Wales, Ireland and England face Tri-Nations Giants
Four of the Six Nations Rugby sides have flown south for the winter and received a chilly reception in the Southern Hemisphere.
After the heart warming win for Scotland against Australia in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday, where it was every bit as cold and wet as the Newcastle in northern England, things got a little more heated on Saturday.
New Zealand played hosts to Ireland first up. The Irish were much fancied among the pundits, after their win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup at the same venue last year. Ireland started well enough, spreading the ball wide and both sides converting penalties in the early exchanges. But the Irish did not manage another score in the first half, while Dan Carter scored two more penalties for the All Blacks and debutant winger Julian Savea scored two tries, which Carter also converted. New Zealand finished the first half 20 points ahead at 23-3.
The second half started no better for Ireland. Carter and Israel Dagg set up a fast attack that ended with Savea completing his hat trick of tries only 4 minutes into the half. Irish winger McFaddden pulled one back for the men in green, beating Richie McCaw to a ball kicked through from the Irish half by Sexton. But once again that saw the end of Ireland’s scoring, but New Zealand managed two more tries from replacements Thomson and Cruden. The score finished New Zealand 42 Ireland 10.
If Ireland were fancied, Australian commentators were even more concerned for their own side. Australia faced Six Nations champions Wales after being defeated mid-week by bottom finishing Scotland.
Australia made wholesale changes to the side fielded against Scotland, bringing back several players who were rested after playing Super Rugby matches the previous Saturday. But they were still without major playmakers James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale and Quade Cooper, who are all still on the injured list. But Australia came out fast and determined to put their mid-week nightmare behind them. Fourth choice fly half, Berrick Barnes scored an early penalty and Queensland flanker Scott Higginbotham got his first international try, which Barnes converted, to put the home side ten nil up inside 16 minutes. Welsh fullback Halfpenny converted a penalty and the first half finished with the Wallabies ahead by 7 points.
The Australians came out just as fast in the second half and once again, due to a fantastic solo effort by Will Genia they extended their lead. Wales picked up another penalty and Barnes dropped a goal to maintain the 14 point difference. Another penalty and a try from Welsh winger Cuthbert brought them within a point of the Wallabies. Australian fans were beginning to become concerned as the Welsh have become famous for their second half comebacks. But Australian centre McCabe split the Welsh defence to score the final
try and put the Wallabies out of reach. Man of the match Will Genia provided the assist. Australia 27 Wales 19
Later in the day England were in action in Durban, South Africa. I don’t know about the pundits, but I was certainly expecting a good result for the visitors in this one. South Africa are in a development phase and England finished the Six Nations tournament well. Honours and opportunities were even in the first half, there was far too much kicking, but both sides had chances to score. The half finished with only two penalties each.
The Springboks laid on the pressure early in the second half, but England defended well, until eventually Morne Steyn went over for the first try. The pressure continued and England held out until the 20th minute when South African captain and centre Jean De Villiers scored their second. England answered right away from a penalty resulting from an attack by Ben Foden from the kick off. England picked up another penalty only for the Boks to answer with two of their own. Finally Ben Foden scored in the corner with a spectacular finish, but this was after the siren and only served as a consolation. Final score South Africa 22 England 17.
England’s new coach Stuart Lancaster said it was “a game we could have won” and they certainly could have. Captain Chris Robshaw said England showed glimpses of their full potential in the closing stages of the match. It is going to require an 80 minute effort to turn the result around in Johannesburg next week.
By Max Power