The Scrumdown Autumn Internationals - Report Card
Rugby Union : Scotland join the top table and Wales rue missed opportunities
Arguments will be made for Scotland’s 53-24 demolition of Australia being a result of Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu’s deserved sending off at the end of the first half. Australia had a 12-10 lead at the time, and the tie remained close till just after half time after a Beale try made the scores 17-17. But what happened next was a huge second half performance that pushed the Scots up to the top table of Rugby Union for the first time in decades.
The Scotland of old would have likely won this game. They have, after all, a pretty decent record against Australia, but they likely would have laboured to it, overwhelmed by the favourites tag they would have been labelled with following the red card. No such qualms this time, as they put in a complete performance, scoring 5 second half tries and dismantling the Wallabies in every aspect of the game. The top teams will rip their opponents to shreds when they smell blood, and that is exactly what Scotland did here. Regardless of the red card, this game still had to be won, and Scotland won it at a canter. There are still some hoodoos to overcome for them to reach the level they want to be at, their record against England is atrocious, and that elusive win that came so close against the All Blacks will haunt them, but there is no denying that Scotland are now a force to be reckoned with. A flutter on them for the Six Nations title is now smart money instead of wishful thinking.
Much like against Australia a fortnight ago, Wales enjoyed much of the territory against New Zealand, but weren’t able to turn the pressure in to points, and were downed in the end by the All Black ability to score from virtually anywhere. It’s a familiar story for the kiwis, who have won all of their Autumn tests in similar fashion. They will continue to be the top team until oppositions figure out how to keep these flashes of brilliance contained, but the mask has somewhat slipped this year. They’ve still won a stupendous amount of games, but their losses have been high profile, and their discipline has to be a concern for Graham Henry.
As for Wales, it was a familiar story as well. Despite playing some magnificent rugby in places, they did not put their chances away in the same manner the Scarlets have been doing in the Pro14. Still, their 18-33 loss flattered the visitors, and they are a team with a lot of exciting young talent. They will hope to finish off this disappointing series on a high against South Africa next week.
Ireland comprehensively saw off Argentina in a win that was slightly tainted by a late surge for the Pumas that meant the 28-19 score line gave the illusion of a close game. We learnt little from this win for the Irish, with the exception that they may just have a future world-class player with Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale. The youngster scored two scintillating tries here, and looks like a force to be reckoned with for both club and country. This series was all about Ireland building strength in depth and blooding new players. Through the injured Joey Carbery and Stockdale they appear to have some gems.
England finished their series off with a routine 48-14 win over Samoa. Whilst some of the fringe players got given a chance (unbelievably, it was Jamie George’s first cap in the starting lineup) it was the regulars that put in the top displays, with Maro Itoje and Elliot Daly particularly catching the eye. It was another performance where England didn’t play for the full 80 minutes, their third quarter showing was somewhat of snoozefest, but you have to admire their ability to score late tries. It is a fantastic habit to have, and it means that, even if they are losing, they can win games late, which is a trait the All Blacks mastered some time ago.
Autumn International Report Card
England – B-
A solid, if unspectacular series for the Six Nations Champions. Anything less than 3 wins would have been seen as failure, and though unconvincing at times, they got the wins they wanted.
Ireland – B
3 wins and a whole host of new faces blooded. Their thrashing of South Africa was fantastic, but their 2nd string struggled against Fiji. Still, the series can be seen as mission accomplished.
Scotland – A-
Just missing out on the top grade by a Stuart Hogg offload that drifted forward, this was another huge step forward for the Scots. They will be chomping at the bit for the Six Nations.
Wales – C
Still time to push the grade up with a win over the Springboks next week, but Wales will be disappointed with their series. Despite playing some good rugby, this is a results based game, and comprehensive losses to Australia and New Zealand have to sting.
France – D
Lost all their games, admittedly narrowly, apart from a draw with Japan. A series to forget.
Italy – D
Started with a win over Fiji, but suffered comprehensive losses to Argentina and South Africa. Talk about them being replaced by Georgia in the Six Nations will continue.
Georgia – B
Get these guys more top-tier games for heaven’s sake!
Australia – C
Early win against Wales, but will be disappointed with their losses to England and Scotland. Seemed to lose the momentum they gained from beating the All Blacks.
New Zealand – B
Seems odd to give a team that won all of their games relatively easily a B, but I’m holding New Zealand to a higher standard. Not their best series considering how brilliant they are capable of being.
South Africa – C
Wins over France and Italy, the latter of whom they lost to this time last year, but were stuffed by Ireland. Match against Wales is going to be interesting.
Argentina – C-
A solitary win over Italy sandwiched by two routine defeats to England and Ireland. Should be so much better than this.