Best of the Weekend: Agony for Wales and Ireland in Australasia
Another busy weekend of action around the globe, from Tokyo to Cape Town to Lautoka. Here are the best bits:
Wales & Ireland so close but fall short
For one Northern Hemisphere side to come close to a famous win down south is agony enough, but two in succession was remarkable. It started in Christchurch where with 72 minutes on the clock Johnny Sexton had a chance to give Ireland a 3 point lead from a long range penalty. It dropped short, New Zealand made their way up the field but with their 2nd drop goal attempt on 79 minutes, Dan Carter snatched victory. It was a bitter blow for an Ireland side that were immeasurably improved from their hammering in the 1st test. From Conor Murray’s early try to their parity in the set-piece and Sexton’s control, they were outstanding.
As for Wales, their agony was perhaps even greater because with the hooter ringing around a disappointingly empty Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, they were ahead by a point. Then the Australian maul was inevitably collapsed and substitute Mike Harris stepped up to land the winning penalty. Harris was part of the Australia side who lost on the last play to Scotland a few weeks ago, so this was a moment of redemption, but the emotional effect on Wales was enormous. They started each half with a bang through tries from George North and Jonathan Davies, before the kicking duel between Berrick Barnes and Leigh Halfpenny entered into full swing. It looked as though the Welsh had done enough to pull off their first win in Australia since 1969. Plus ça change.
England bullied into submission as Scotland stay unbeaten
A titanic performance from South Africa in the first half left England bruised and battered in Johannesburg, Heyneke Meyer’s side unrepentant in the hammering they handed out in racing away to a 28-10 lead after half-time. A combination of substitutions and England’s adaption to the altitude saw them come back into the game impressively thanks to a brace of tries from Ben Youngs and Toby Flood’s boot taking the gap down to 4. But JP Pietersen’s score in the corner proved decisive and clinched the series for the Springboks. England have plenty to reflect on.
All this meant that Scotland remained as the only unbeaten side on tour after seeing off Fiji in Laukota. TRB’s very own Tim Visser celebrated his first cap for his adoptive country by running in two tries on debut in a 37-25 win, making it from 2/2 for the summer for Andy Robinson’s side ahead of meeting Samoa next week. To see Scotland score tries is a pleasant reprieve from their blunt attack of the Six Nations, but to return unbeaten from their tour after the calls for Andy Robinson to be sacked back in March would represent a huge improvement.
The other results from around the world saw Argentina pick up their second win of the summer against France thanks to a late try from Manuel Montero that was converted by captain Felipe Contepomi. The USA picked up a 36-20 home win over Georgia but Canada were not so fortunate, going down 16-25 to Italy.
Samoa triumph in the Pacific Nations Cup
A one point victory in Tokyo saw Samoa triumph in the PNC but it could have so nearly been a heartbreaking defeat had Japan fly-half Ryan Nicholas’ conversion gone over at the death. Instead, Samoa clung on to win 27-26 and with their second title in two years. Leicester’s Logovili Mulipola was sin-binned during the match whilst Ospreys scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i was one of three try scorers.
Baby Blacks and Boks through to JWC Final
Two 30+ point wins decided the Junior World Championship semi-finals at Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, with New Zealand getting revenge on Wales for their group stage defeat and the hosts overcoming an Argentina side who impressed in the group stages but were unable to back continue their form against the Baby Boks. The final will be played on Friday the 22nd.
Try of the Weekend goes to Rob Horne of Australia for his effort in the second half, set up by a wonderful dummy from Berrick Barnes.
Hero of the Weekend is shared by Mike Harris and Dan Carter for their last minute kicks to snatch victory.
Finally, the Villain is Israel Dagg for his needless block on Rob Kearney that reduced the All Blacks to 14 men at a crucial time.
by Ben Coles