England, Scotland, Italy and Australia all had winning smiles, Ireland, Argentina and South Africa tasted defeat and although Wales were victorious, they had little to shout about.
The England boss has guided his team to 11 straight wins in his first year in charge, but it is not just that success on the field which makes him a Saint. I have sat in countless post-match press conferences in 17 years of doing this job and Eddie Jones brings a fun factor which other England bosses couldn’t manage, even when they were winning.
He sat beaming at the top table after Saturday’s 58-15 win over Fiji and refused to criticise England for conceding three tries. Instead, he got the assembled media chuckling with his unique turns of phrase – some achievement considering he had riled them a couple of days before by delaying his team announcement.
Here are some of his most positive and funny lines from Saturday night:
“It was a really good performance. If you look at their World Cup record from last year, to score 58 points against Fiji is outstanding.”
“We dropped off at certain times, but it is difficult when you race away to a big lead to maintain that intensity.”
“We are not going to play the perfect game – you play the perfect game and you can retire.”
“We are only 11 games into what we have started here. We are only just getting out of the shallow end.”
“Leone Nakarawa is the LeBron James of rugby. He can do anything. It’s quite incredible, the skills he has.”
“ Young Sinckler, out of East Enders, did alright for us too! He showed he can run the ball. He’s got amazing acceleration.”
The England wing won the Man of the Match award for scoring two tries in his team’s 58-15 win over Fiji and making a major nuisance of himself in attack and defence.
Two years after Semesa Rokoduguni was given his first cap by former England boss Stuart Lancaster, he was recalled by current England chief Eddie Jones for his second Test appearance.
Rokoduguni repaid Jones in style, making a break in the opening minutes which helped set up the first England try for Jonathan Joseph, then scoring a try of his own 13 minutes into the match.
He added another try midway through the second half and although he had failed to stop the man mountain that is Nemani Nadolo when he crashed over for Fiji’s first try after 32 minutes, there weren’t many blots on Rokoduguni’s copybook.
He made 139m with the ball in hand, beating six defenders and making six clean breaks. He put in ten successful tackles too (the best tally among the England backs), though Joe Launchbury topped the tackle count with 14.
The Scotland skipper kicked 14 of Scotland’s points in their 19-16 win over Argentina, including a last-gasp penalty which gave them the win.
Greig Laidlaw converted Sean Maitland’s try from the touchline and landed four penalties. He missed with one potentially match-winning penalty, which bounced back off the upright, so he could have been a Sinner not a Saint. The same goes for Finn Russell, who put a drop-goal a fraction wide.
However, Laidlaw found the target when it mattered most and the win puts Scotland up to eighth place in the World Rugby rankings – a useful place to be as the World Cup seedings will be taken from the rankings in May.
The Italy fly-half kicked the match-winning penalty in his team’s astonishing 20-18 triumph over South Africa.
Thrashed 68-10 by New Zealand last week, Italy bounced back in style and Carlo Canna kicked two conversions and the crucial 65th minute penalty to bring home the bacon.
Italy’s tries were scored by Andries van Schalkwyk, from a rolling maul, and Giovanbattista Venditti, while Edoardo Padovani kicked a penalty. Major plaudits also go to Italy’s new coach Conor O’Shea.
Wales’s replacement fly-half spared some of his country’s blushes when he kicked the drop-goal which gave them a 33-30 win over Japan in Cardiff.
But Wales still attracted a huge amount of criticism for an error-strewn, lacklustre performance against a team they should expect to beat comfortably.
There were just seconds to go when Davies was teed up after the Wales forwards had trucked the ball up into the 22. He nailed the kick from about 30m out in front of the posts and so stole the victory, but it was a bitter-sweet win for Wales.
They ended up as the losing side, but Japan still deserve high praise for their performance against Wales in Cardiff.
Akihito Yamada and Kotaro Matsushima caused Wales huge problems in attack, making 116 and 113m with the ball in hand respectively. Amanaki Lotoahea and Amanaki Mafi also had Wales back-pedalling, while No 8 Mafi was the top tackler in the match with 18.
The Australia wing scored arguably the try of the weekend, fending off France flanker Charles Ollivon and acrobatically touching the ball down one-handed with his body in mid-flight, over the touchline.
That third try in as many games for Tevita Kuridrani put Australia ahead and they managed to hold out sustained France attacks and hang on for the win.
There was a full Aviva Premiership programme this weekend and among the players who produced match-winning performances for their clubs was Stephen Myler, who kicked all Northampton’s points in an 18-17 win at Worcester Warriors.
