Tuesday, November 12, 2013
New Zealand held off a late France surge at the Stade de France, hanging on to maintain their unbeaten record and leave with a 26-19 victory over Les Blues. Winger Charles Piutau scored a try and set up Kieran Read with a brilliant piece of play.
Both Dan Carter and Morgan Parra kicked 14 points for their respective sides, but it was the two tries to one of New Zealand that edged them ahead, withstanding a spirited late French effort.
France had their tails up with a series of scrums in the final minutes, but they couldn't force their way over and snatch a draw. Manager Philippe Saint-Andre felt that it could have been different.
"The players are sad because we had all the ingredients for a victory but we lacked accuracy, especially in the first half when we should have been ahead," he said to reporters post match.
"We have courage and desire, but it's the little details that make the difference. We were good in the scrum, apart from the last one, when we're penalised.
"We have the character. At some point we were 14 points behind and we find the resources to come back in the game and we almost snatched the draw. It shows this team has courage," he added.
France meet Tonga next, while New Zealand have a big meeting with England at Twickenham.
Posted at 8:49 am | 27 comments
Monday, November 11, 2013
The Springboks scored three tries to nil as they beat Six Nations champions Wales 24-15 at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. The Welsh were hoping to claim their first big Southern Hemisphere scalp in five years, but weren't able to threaten the tryline.
South Africa physically dominated the Welsh, who have beaten them just once in 27 matches.
The home side, who had 11 Lions in their starting lineup, lost players to injury as the Boks showed great patience in defence, and were clinical when the opportunities to score arose. South Africa also had to adjust, with flyhalf Morne Steyn going off with a niggling back spasm fairly early on.
Wales dominated territory and possession, and while the South Africans had to play ten minutes with 14 players due to a yellow card, the home side failed to create try-scoring opportunities.
Leigh Halfpenny kicked all of Wales points, while the Springboks scored tries through Jean De Villiers, Bismarck Du Plessis and Fourie Du Preez, who put in another Man of the Match performance. It was the first time Wales didn't score a try against them in five years, and South Africa's biggest win in Cardiff since 2007.
Referee Alain Rolland was a constant focus and seemed to disrupt the flow of the game, with the scrums at one stage going uncontested after he sent off a prop from each side. He and his assitants also failed to spot a player in front of the kicker for the third South African try.
“We made a huge step up in our defence and we used most of the chances we got our there," said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer post match.
"The experienced players did very well – Wales played great rugby at stages during the second half you but never got the sense there was panic in the side. I was also pleased that we gave opportunities to a couple of youngsters and they all made a difference.
"This team is growing, but we will keep our feet on the ground, remain humble and now start focusing on our next game," he added.
A battered and bruised Wales have had to bring in Scarlets props Samson Lee and Rhodri Jones, as well as Newport Gwent Dragons duo Hallam Amos and Tom Prydie. Eli Walker and Ryhs Patchell have returned to their regions for further treatment, while Jonathan Davies will be out for a while with a pectoral muscle injury that if surgery is required, could keep him out for up to five months.
Adam Jones has a calf strain while Liam Williams took a knock to the head and will be assessed.
"It was brutal from start to finish. South Africa were aggressive in both attack and defence," said hooker Richard Hibbard. "I think the boys stuck to it well and we went toe to toe, but they won in the end. It was frustrating. We went into the game sure we could win it."
South Africa play Scotland at Murrayfield next before heading to Paris to meet France, while Wales will need to lift themselves for what should be another physical encounter, against Argentina.
Posted at 11:05 am | 24 comments
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The Wallabies bounced back from Twickenham disappointment with a 50-20 seven-try mauling of Italy at the Stadio Olympico. Wing Nick Cummins scored twice as the tourists found their feet to make sure that Italy remained winless against them.
Italy started well with a try to Luke Mclean, but the Wallabies came back strong and put in a good performance ahead of their meeting with Ireland in Dublin next weekend.
"It was a really good scoreboard for us, particularly being 10-0 down - the guys worked through that and even in the end there we showed some character," said Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie.
"We showed some potency in attack and worked hard through the game to score those points. So there was consistency there, and we had to work hard in defence at different times."
Cummins scored his first try just after half an hour, contributing to a 19-10 halftime lead.
In the end Italy scored a late consolation try via new cap, former Springbok and Scotland hooker John Allan's nephew, Tommy Allan, who made his debut for his country of birth.
"After the first half, or at least the first 30 minutes, I saw some quality play from Italy. But we gave away errors cheaply and at the end of the day our defence certainly wasn't up to the job," said Italy coach Jaques Brunel, who lamented the hosts' defensive effort.
Italy host Fiji next weekend, while the Wallabies head to Dublin to face Ireland.
Posted at 7:14 pm | 6 comments
England beat Argentina comfortably with a 31-12 win at Twickenham on Saturday, a week out from the much anticipated clash with New Zealand. Fans weren't too happy with the second half showing however, after three tries were scored in the first.
Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees and Chris Ashton scored in the first half as England turned pressure into points, and Twelvetrees redeemed himself after a poor showing last week.
England led 24-6 at halftime but failed to pile on the points in the second. Ben Morgan gave the fans something to cheer about with a late try though, as Argentina slumped to their seventh loss this year, following a disappointing Rugby Championship.
New Zealand will offer a different challenge altogether, and England coach Stuart Lancaster is fully aware of the task ahead of them, realising that they need to lift their game if they are to compete.
"We know we have got to step up. To beat New Zealand you've got to hit that for 80 minutes," he said. "While I'll be working to improve, I'm not too disappointed with this performance. We know that in any day, in any game, there are momentum changes and momentum swings.
"We've got a lot to build on and there are a lot of positives. We've now won eight of our last nine games and we are moving in the right direction with a young team," he added.
Posted at 12:09 pm | 35 comments
Saturday, November 09, 2013
This month the All Blacks embark on a three-match overseas tour, facing France, England and Ireland. It's been another demanding year so will they be able to maintain the winning streak? Former Test star Nick Evans shares his thoughts.
We sent Nick Heath along for our monthly catch up with namesake Evans, who kindly shared his views on how his fellow countrymen have done this year, and where they are going forward.
Having completed a gruelling Rugby Championship, and more recently a once off match against 2019 RWC hosts Japan, the European tour is now centre stage, with France in Paris up first.
The clash with England in a few week's time might be in the back of the All Blacks' minds though, as they look to avenge that shock defeat at Twickenham last year.
"There's a massive expectation on this game especially from the New Zealand public back at home," said Evans, who will be there when the two sides meet again. "That hurt 12 months ago. The English side had one of those days where everything they did turned to gold."
Harlequins flyhalf Evans goes on to discuss the ribbing he took for that game, his predictions for the rematch and what it's like for the All Blacks at this time of the season after a long, challenging year. He also talks about the Maori All Blacks tour of North America, and why it's so good for the game.
Posted at 11:38 am | 0 comments
Friday, November 08, 2013
Last week we saw the great try that Steve Thompson scored in the England Legends vs Australia Legends match. Defense wasn't at an all time high, and with scrumhalf Andy Gomarsall all mic'd up, we got to experience this classic moment up close.
The game at Twickenham Stoop last Thursady was played on the anniversary of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup win, with some of their key men coming out to take on a traveling Australian side.
The home team came out tops, and at the heart of the performance was Gomarsall, who played 35 times for his country and was a part of that World Cup winning effort ten years ago.
As part of Sky Sports' coverage he had a mic in his jersey, so after the game a little compilation was put together that gave the viewers a chance to see and hear what he got up to. It included his reaction to the Steve Thompson wonder-try, which you can see on that post.
In this clip we get to see him being his chirpy, scrumhalf self, and a great moment where he's confident he'll get to the runner to make the tackle, but fails miserably.
It's all in good spirits and as you can see afterwards, everyone was all smiles. We should also note that it was played for charity and other than Jason Robinsin and Thompson showing that they're probably borderline close to still playing professionally, the rest were just having a good time.
Posted at 4:09 pm | 3 comments
Thursday, November 07, 2013
France have a testing line-up this November, starting with the All Blacks on Saturday. It's set to be an action packed few weeks for Les Blues, with bruising rugby and plenty of action. Here is a short psych-up preview from the French Rugby Federation.
France will host two of the top three teams in the world, plus Tonga inbetween. The biggest thing on their minds right now though will be the first big challenge, a meeting with the All Blacks, the team they so famously knocked out of the Rugby World Cup in 2007, and met in the final in 2011.
The French have opted for the tried and tested in what could well be a tight contest. They've gone for Morgan Parra at scrumhalf, with form number nine Jonathan Pelissie not getting a shout. Remi Tales will partner Parra, while captain Thierry Dusautoir will provide the usual hard graft up front.
"I picked Morgan for his experience and his kicking skills," Philippe Saint-Andre said. "We will have to be intelligent and focused defensively. There is obviously some fear when you face New Zealand. We should build on that fear, it must not annihilate us. We will need to run and be creative."
The All Blacks have named their most experienced pack in history, with 538 collective caps amongst the forwards. Out wide Cory Jane returns, with Charles Piutau on the other wing. Up front the loose trio of Liam Messam, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read are sure to prove a handful.
"France are one of our great rugby foes and there is a rich history of matches between our two countries, so we are certainly looking forward to this weekend," said coach Steve Hansen.
"We know this weekend's Test won't be easy - the French will come at us with real physicality, passion and something new.
The All Blacks will be wearing their alternate white strip, with a red poppy embossed on the sleeve to mark Armistice Day (November 11), the anniversary of the end of hostilities of World War 1. The last Test between the two sides in Paris was in 2006.
Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Médard, Remi Tales, Morgan Parra; Yannick Forestier, Benjamin Kayser, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Papé, Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Wenceslas Lauret, Damian Chouly Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antonie Claassen, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou
New Zealand team:
Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty
Posted at 3:56 pm | 20 comments