Ireland hooker Rory Best reached a landmark while leading his team to victory over Australia. England, Wales and Scotland also had wins to celebrate, but some players blotted their copybooks with foul play.
The Ireland skipper had plenty to celebrate on Saturday, guiding his team to a 27-24 win over Australia in Dublin and winning his 100th Test cap in the process.
Rory Best made his Ireland debut in 2005 and has been a regular starter in the No2 jersey since 2010. He has grown into an outstanding leader too and Ireland have won 56 of the 100 Tests he has featured in.
The victory over Australia gives Best a notable new feather in his cap. He has led his team to wins over New Zealand and South Africa in 2016 as well as the Wallabies, making Ireland the first European side to beat the big three from the south in the same calendar year since 2003.
High praise is due to the entire Ireland pack for enabling their team to fight back from 24-20 down in the last quarter to win. Josh van der Flier was named Man of the Match and the forwards put together ten phases of close-quarter attacking play before Conor Murray gave the ball some width inside the 22 and sent it via Simon Zebo to Keith Earls to score the winning try.
England’s openside wasn’t named Man of the Match after Saturday’s 27-14 win over Argentina (that honour went to Chris Robshaw), but Tom Wood still played a key role.
With England reduced to 14 men from the fifth minute onwards, their rearguard action was always going to be as important as their attacking game and Wood was his side’s top tackler with 17.
He contributed in attack too, making a total of 16 metres from five runs and he helped set up Jonny May’s try. George Ford delayed his pass to Wood long enough to draw one defender and Wood straightened the line and timed his pass to Jonathan Joseph perfectly, so Joseph could ship the ball on to May, who sprinted over in the left-hand corner. That put England 27-14 up with 12 minutes left and ensured they extended their winning run to 13 Tests.
The officials at the England v Argentina game, led by referee Pascal Gauzere, had some tough calls to make and got them spot on.
Gauzere did not shy away from the big decisions, sending off one player from each side and sin-binning two apiece as well. He was absolutely correct to wield the red card at Elliot Daly in the fifth minute and Enrique Pieretto in the 76th and did the right thing by punishing Joe Marler, who provoked Pieretto by holding onto his leg at a breakdown.
It was assistant referee Ian Davies who spotted the Pieretto incident and relayed it to the referee via his microphone as play continued. Davies had identified the culprit and was sure of what he had seen, which is great work when there is so much going on at such a high speed in Test match rugby.
The scrum-half had to play the entire second half of the Ireland v Australia match out of position on the wing after Ireland suffered three key injuries in their back line. However, Kieran Marmion was totally unfazed and in his first couple of minutes on the pitch he tackled Dane Haylett-Petty into touch, then put in a big hit on David Pocock. That tackled helped force the No 8 to throw a forward pass to Henry Speight so the left wing’s try was disallowed.
Marmion made six tackles in all, doubling up with Keith Earls to hit Sefanaia Naivalu and stop him offloading to Tevita Kuridrani when Australia were 27-24 down with three minutes to play. One minute later Marmion brought down Silatolu Latu and Peter O’Mahony won the turnover which enabled Ireland to finally snuff out Australia’s hopes of a comeback.
Stuart Hogg and Ryan Wilson
This duo were Scotland’s leading lights in their 43-16 win over Georgia.
Stuart Hogg scored two tries – one in each half – and helped create another. His first try was a beauty, as he chipped the Georgia defence inside his own half, collected the ball and raced 50 metres to the line. The full-back made a total of 147 metres from 17 breaks and was Scotland’s most potent attacker.
Ryan Wilson was named Man of the Match after enjoying a great all-round performance. He was the top attacker in the pack, making 71m from 17 carries and he also made six tackles.
Wales beat South Africa 27-13 and 17 of their points came from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny as he punished the mistakes made by this poor Springbok side.
Halfpenny kicked five penalties and a conversion to help Wales finish their November series with a 75% winning record.
The pick of the Wales forwards during their win over South Africa was Justin Tipuric, who scored his team’s second try and was solid in defence too.
The flanker was Wales’s top tackler with 16 and he burst through South Africa’s defence to score his try in the 77th minute, hitting the line at pace on the 22 and taking a deft pass from Taulupe Faletau, then rounding full-back Johan Goosen.
Elliot Daly and Enrique Pieretto
This duo were both sent off in the England v Argentina Test at Twickenham, and while their offences were quite different, both certainly deserved to go and were equally at fault in my mind.
Elliot Daly became the fifth player – and first back – to be sent off while playing a Test for England. His crime was to clatter into Leonardo Senatore as the No 8 jumped to catch a box kick from Ben Youngs.
Senatore was always in the best position to field the kick and Daly, chasing back, was never going to get there in time. So, for him to tackle the Puma while he was airborne was utterly reckless and when Senatore hit the ground head/neck/shoulder first, Daly was bound to be sent off.
The wing left his England team-mates a man down for the remaining 75 minutes of a match and must be thankful that they managed to win without him. Their victory takes their winning run to 13, just one short of their all-time best sequence of 14, set from March 2002 to August 2003.
Enrique Pieretto was dismissed five minutes from the end of the game for stamping on Joe Marler’s head when the England prop was hanging onto his leg as a ruck dispersed. The initial replays hinted that Pieretto might have been off-balance and therefore not in control of his actions, but the final angle showed clearly that he looked down and deliberately planted his boot into Marler.
Flanker Pablo Matera was already in the sin-bin at that stage for collapsing and maul so Pieretto’s foul left his team with just 13 players – the same as England as Marler was sin-binned too.
Daly was handed a three-week ban this afternoon (Monday) while Pieretto’s hearing will be on Wednesday.
The Australia flanker was lucky to get away with just a yellow card for upending Tadhg Furlong at a ruck and causing the Ireland prop to land on his head.
Referee Jerome Garces stopped short of sending Dean Mumm off in the 23rd minute because he said it was “not a dynamic situation” so Furlong didn’t hit the ground at pace. However, because Furlong had the ball in his hands he was unable to stop his head-first fall.
Even though he was only sin-binned, Mumm’s foul was still a costly one as Ireland scored their first try while he was off the pitch.
Juan Martin Hernandez
Our first three Sinners were all guilty of foul play but Argentina’s fly-half is added to the list for an error which had more than a touch of comedy about it.
After Jonny May had scored his try for England, Juan Martin Hernandez intended to float his kick-off just across the ten-metre line on the right, so his onrushing forwards could collect it and try to fight back from 27-14 down.
His kick went to the right, but skewed back over the halfway line and so ended up behind its starting point. Hernandez was left shaking his head in disgust, while more than half of the people at Twickenham certainly saw the funny side of it.