It was a weekend for the underdog to relish in rugby matches at home and abroad. But not everyone came up smelling of roses.
Pumas off the mark
After 16 losses and a draw in their first 17 Rugby Championship matches, Argentina are finally celebrating their first win. They came from 14-0 down in the first half to beat Australia 21-17, thanks to tries from Leonardo Senatore and Juan Imhoff and three penalties and a conversion from Nicolas Sanchez.
The global game of rugby will benefit from having an Argentina side which can compete properly in the Championship. Congratulations to everyone involved with the Pumas – apart from the idiotic fans who feature among the Sinners, below.
South Africa hadn’t beaten the All Blacks since 2011 and New Zealand hadn’t lost to anyone since 2012, but 23-year-old replacement Springbok fly-half Pat Lambie didn’t let that spook him when he lined up a 78th minute, 55-metre penalty to win their Rugby Championship clash. He booted it long and strong through the posts at Ellis Park to take South Africa to a 27-25 win.
The Boks had led from the 11th minute to the 69th, then Dane Coles’s first Test try put New Zealand 25-24 up. It looked like a trademark, late killer blow from the All Blacks, but then Liam Messan slammed his shoulder into Schalk Burger’s head as Coles made a tackle on the loose forward. After consulting his fellow officials and taking a good look at the replays, Wayne Barnes gave the penalty and Lambie stepped up to become the new national hero.
Sam’s the man
Replacement props don’t score match-changing tries very often, but Cardiff Blues front-rower Sam Hobbs had that honour at Connacht, as his touch-down at the base of the post helped his team end a three-match losing streak as they snatched a draw at the death in Galway.
The half-time score had been 10-10, before Connacht stretched away to take a seemingly unassailable a 24-10 lead with two tries However, in the last ten minutes the Blues fought back with great character, and Macauley Cook dived in under the post for a try which Rhys Patchell converted. In the final minute the Welsh side turned up the pressure and recycled the ball through 32 phases until Hobbs grounded it at the base of the post, making the critical conversion easy for Patchell.
Just great from Tait
Newcastle Falcons last won a Premiership game on 27 October last year, but a sublime piece of skill from Alex Tait helped them beat Exeter Chiefs 29-24 and end their bad run.
The Falcons trailed 14-15 at half-time at Kingston Park and Exeter were 24-17 up after 65 minutes, but then Tom Catterick scored a try for Newcastle and the conversion by Juan Pablo Socino leveled the scores.
The Falcons attacked again and full-back Alex Tait came into the line, made ground up the left and produced the most sensational offload to Noah Cato as he was about to be tackled into touch. The pass came out of the side of Tait’s hand as he hit the deck and Cato scooted over to score. Socino missed the conversion but the Falcons held out for the remaining 11 minutes to seal the win.
Referee Nigel Owens is well known for his great rapport with the players and is recognised as one of the best officials in the game and this weekend he showed that while rugby’s core philosophy is that that referee is always right, sometimes he has to admit he is wrong.
Owens showed a yellow card to Australia full-back Israel Folau for tackling Joaquin Tuculet in the air during the Test against Argentina, but when he saw the replay on the big screen in the stadium Owens changed his mind and called Folau back. It was a gutsy move, and while the Wallabies did not like some of his other decisions, they should give credit where it’s due.
Munster fans have seen their team lose two of their first four Guinness Pro12 matches this season, but they have a good reason to be cheerful this week as their team beat Leinster at the Aviva Stadium for the first time in six attempts.
A week ago Munster were losing at home to the Ospreys, but seven days later a haul of 21 points from Ian Keatley helped them win 34-23 at their arch rivals’ home ground.
While Keatley’s contribution was saintly, four of his team-mates blotted their copybooks by getting sin-binned. Somehow, Munster overcame their lack of numbers and gave their travelling fans a day to remember.
Joost van der Westhuizen is fighting his battle with the deadly Motor Neurone Disease with dignity and bravery. This weekend he walked onto the Ellis Park pitch before the South Africa v New Zealand match, wearing a green Springbok jersey and accompanied by his children. He was a magnificent player and is now underlining what an extraordinary human being he is.
BT – Is that Bruce Television?
English rugby fans were treated to a real TV treat on Friday when BT Sport screened the Bath v Saracens clash. It was a humdinger of a game, full of physicality and great skills and excitement. But dozens of armchair viewers took to Twitter to complain about one aspect of the programme – BT Sport’s apparent obsession with cutting away from the players to shots of Bath owner Bruce Craig watching the match.
We had Bruce smiling, frowning, pensive, nervous, delighted…you name it, we saw it. The director clearly finds him irresistible.
Among the viewers who lambasted BT Sport on Twitter was Dylan Hartley, who commented: “I think the BT camera man fancies Bath owner Mr Bruce Craig.”
Former Gloucester flanker Andrew Hazell Tweeted to TV pundit and ex-Bath prop David Flatman: “How does Brucey get so much airtime?” to which Flatman replied: “He looks like Richard Gere.”
Just in case you have forgotten what Mr Craig looks like in the intervening few days, here is a reminder.
Stem the tide
Summer has given way to autumn, with its brisk breezes and high tides. Some hatches certainly need to be battened down at the Old Deer Park training ground and the Kassam Stadium, as London Welsh have now leaked 33 tries in five games and have a negative points difference of 205.
It’s one thing to lose your first few games after being promoted, it is quite another to get thoroughly battered in every one. Yes, London Welsh brought together an almost entirely new squad during the summer, so they need time to get organised, but that is no excuse for not being fit enough and for falling off tackles.
London Welsh’s players and coaches need to find a way to at least make their games closer. If they continue to look so very far out of their depth, it will strengthen the argument of the people who say there should be no relegation and promotion between the Aviva Premiership and the Greene King Championship. I do not want to see the top tier becoming a closed shop.
Not in our game
For years, Argentina’s rugby officials lobbied and campaigned for their team to be allowed to join the Tri-Nations. Since that wish was granted, in 2012, Argentina’s players have given their all to try to claim their first win in the new Rugby Championship.
This weekend they achieved that at last, but their win was tarnished by the disgraceful behaviour of the fans who shone lasers into the eyes of Australia’s goal-kicker Bernard Foley. The Wallaby missed a potentially match-winning penalty from 10m to the left of the posts, because a laser was directed at him from behind the goal.
“It was happening all night on all the kicks,” said Foley. “I’m not too sure what you can do with the crowd there. It’s a bit like the soccer stuff that they do over here, the carry on.”
All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden was awarded a re-kick when they same thing happened to him at La Plata last year. Foley did not ask referee Nigel Owens for another shot, which was a mistake on his part, but he should not have had to.
Argentina needs to deal with these idiots, and fast.