Moore) done a brilliant job even prior to this week. He and I had worked pretty well. I was pleased with the progress we were making off the field," said coach Ewen McKenzie.
"It leaves a bit of a void, because we had a lot of stuff in the pipeline and his priorities now change to rehabilitation and getting back, and we have to keep playing."
Moore will undergo surgery today, then start the long road to recovery. "There's nothing you can say, you go into the time warp required for it to mend. The surgical side becomes the priority and you get on with it. He's a pragmatic guy but emotionally, he was obviously shattered."
France and Saint-Andre need to regroup quickly if they're to avoid a 3-0 whitewash down under.
Posted at 7:12 am | 22 comments
Sunday, June 08, 2014
The All Blacks scored a late Conrad Smith try to deny England a famous Eden Park result in what was a scrappy yet thrilling Test match on Saturday. The hosts snuck it 20-15 with minutes to spare, but England will take heart from their performance.
As we've come to expect with New Zealand, even when they play badly they somehow manage to win. This was the case in Auckland after a rusty showing that will surely be their weakest of the season. Dropped balls and a weak scrum nearly led to an upset in the opening game of the series.
England, fielding a weakened side that didn't include those that took part in the Premiership final, took it to the hosts and with new flyhalf Freddie Burns kicking superbly, stayed in the match right up until the death. They'll rue missed opportunities, as the game was there for the taking.
"I have mixed emotions at the moment," Burns said post match. "First and foremost it's gutting because as a team we gave ourselves an opportunity to get something from the game. To be pipped like we were at the end is gutting.
"But personally I was happy with how I went. Hopefully I silenced a few critics. I've never doubted myself, especially in this environment. Hopefully I've proved I can manage a game and kick my goals in the toughest rugby arena in the world."
It'll be all change for the second Test next weekend, but Stuart Lancaster has some tough selection issues to contend with. As the cliche goes, it's a good problem to have.
"We don't want to get carried away as we didn't win the game, we lost," said Lancaster. "We have to make sure we rectify that next week.
With less territory and possesion, the All Blacks will be pleased to have snatched victory but no doubt realise that they'll need to be more accurate and clinical come next weekend.
"We got there in the end but we need to be a lot better going into the second Test because we expect England to be better," captain Richie McCaw said. "We got what we expected from England. It was pretty competitive around the breakdown and we expected the physicality they showed.
"We were a bit rusty in the first half. Test rugby is a step up in intensity and pace and it felt like we were half a yard off it," added McCaw.
Posted at 12:18 pm | 77 comments
Friday, June 06, 2014
On the eve of the Wallabies vs France series kicking off, the guys at Fox Sports have put together this belter of a compilation featuring some of the best moments of French Flair from the last however many years. There are also a few random bits in there too.
It's the first time Australia have hosted Les Bleus in a three-Test series since way back in 1990 so while you never can quite tell what to expect, it's sure to be a thrilling series.
The big story of the week is James Horwill's demotion as captain of the Wallabies, with former teammate Stephen Moore stepping up to lead the team, while Horwill starts off the bench.
France are without their regular captain too, as Thierry Dusautoir has an injured bicep.
As part of the build up we get to look at some of the most sensational French flair tries ever scored, all nicely put together by beret wearing, French speaking Sean Maloney.
Kick-off: 20:00 local, 10:00 GMT, 12:00 CEST
Australia: 15-Israel Folau, 14-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Bernard Foley, 9-Nic White, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-Sam Carter, 4-Rob Simmons, 3-Sekope Kepu, 2-Stephen Moore (captain), 1-James Slipper Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-Pek Cowan, 18-Paddy Ryan, 19-James Horwill, 20-Ben McCalman, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Kurtley Beale, 23-Pat McCabe
France: 15-Hugo Bonneval, 14-Yoann Huget, 13-Gael Fickou 12-Wesley Fofana, 11-Felix Le Bourhis, 10-Frederic Michalak, 9-Maxime Machenaud, 8-Bernard Le Roux, 7-Damien Chouly, 6-Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5-Yoann Maestri, 4-Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3-Nicolas Mas (captain), 2-Guilhem Guirado, 1-Thomas Domingo. Replacements: 16-Christopher Tolofua, 17-Vincent Debaty, 18-Rabah Slimani, 19-Alexandre Flanquart, 20-Antoine Burban, 21-Morgan Parra, 22-Remi Lamerat, 23-Brice Dulin
Posted at 2:45 pm | 13 comments
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Henry Slade made a solid senior England debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Not only did he score a try in the 39-29 defeat, but he showed great courage against an extremely physical Baa Baas side.
With a few names ahead of him in the pecking order, 21-year-old Slade didn't make it on the plane to New Zealand, but enjoyed what was a tough day at the office. He found himself having to tackle hard-running Rene Ranger on more than one occassion, which resulted in an impressive shiner.
"He is a pretty tough bloke and I was just trying to bring him down, and thankfully I managed to do that, but his knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye," Slade said post match.
He got his body in the way of the Kiwi center as the Barbarians scored their first try. That opened up a cut that needed stitches, and shortly after returning to the field, Ranger hit him again.
"They made a break down the outside, I tackled Rene Ranger, and either a knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye, and that was it really. I was just trying to get in the way of him and get him down for the second one, and luckily it worked.
"It was just great to be back on the field and to be able to get on with it."
Slade ended with a try and 16-point haul, something his Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of. The Chiefs flyhalf has looked up to him for the last ten years, and actually bumped his head on a table when the then England kingpin kicked his famous World Cup winning dropgoal back in 2003.
"When Jonny kicked that drop-goal I was sat underneath at table at Ivybridge rugby club, and I jumped up and smacked my head on it when he scored," he explained.
"He's been a massive role model both on and off the pitch too, the way he went about himself and was committed and dedicated to trying to be the best. Defence is so important at fly-half because you're in the middle of the line, and that's something certainly Jonny has shown.
"It's important to be strong there, hopefully I did that at the weekend, that's what I was trying to do: I do enjoy defending to be fair."
Ranger's low center of gravity and powerfully built frame, along with his balance, means that he'll always be a threat. This weekend he'll be looking for some Springbok scalps when he starts for the World XV against South Africa at Newlands.
Posted at 1:13 pm | 25 comments