Almanac Rugby Union: Week 1 of Tier 1 North v South Tests plus Pacific Nations Cup

 

 

 

Pacific Nations Cup

Samoa 31 Australia A 26

Fiji 36 Tonga 0

 

Tier 1 Tests

All Blacks 42 Ireland 19

Wallabies 30 England 28

Springboks 32 Wales 29

Pumas 26 Scotland 18

 

We have a feast of international rugby in the Southern Hemisphere right now, primarily over the first three Saturdays of July. The four Tier 1 nations (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina) will host three-Test series against the four Home Nations. As well, Fiji hosts the Pacific Nations Cup. The two other regular participants, Samoa and Tonga, are joined by an Australia A side, the first time this has happened since 2008.

Reviewing these games in chronological order, the PNC kicked off with an AUSTRALIA A outfit that looked rusty and outclassed by SOMOA. The budding Wallabies committed basic errors with monotonous regularity and will have to tighten up to bounce back over the next fortnight. FIJI was impressive to easily account for a lacklustre TONGA. Israel Folau’s prodigal son return to the rugby stage wasn’t particularly inspiring.

The first of the big North v South Tests was the most keenly anticipated. It doesn’t get any more imposing than the NEW ZEALAND All Blacks at Eden Park but IRELAND had beaten them in three of the last five games elsewhere so there was some sense of a potential upset at kick-off. The men in green crossing the line early on whetted the appetites of rugby fans everywhere. Alas, the ABs kicked into gear soon after and never looked back. It was a comprehensive performance with standout efforts all over the pitch.

Next we were off to Perth for the WALLABIES trying to end an eight-game losing streak to ENGLAND. The first half was an unattractive grind but the locals fired up in the second half. They played expansive, enterprising rugby and had the Poms on the ropes with minutes to spare. Allowing a converted try in the last minute of play plus one in overtime soured the win somewhat, but it feels good to have that monkey off the back of Aussie rugby. It was Eddie Jones’s first loss as England coach against his former team.

The SOUTH AFRICA Springboks were expected to easily account for WALES. The Welsh had a miserable 6 Nations campaign and weren’t given much chance against the might of the World Champions. They made their fans back home proud with a hard-hitting game plan that should have given them a draw. With only 30 seconds left on the clock, they kicked the ball to pin their opponents down in their half only to have the Boks move the ball within striking distance for an overtime penalty. If they had kept the ball in hand for a couple of phases, they may well have coughed up a penalty anyhow but it would have been a safer option I believe. Regardless, it was great to see such spirit from the Taffies.

To round the weekend out, the ARGENTINA Pumas held off SCOTLAND to record their first win under new coach, Michael Cheika. They got a good turn-out for the first home Test in three years.

Next weekend, it is crunch time for Fiji and Samoa to build on their wins and by doing so create a title decider in the third week. As for the Southern Hemisphere host nations, they will all go in as favourites to secure their respective series. Should be another great weekend of top-flight rugby.

 

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About

Grew up playing the rugby codes in suburban Sydney. Moved to Melbourne during the Carey era so becoming a Shinboner was the natural call. Still love the game they play in heaven. Took an interest in MLB a few years back and have become infatuated with America's pastime.

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