Who’s hot and who’s not: Ireland heroics ignites day of firsts as northern hemisphere dominates its southern rivals

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.

THEY’RE ON FIRE!

Outstanding Ireland: It’s hats off to Ireland after they dominated New Zealand in the second Test in Dunedin on Saturday. To a man the Irish were excellent, but the likes of Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Caelan Doris and Johnny Sexton deserve special praise as they all had standout games. From the outset they won the contact and made this All Blacks outfit look distinctly ordinary to claim their first victory over New Zealand on their home patch. What a psychological lift this is for Ireland as they look to win the series this weekend.

Same goes for England: In the first half at least… Congratulations must also go to England as they levelled their own series, against the Wallabies, at one apiece after they impressed in Brisbane. The opening 38 minutes saw the English dominate their hosts up front as Billy Vunipola, Ellis Genge, Jonny Hill et al really stamped their mark on the game as the points totted up. While they only added two further penalties from Owen Farrell after the break – that 80 minute performance is still eluding them – England will be elated with the victory. A mention must also go to young scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet, who was outstanding on his first start, as a promising Test career awaits.

Georgia’s and Wales’ firsts: The congratulations theme continues here as Georgia picked up their first ever win over a Tier One rugby side on Sunday when they beat Italy 28-19 in Batumi. What a landmark occasion for the nation that has been banging down the Six Nations door for quite some time now and this victory will feel extra sweet in part because of that. A day earlier, Wales claimed their first victory over the Springboks on South African soil as they won 13-12 in Bloemfontein. Granted, it was a much-changed and weakened Springbok XV, but credit where it is due, Wales got over the line with their noses in front, thanks to Josh Adams’ try that was converted by Gareth Anscombe.

Bristol Bears v Springboks fixture: It is great to see these sides revive midweek games in the northern hemisphere in an event which harks back to yesteryear, where they were regular occurrences. We can’t remember any matches between northern hemisphere clubs and international teams since South Africa played both Saracens and Leicester in 2009. That year, the English outfits memorably triumphed against the makeshift Springbok teams, while in 2008 Munster narrowly succumbed to a strong All Blacks squad. These matches provide intrigue for all viewers and it has evidently captured the imagination of Bears fans, with over 15,000 tickets snapped up by Friday morning, just a day after they went on general sale. No doubt the game will be sold-out in no time as it will be a wonderful occasion on November 17.

Much-improved Scotland: Another northern hemisphere team to bounce back from their first Test defeat was Scotland, who celebrated Hamish Watson’s 50th international with a much-needed win. A purple patch either side of the interval saw four tries scored by Scotland as they levelled the series in emphatic style, winning 29-6 in Salta. To keep the Pumas from landing a punch in terms of tries on the board will delight Gregor Townsend as they now go into the deciding Test on Saturday full of confidence in what would be a wonderful series triumph.

Racing 92 snap up France star: The Parisians announced the signing of one of the outstanding players in world rugby after back five forward Cameron Woki put pen to paper on a four-year deal last week. Woki has quickly become a star for Les Bleus, whether at lock or in the back-row and is quite the coup for Racing. The 23-year-old has reportedly become disillusioned at Bordeaux-Begles this year and the Paris outfit are the team to benefit. They already have a strong squad but this signing will elevate them even higher. Watch out for them.

COLD AS ICE!

Disappointing All Blacks: That was pretty dire from New Zealand as they struggled to land a punch against an inspired Ireland. Coach Ian Foster must be feeling extreme pressure right now as a possible home series loss looks a distinct possibility with the third Test looming. The decision to temporarily replace Ardie Savea backfired while ill-discipline and poor decision-making helped to contribute to this dismal defeat. Wellington awaits as a wounded New Zealand, who are now down to fourth in the World Rugby rankings, need a fightback showing.

Same goes for Springboks: In truth the match in general was a huge disappointment for 78 minutes as the only significant moment of entertainment came when Adams went over and Anscombe did the rest from the touchline. However, it was a defeat that concluded a week to forget for Springbok fans as their team failed to back up its first Test win and one has to question the sheer scale of changes made to the team by head coach Jacques Nienaber. This was always going to lead to on-field struggling combinations while the lineout was also under-par in the first half, with the Bloemfontein crowd understandably frustrated in a result that sees the Boks fall to third in the world rankings.

No punishment for Jonny Hill antics: With the laws as they are, Hill was never going to receive a suspension after his first Test antics. The push in the face wasn’t worthy of a red card and neither was the hair pull, but it does seem wrong that Darcy Swain was the only one to receive the ban when he was merely reacting to severe provocation by the England lock. Yes, Swain should not have headbutted his fellow second-row, but what Hill did was unedifying and, on occasions like this, a suspension should be handed out to the provocateur. What the Australian did was, by the letter of the law, a sending off offence, but it wasn’t dangerous as such – given the very low force he made with the Englishman – it was simply petulant. Both players should really be spending the rest of the series on the sidelines, not just the Wallaby lock.

New Zealand’s ill-discipline: A double feature in this week’s not section but rightly so as the All Blacks did not help themselves against Ireland. There is no hiding from the fact the hosts were well beaten by an inspired Ireland but we were left scratching our heads at times as their discipline left a lot to be desired in Dunedin. First, Leicester Fainga’anuku was sin-binned for seemingly avoidable contact with Mack Hansen and shortly afterwards Ofa Tu’ungafasi brought down Garry Ringrose without the ball to also see yellow. The worst was yet to come however as Tu’ungafasi’s replacement, Angus Ta’avao, was then red carded for a head on head clash, capping a shocking first 40 for the side.

Argentina struggle on Independence Day: After winning their first Test against Scotland in San Salvador de Jujuy, Los Pumas, under the guidance of new head coach Michael Cheika, must have fancied their chances of building on that performance when the teams met in Salta. With the country celebrating its 206th year of independence, Argentina supporters were hopeful of clinching a series victory but it wasn’t to be as Townsend and his troops had other ideas. Scotland outscored their hosts by four tries to none en route to a 29-6 triumph and Cheika’s men will have to improve in all departments if they want to turn the tables in the series decider in Santiago del Estero this weekend.

READ MORE: Sunday Social: Northern Hemisphere bounces back, rugby’s inclusivity and a Sonny Bill Williams knock-down

The article Who’s hot and who’s not: Ireland heroics ignites day of firsts as northern hemisphere dominates its southern rivals appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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