The Rugby Championship, Round One

in #steemsports7 years ago


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Australia vs New Zealand


The first game of this year’s Rugby Championship was played between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in Sydney. In front of a bi-partisan crowd approaching 55,000, conditions were fine but blustery for this fixture. The Wallabies started strong putting the All Blacks under pressure in the opening minutes and were rewarded with a penalty. Foley kicked. 3-0.
The All Blacks slowly got into their work and from broken play, they broke a couple of tackles, spun the ball wide quickly creating the space for Squire to cross in the corner in the 10th minute. Barrett converted. 3-7. The Wallabies replied with another penalty, then from the ensuing kick-off the All Blacks were straight onto the attack, and following several phases Ioane was over in the corner. 6-12.
The All Blacks were executing at their clinical best, assisted by some woeful Wallabies defense. The Wallabies were also struggling with timing on attack, and it was a Wallaby attack that broke down in mid-field, with the ball being scooped up by the All Blacks, that lead to Ioane sprinting away to cross under the posts. 6-19.
After only 25 minutes the game was opening up, and exposed the poor Wallabies defense further, missing simple one on one tackles as their defensive pattern broke down time and again, allowing the All Blacks to slice through it seemingly at will. In the next 15 minutes the All Blacks ran in three more tries, all close to or under the posts, highlighting the lack of defence. Crotty scored two, Sonny Bill-Williams one. The score at half-time was 6-40.
The 40 points scored by the All Blacks was the most in a test half between the two countries. They were intense, physical, clinical and simply too dominating and smart for the woeful Wallabies. In contrast, the Wallabies made so many errors I think the statisticians lost count. Their defense was puzzling and poorly organized, their attack inaccurate, their scrum dominated despite receiving some scrum penalties, and they were ineffective at the breakdown. To be fair, it was like watching a top tier team play a third tier one.
The second half started no better for the Wallabies. More mistakes and some brilliant counter-attacking by the All Blacks lead to Damien McKenzie going over in the corner in the 43rd minute, and in the 48th minute B Smith had an easy run in under the posts following several phases of attack. Barret converted both. 6-54.

At this point, the All Blacks had scored at more than a point a minute, and the most points in a test against the Wallabies. It was also a turning point in the match as the All Blacks appeared to switch off and momentum swung to the Wallabies. To their credit, substitutions saw the Wallabies defense function much better and they were also more accurate on attack. The game opened up as errors slipped into the All Black game and in the final 30 minutes the Wallabies ran in 4 tries. It was all too little too late but they will take some positives from it.
It did include a candidate for the ugliest international try, beginning with a wobbly forward pass from first-five Foley and then Folau collecting the ball from an offside position to sprint away under the posts. The officials studied the footage for an age and finally saw something everybody else didn’t as they allowed the try to stand. It didn’t really matter but probably summed up the final 30 minutes as some of the hardest to watch in international rugby history. The final scoreline was 35-54.
This was one of the more bizarre games of international rugby. For 50 minutes the All Blacks completely dominated all facets of the game, had scored eight tries to nil, and had put the most points on the Wallabies in a test match. Then they mentally turned off, dropped intensity and purpose, the game lost almost all structure and the Wallabies pounced. The Wallabies will take confidence from the momentum they created late in the game but equally the All Blacks will want to atone for that final 30 minutes. Next week’s return fixture is in Dunedin under the roof. Hang onto your seats folks as on a dry hard track it promises to be fast paced and entertaining.

South Africa vs Argentina


The second game of this year’s Rugby Championship was played between the Springboks and Pumas in Port Elizabeth. A near capacity crowd was there to witness the game played in fine conditions as the sun slowly faded late in the day.
The Springboks dominated the opening minutes, pushing the Pumas on attack but their defence held firm. After a missed long range dropped goal attempt by Jantjies, the Springboks finally got the first points from a penalty goal. 3-0. In the 15th minute the Springboks may have been hard done by the French ref when in a position to score, however they got their chance to score again several minutes later when Jantjies kicked another penalty. 6-0.
The Springboks were constantly threatening, playing an uncompromising physical game reminiscent of old and were dominating the Pumas up front. The Argentine scrum, often their strength, was pushed around in the early exchanges which didn’t bode well for the visitors.
The Springboks had a lot of possession and tried to play with pace and width but their handling let them down. After 27 minutes the Pumas finally strung some phases together and were rewarded with a kickable penalty only for Sanchez to pull it wide. Several minutes later and against the run of play, the Pumas scored from a great counter attack that started in their own 22. Tuculet started it and Landajo ended it by kicking through a cross-grubber kick from Boffelli to dive on and score. 6-5.

This score seemed to spur the Springboks on as they piled onto attack looking ever threatening. They got their chance just on half-time when Skosan received an inside ball from Jantjies, was partially tackled but got up to run on and score. The Springboks had dominated possession in the first half but it only showed on the scoreboard thanks to the late Skosan try and some weak Pumas defense. The Pumas had hung in there, making the most of their few chances, coupled with some stout defense. However by the end of the half the Springboks looked to have found their gear.

Both teams traded penalties in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Then the Springboks destroyed the Pumas scrum in the 50th minute. They quickly shifted up a gear, moved the ball at speed both left and right, until a clever mis-pass allowed Rhule to crack the Pumas defense and he crashed over to score. Jantjies converted off the posts. 23-8. But the Pumas weren’t done yet. Following a period of concerted pressure and some strong work by the Pumas forwards, Boffelli crossed to score in the corner in the 60th minute. Sanchez converted. 23-15.
Entering the final quarter the game still hung in the balance. The Springboks continued to dominate territory and possession, and finally the pressure told on the Pumas as both Kolisi and Du Toit crossed for tries in the 67th and 73rd minutes against a tiring defense. 37-15.

In the end it was an impressive start to the Rugby Championship for the Springboks. Their bench in particular gave them the impetus for the final quarter and their outside backs looked confident. Their scrum was strong and the forward pack generally outmuscled their opponents. For the Pumas the scoreline will be a concern. They survived on scraps, and while still in the game going into the final quarter, the defensive workload of the previous 60 minutes finally caught up with them. Next week’s return fixture in Salta is crucial for them if they are to be competitive in this year’s competition. The Springboks however will be planning for more of the same.

Round One Results


Wallibies vs All Blacks 34-54


Springboks vs Pumas 37-15


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All Blacks will just be too good again this year. I'm hoping the Springboks will put up a big challenge but not holding my breath!

Yes the All Blacks will be the test for how far the Boks have come this year. Could be a good finish to the comp as they don't meet till rounds 4 & 6.

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