Blocking lines, bust-ups and Beauden Barrett blunders – this weekend it was all going on. And what about that red card for Tigers? We wrap up what Twittersphere made of it
Blocking lines, bust-ups and Beauden Barrett blunders. And what about that red card for Tigers?
New Zealand home defeats are about as rare as Halley’s Comet, so hats off to South Africa for their 36-34 Rugby Championship win in Wellington. It was their first away defeat of the All Blacks since 2009 (32-29) when, again, they profited from an interception try.
On that occasion, Jean de Villiers picked off Dan Carter’s pass in Hamilton and on Saturday it was Cheslin Kolbe’s intercept of Anton Lienert-Brown’s pass straight after the break that had you believing the Springboks could achieve something special.
Earlier, Jordie Barrett’s quick lineout throw, which bounced kindly for Willie Le Roux to score, had also gifted the visitors seven points. The Boks rode their luck but there’s no doubting the spirit and courage they showed in defence during the last-quarter onslaught. Watch the highlights of this enthralling match…
The New Zealand Herald pointed out that referee Nigel Owens failed to act on an offside call from an assistant in the final play. Had he awarded the penalty, it would have been an unmissable three points for Beauden Barrett on a day when he had a shocker off the tee. The fly-half landed just two of his eight kicks, missing late conversions from inside the 15m line.
The lack of a top-notch goalkicker seldom affects the world champions because they tend to win by a hatful, but it’s something that must concern Steve Hansen, who experienced only his seventh All Blacks defeat as head coach in 89 Tests.
More pertinent is New Zealand’s failure to attempt a simple drop-goal in the final moments when they had multiple phases of possession right under the sticks. Ignoring the drop-goal option cost the country dear at RWC 2007 and, another generation on, the same inadequacy came back to bite them.
There was almost as much drama in the second Rugby Championship match on the Gold Coast, in which Argentina prevailed against the Wallabies (23-19) on Aussie soil for the first time since their inaugural visit 35 years ago.
The Pumas made 11 line breaks the previous week against New Zealand and their back three of Bautista Delguy, Ramiro Moyano and Emiliano Boffelli again looked electric. The team, now under Mario Ledesma, has been transformed from the sorry group that subsided to Wales and Scotland in June. Pool C at next year’s World Cup, containing Argentina, England and France, is looking more devilish by the week.
Relive the Pumas’ victory by watching the Sky Sports highlights.
The match was notable for two contrasting acts by Israel Folau. The full-back was picked on the wing and produced a superb sidestepping try in which he beat five defenders. But in the final play, he was guilty of a shocking error when failing to pass to the unmarked Bernard Foley; instead, he went alone and lost the ball as Tomas Lavanini put in a thumping tackle.
As if defeat and a drop to seventh in the world rankings wasn’t bad enough, Australia had more problems after the final whistle when back-row Lukhan Tui got in a scuffle with an Australian fan in the stands. Tui, whose stepfather died on Wednesday, has since said he is “not going to be playing any more” and he will take a break for the rest of the season.
In the Gallagher Premiership, Bath’s exciting 37-32 win at Harlequins included a late moment of controversy. When Bath’s Chris Cook burst clear from his 22 after snapping up a loose ball, he was helped – potentially, at any rate – by a blocking line run by his team-mate Aled Brew. Brew, ahead of Cook’s pursuer, Quins wing Nathan Earle, clearly impeded the chase – but was he entitled to do so? BT Sport’s Ben Kay said yes, his colleague Ugo Monye disagreed.
Kay later changed his stance after being alerted to law 9.3, which reads: “A player must not intentionally prevent a player from tackling or attempting to tackle the ball-carrier.”
Take a look at the incident and decide for yourself.
The incident distracted from a blinding finish by Bath’s giant wing Joe Cokanasiga, whose early-season form must be attracting the interest of England boss Eddie Jones. “6ft 3in, 18st, flying like a ballerina,” said BT’s Craig Doyle.
