The #Scrumdown – England’s finishers delight and Scotland fall agonisingly short
Marginal calls for the TMO are relatively rare in rugby, so you had to feel a little sorry for the officials at Twickenham on Saturday when three such incidents took place. Unfortunately for Australia they were on the wrong end of all of them. On the balance of it, however, they were all probably the right calls. Michael Hooper was offside for his disallowed try, and whether he made an effort to slow down is a little moot. The law is the law, even if it seems like a stupid one. Stephen Moore was unfortunate to marginally block Chris Robshaw, but there is no doubt he was obstructing the former England captain, and the ball came within a mouse whisker of going out for Daly’s try, but it didn’t. Yes, England got the rub of the green, but they were all fair decisions.
Hearing Michael Cheika complain about the officials following an Australia loss is becoming almost as inevitable as a Hooper yellow card. He does not want to get a reputation for this, and his language and behaviour during the game, whilst understandable, didn’t paint him and his team in a great light. Cheika should perhaps be more concerned with how the Wallabies finished the game. Only 7 points down with ten to go, it is the kind of situation where New Zealand would pile on the pressure, yet Australia were soundly torn apart by England’s substitutes, led by a sensational Danny Care.
Care put in two beautiful kicks to put in Jonathan Joseph and Jonny May, before finishing off a try of his own after May did well with a loose ball. It was a mesmerising last 9 minutes for the hosts, who were a little lucky to be leading at that point, despite what Eddie Jones said after the game. A record 30-6 victory for England, though it felt like anything but a drubbing.
Australia’s next opponents Scotland came within an offload of beating New Zealand for the very first time in their history. Having played the better rugby in the first half, New Zealand scored two quick tries to lead 15-3 heading in to the final quarter. Following a kiwi yellow card, the game really came alive in the final quarter. Jonny Gray stretched over from close range to make it a 5-point game, before Beauden Barret scored a sensational effort against the run of play to restore the 12 point deficit. Scotland came again, however, and scored a fantastic score of their own, with 3 minutes to go, through Huw Jones. A blockbuster finish saw Stuart Hogg breaking through, but Barret’s covering tackle meant a successful offload was impossible, and the ball went forward. A breathless end to a memorable encounter, but New Zealand held on to win 17-22.
It was another near miss for Scotland, but they are definitely moving past their ‘loveable loser’ moniker. They left it just a little late, here, but they dominated long periods of the game, and were undone by a few moments of All Black magic. Continue their progression, and they’ll be in the conversation for Six Nations titles. This match also showed that the All Blacks are becoming beatable, as long as chances are taken.
Wales laboured past Georgia, who dominated in the scrum and have genuine grievances about how the match ended. With the score at 13-6, the visitors had a series of scrums that saw a yellow card for Welsh prop Tomas Francis. This resulted in uncontested scrums, as Wales apparently had no fit props to come on as a replacement. It was a dodgy second half from the home side, who had raced into a ten point lead in the first 20 minutes through a fantastic score from Hallon Amos, a rare moment of quality. They were much changed from the team that narrowly lost to Australia, but strength in depth has long been Wales’s issue, and this performance did not hint that that issue will go away anytime soon. As for Georgia, the debate about just what to do with the talented Eastern Europeans will continue. Perhaps a home test against a tier-one team would be a just reward for a great performance.
Ireland had a similar night to Wales. They looked like they were cruising to victory over Fiji, leading 17-3 after 38 minutes with the impressive Joey Carbery pulling the strings. But two tries either side of half time for the visitors tied the game up, and Ireland snatched victory through the boot of Ian Keatley, who replaced Carbery after a suspected broken arm. Ireland made 11 changes from the team that decimated South Africa the previous week, but they should have put the game away far earlier then they did. Still, Argentina awaits them next week, and the Autumn International clean sweep is still very much on.