Will Chudley scored the bonus-point try for Exeter Chiefs in the last five minutes as they won 32-19 at Newcastle Falcons, while Freddie Burns scored ten points and created a try for Owen Williams as Leicester beat Harlequins 25-6.
Gloucester, who have miss-fired badly in the Premiership this season, pulled off the surprise domestic result of the weekend, beating high-flying Wasps 36-18. Tries by Richard Hibbard, Mark Atkinson, Matt Scott, Charlie Sharples and Henry Purdy gave the Cherry and Whites only their second Premiership win of the season.
There are Sinners all over the Wales team after their dreadful performance in their 33-30 win over Japan. Wales head coach Rob Howley admitted: “Japan deserved to win. Whilst we have come away with a win, it certainly felt like a loss,” and criticism rained down on the men in red after a plodding, indecisive showing.
Former Wales full-back Gareth Thomas is usually a positive pundit, but even he was critical on BBC’s Scrum V show. “The speed of our game was too slow. I don’t want to see the nine putting his foot on the ball and standing, waiting for a bus.”
Thomas also criticised the selection for being too conservative. “Sam Davies came on and probably did more in ten minutes than Gareth Anscombe had done for the whole 70.”
Among the Sinners is Liam Williams, who was sin-binned for blocking Akihito Yamada as the Japan wing tried to chase his own kick up to the try-line. Williams could have joined Alex Cuthbert in chasing back to try to beat Yamada to the ball, but instead he tried a cynical block and didn’t get away with it.
Gareth Anscombe threw a horrible, careless pass in the vague direction of Cuthbert only for Yamada to pounce on the loose ball and run in from his own half to score a try which left Japan trailing just 14-13 at half-time.
A complete lack of urgency in defence allowed Kenki Fukuoka to score a try which made it 24-20 with 26 minutes to go and Japan tied the scores at 30-30 when Liam Williams was turned over and Kotaro Matsushima turned defence into attack, which resulted in a try for Amanaki Lotoahea.
Cuthbert butchered a fabulous try-scoring chance when he chased a brilliant kick from Sam Davies up the left and let the ball slip away as he slid over the line with it. Cuthbert was left sitting with his head in his hands in disbelief.
New Zealand’s high hitters
The All Blacks put in too many head high tackles during their 21-9 win over Ireland. Malakai Fekitoa was sin-binned for his high challenge on Simon Zebo in the 49th minute and he was certainly not the only culprit. Yes, strong defence is essential in Test-match rugby, but aggression must stay on the right side of the law.
Fekitoa will face a citing panel this week along with Sam Cane, who knocked out Robbie Henshaw after just 11 minutes of the match. Referee Jaco Peyper and his team of officials were happy that it was an accidental clash, as Henshaw spun into the tackle. but Cane has been cited since the match.
Peyper incurred some Irish wrath when he refused to use the Television Match Official to determine if all the passes in the lead-up to New Zealand’s third try were legal. Beauden Barrett’s offload to TJ Perenara and Perenara’s pass to Fekitoa both looked like they might have been forward, but when Ireland skipper Rory Best asked Peyper to take a look, the referee said he and his assistants were happy.
With 15 minutes left to play and the scoreline still tight, it might have been better to double check.
The Argentine replacement gave away the crucial penalty which Greig Laidlaw kicked to steal a 19-16 win for Scotland at BT Murrayfield.
With Scotland pressing through the phases, Juan Leguizamon flung himself at the feet of the ball carrier and referee Ben O’Keeffe awarded a penalty for a no-arms tackle. Laidlaw made no mistake from the tee and Argentina were doomed.
He could have been a hero for France as, with his team trailing 25-23, Camille Lopez attempted a match-winning drop-goal. Instead he is a villain as his kick from just over 30m out went wide and the Wallabies hung on for the win.
Sean O’Brien and Josh van der Flier
Ireland went in search of a winning double over New Zealand and were still in the game at half-time, trailing just 14-6.
Malakai Fekitoa was then sin-binned for a high tackle on Simon Zebo and Ireland put together a good period of pressure, enjoying 80% possession in the first 20 minutes of the second half.
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They tried to breach the defence from attacking lineouts several times, but individual errors cost them dear.
Sean O’Brien spilled the ball with the try-line beckoning after a superb lineout take from Jamie Heaslip. Then, a few minutes later, Josh van der Flier tried an over-ambitious offload to Andrew Trimble off the floor when he was just five metres from the line. If van der Flier had recycled the ball Ireland might have been able to maintain the momentum, but instead Julian Savea snaffled it, the All Blacks cleared the danger and went on to win 21-9.