Elsewhere in the Premiership, there were try doubles for a clutch of wings: Gloucester’s Charlie Sharples against Bristol (35-13), Leicester’s Jonny May against Wasps (35-41), and Saracens’ Alex Lewington and David Strettle at Northampton (38-27). Sharples and Strettle reached 50 Premiership tries, the latter having been stuck on 49 for more than three years because of his spell in France.
In becoming the 23rd player to reach the Premiership half-century, Strettle attained a new record – no player has ever taken as long as his 14 years 309 days (since debut) to reach the 50. Tom May was the previous ‘slowest’ in that respect while Strettle is also the second-oldest player to reach the milestone, after Leicester’s Neil Back.
Meanwhile, Lewington has five Premiership tries already for his new club and is the early pacesetter in the top try-scorer table.
The Wasps-Leicester match was a pulsating, eight-try affair, won in the end by a couple of late penalties by All Black Lima Sopoaga, who marked his first Wasps start with 18 points.
The Tigers trailed 22-18 when, just before half-time, 6ft 7in lock Will Spencer was red-carded for a challenge on Wasps hooker Tommy Taylor. Referee Ian Tempest decided the tackle was always high (as opposed to slipping up), forceful and direct to the head, and as such applied the law by dismissing Spencer – correctly in our opinion.
Yet there were plenty who felt it was harsh, including Tigers coach Geordan Murphy, who said: “You get a bloke who’s that tall, it’s very difficult for him to go forward and be flexible and bend over. I’m going to try to pick players who are under 5ft. I think the game’s gone too PC. That (decision) for me is crazy. It’s rugby. There’s no HIA, there was no real danger to the player. It’s a really good shot and it (the red card) has killed the game really.”
It certainly didn’t kill the game – it was a cracker! But what did you think about the sending-off? Watch it for yourself.
Bristol’s defeat at Kingsholm launched the weekend’s domestic action on Friday night. True to form, Pat Lam’s side repeatedly tried to run the ball from deep rather than kick it, and when they turned round ten points to the good, it appeared such high-risk rugby might pay dividends.
But Gloucester soon crushed that notion, winning the second half 32-0. Back-row Jake Polledri was named Man of the Match after his 19 carries for 80 metres, 11 tackles, nine defenders beaten and seven gain-line successes.
At times, Bristol were handling under intense pressure just a yard or two out from their try-line, but Lam defended his team’s approach. “You can’t go into your shell,” he said. “The game we want to play requires skill and making good decisions.”
In the Guinness Pro14, Glasgow are going great guns. Semi-finalists last season, they followed up a spanking of Munster with a 52-24 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The Scots scored seven tries, three of them in the ten minutes that home full-back Malcolm Jaer was in the sin-bin for taking out Tommy Seymour in the air.
There was a double for Ali Price, a score for Callum Gibbons the day after his 30th birthday, and Adam Hastings landed every shot at goal after taking over the goalkicking duties from Pete Horne and the absent Stuart Hogg.
The only downside was a leg injury to Scotland tighthead Zander Fagerson after he tripped over a prone tackler and was taken off on the cart. Coach Dave Rennie said he was “hopeful” the leg wasn’t broken.
It was a grim weekend for the Welsh regions. Nobody expected too much of the Dragons at Leinster (lost 52-10) and Scarlets got the job done against 14-man Benetton (won 38-29), lock Irne Herbst seeing red after leading with an elbow when clearing out at a ruck.
However, the Ospreys were thrashed 49-13 at Munster, coach Allen Clarke accepting the blame for making 12 changes from round two. “We need to grow our depth,” he said by way of explanation.
Cardiff Blues are sitting one off the bottom of Conference A after three straight defeats, albeit all narrow ones. A flying start at Zebre proved no insurance as Oliviero Fabiani’s 79th-minute try did for the Blues 26-24 in Italy and BBC’s Scrum V programme summed up the issue for the Welsh region. If only matches lasted 77 minutes…
In France, Racing 92 were beaten 30-17 at Toulouse. Irishman Simon Zebo, a try-scorer for the Parisians, was up to his usual tricks on social media when posting this tweet in mock homage to his old buddies in the Ireland team.
So three rounds of league matches done and a host of talking points already. Catch up with us again next week.
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