The weekend’s rugby union results
So how was your weekend? Rugby wise, I thought it was a good start to the November rugby internationals, if only for some excellent tries scored. Unfortunately, rugby union results over the weekend exhibited a lot of tries but very few contests.
In terms of tight matches, there was only one game in it – which we begin our wrap with.
Plucky — and lucky — England survive
England versus South Africa was a red-blooded arm-wrestle, but one England were slightly fortunate to win 12-11. The Springboks had them on the ropes in the first half, but couldn’t finish the job.
Only one try in this one, through Boks winger S’busiso Nkosi, but four penalty kicks plus a lot of grit carried the English chariot home.
There was also the little matter of Owen Farrell’s tackle late in the game, the kind of tackle many have been penalised (even sent off) for, but was deemed OK this time. Speaking as a neutral, that’s a good rugby union result in terms of the big match this weekend. England need all available bodies on deck to stop the All Blacks; so to lose their “spiritual leader” would have watered down the contest, I think.
A bit unfair, I know, but what’s new in sport?
All Blacks ‘tea’ up easy win
The All Blacks, meanwhile, warmed up for the much-awaited England game this weekend by “sitting at the Lensbury [hotel] drinking cups of tea, maybe having some scones“, according to England coach Eddie Jones.
Actually, that was the A team. The B team, aka the future All Blacks, were in Japan putting next year’s RWC hosts to the sword; winning 69-31 in Tokyo.
The All Blacks, with Richie Mo’unga pulling the strings, scored 10 tries to the Brave Blossoms’ five.
In fact, Kiwi teams scored 30 tries in total over the weekend (see below), while conceding only six!
There was much to like about the young All Blacks, with George Bridge stealing the headlines with two scintillating tries and one assist. He could be another bolter for RWC 2019, though at this stage he looks more likely to be someone to take over from Ben Smith when he retires as expected after the World Cup.
What about the Japanese? Many commenting on the rugby union results over the weekend remarked on how well they scored their tries, and how they scored 31 points against a team not known for a leaky defence.
The reality is that Japan were playing against a brand new team full of inexperienced players and ended up scoring fewer points than the margin by which they lost.
It’s not exactly progress. Three years ago, at RWC 2015, Japan beat South Africa in the biggest upset of all time; then beat Samoa and USA, losing only to Scotland after one of the RWC’s infamous short breaks. If anything, I would say Japan have gone backwards under Jamie Joseph.
The match was played before 44,000 people at the Ajinomoto stadium. Ajinomoto is the brand name of mono sodium glutamate, or MSG, which used to be found in a lot of Asian food but which disagree with most non-Asian eaters. It is a flavour enhancer, and as a flavour enhancer, Japan vs New Zealand, despite its one-sidedness, did at least whet the appetite for the rugby to come.
The World Rugby Weekend – a hard sell
Spare a thought, then, for the Americans who organised the triple-header Rugby Weekend in Chicago. Three matches, but three no-contests: the average winning margin was 48 points, as the Black Ferns (NZ’s women’s team) beat USA Eagles 67-6, Ireland defeated Italy 59-22 and the Maori All Blacks thrashed the US Eagles 54-7.
However, the 30,000-strong Soldier Field crowd (the stadium holds 60,000) would have seen one of the standout performances of the weekend, with the exciting Jordan Larmour finally opening his Irish account with three quite amazing tries. Here is his third:
In other rugby union results
Other rugby union results saw Wales score an encouraging 21-10 win over Scotland. The highlights of the match for me were the return of centre Jonathan Davies, and George North scoring a typical powerhouse try. If they don’t beat Australia this Saturday, they probably never will — not a rugby union results a Welsh wants to hear one year before their meeting at RWC 2019.
Scotland meanwhile have some defensive repair work to do, especially as they meet this weekend the great entertainers of Fiji, a team they lost to the last time they met (27-22 in Suva).
The Fijians have back-five players as good as any in the world. And if they can develop a pack to match, they could be dangerous dark horses in their RWC pool which also contains Australia and Wales. The Fiji scrum was surprisingly solid at the last World Cup, but the backline didn’t quite click as usual.
But now, with outstanding back-row forwards Viliame Mata and Pecali Yato developing nicely and with some new blood, especially at half-back, injected from the champion Drua side, Fiji could be the complete package. Thus expected some highly exciting matches, though with predictable rugby union results.
The saddest result for me was seeing Kenya going down 36-5 to Romania A in the Africans’ only warm-up match before the RWC 2019 repechage this weekend. Sad because Kenya has been one of the few African countries fanatical about rugby and would be an interesting new face the Rugby World Cup, and the Romania result doesn’t bode well for their chances in the qualifiers.
Kenya’s others matches had to be cancelled for financial reasons so the Simbas won’t have another chance to put things right before the repechage begins.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Canada, two of the three others in the qualifiers, warmed up against club sides. Hong Kong lost 28-24 to Welsh regional club side Dragons, but recovered to beat invitational club side Crawshays. Canada defeated Oxford University 26-20 last Wednesday and beat Coventry 35-12 overnight.
What the Germans are up to is a bit of a mystery.
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