By Andrew Hartup, Rugby World reader
That’s better. It wasn’t a 100% successful week for the home nations, but it was a damn sight better than last week. While only the Scots could see rays of sunshine in the previous weekend’s action, England and their much maligned coach have caught sight of a gap in the stormy cloud that has been over their heads since the Six Nations following a narrow but vital win against the Aussies.
If you want to know specifics about the England win, check out the excellent blog post below. England were lucky to snatch the result they did – the Aussies fluffing a seemingly easy penalty in the closing stages, but that doesn’t mean Johnson’s men didn’t earn their victory. They had what their round-ball counter-parts lacked on Friday evening: desire. The pack was hungry (Lawes – excellent prospect, Moody – fantastic signing for Bath – sorry Tigers fans) and the backs gelled, using the available ball smartly. Well, most of the time. Ben Youngs has surely earned a permanent starting spot in the England side along with Foden and Ashton. It was far from a perfect performance, but it shows England can play attacking rugby when they try. And as it turns out, when they get the ball to their talented wingers, they can score some neat tries too…
So while England fans savour their win, Welsh devotees will lament the fact that their side encountered an All Black team at their most rampant. Wales battled and battled throughout the game – their back row had an absolute stormer – but during the second half the Kiwis relentlessly battered the Welsh defence to earn some well-worked tries. There is, quite simply, no team in the world who can claim to be the equals of New Zealand right now, and barring any miraculous turn-arounds it’ll be Carter and co lifting the World Cup on home soil next year. Wales should be proud of their performance – the score line makes what was such a close-fought game seem one-sided.
Scotland played well too, proving that last week’s victory against Argentina was far from a fluke. Hamilton even ran in a rare try, and Parks, again, was the spearhead of this Scottish renaissance. On this form, we’ll even go as far as to say Scotland is a serious contender for next year’s Six Nations – even with the Welsh and French enjoying reasonably rich veins of form.
As for poor Ireland… Shell-shocked by last week’s rout, they looked like a team who’d seen enough New Zealanders to last them all year. They battled hard against the Maoris, but looked far from 100% – especially as most of their points came from the boot of Sexton. It was better for the Irish (it always helps to have 15 men on the pitch against NZ sides), but they still have room for improvement.
So, a good weekend for the northern hemisphere. Considering the dominance of the southern hemisphere sides so far, two wins is something of an achievement. Let’s hope this significant step forward isn’t accompanied by two steps back…