Category Archives for Rugby

Calcutta Cup 38-38

A Point A Minute

It’s taken a week to get my head around this fixture. What on paper should have been such a one-sided affair, became nothing like it. When people talk about something being a ‘game of 2 halves’ they should cite this match as the example to use. Watching England running in a point a minute for the first half hour, 31-0 didn’t bode well for the Scots. Reminders of the 61-21 thrashing in 2017 were no doubt in the minds of the kilted following. The World Cup opponents would be watching this game to assess how good England are and see if Scotland have improved at all. The final score of this game was something nobody would have dreamed of, especially after the half hour mark. I’d expect the bookmakers had a really good day thanks to this scoreline.

 

England This Season

England were my choice to lift this cup this season. First round they went to Dublin on 2nd Feb and demolished the Irish in their own backyard. Leading 10-17 at half time, England had played well enough to gain the upper hand. The final score of 20-32 with the bonus point for scoring 4 tries ( May, Daly and Slade with a couple ) sent the warning out to the other teams, that England were coming for them.

The next round saw France battered 44-8 at Twickenham, another bonus point win with Jonny May scoring 3 tries for himself.

The 23rd Feb saw the England machine ground to a halt and beaten by the Welsh in Cardiff. Wales scored 21 points to Englands 13, so not even a losing bonus point in this match. This was not what the punters were expecting, as we reported here. After Wales had scraped home by 5 points against France in the first round, they had improved significantly to play England.

Against Italy, service was resumed. An impressive 31-7 half time lead meant the win was on the cards. Tries rained in from George, May, Tuilagi (2), Shields (2), Kruis, Robson and the final score of 57-14 meant the points difference was expanding further in the table.

Sat 16th March 2019 was the day that could have proved a game changer. Ireland had to win against Wales in Cardiff, not impossible but wouldn’t be easy. England just needed to beat Scotland and England would win the Guinness 6 Nations. So Wales decided that they didn’t like this, and Ireland were their next victim. Ireland looked clueless as we discussed here.

England set off out of the blocks like a bat out of hell, once again storming into a 31-7 lead by the break.

 

Scotland This Competition

First game was at home against Italy. A Half time lead of 12-3 didn’t give much indication which way the match was going to end. The final score of 33-20 and a bonus win with tries from Kinghorn (3), Hogg and  Harris made for a good start to the campaign, however the second half score of 21-17 showed a weakness in their second half defences. The following week saw Ireland visit Murrayfield. A close first half was too close to call at 10-12, but the second period saw Ireland come away with a deserved win at  13-22.  France next in Paris, with an average looking French team looking to bounce back. The first half was quite evenly balanced, 10-3 to France at half time. The second half saw French fans happier as they won 27-10, the bonus point for 4 tries much needed.

Wales at home and the low scoring game saw Wales run out winners 11-18, the Scots holding Wales to just 3 points in the second half. The HT score of 6-15, indicating this was going to be quite a close game. No doubt Englands 57-14 demolition of Italy will have caused concern in the Scotland camp.

So the Calcutta Cup, Scotland at the home of England rugby and it’s half time and the score is 31-7…..

 

Calcutta Cup Second Half

I am not sure what happened here. You have a powerful team such as England 31-7 up, coming back out of the dressing room and the stadium are expecting them to follow up and run another 10, 20 or 30 points past the hapless Scots. Well let me say, this was NOT the case. The wheels fell off the England bandwagon, the ideas faded, they looked void of concepts and ideas. Play making decisions were lacking, there was one team in this half who wanted to win, were determined to score and they were in Blue shirts.

As Scotland ran in an amazing 38 unanswered points at the ground they had not won for over 25 years since 1983, there was a sudden astonishment as to what people were seeing here. England were well and truly battered, both physically and mentally.

The belief here that England could throw away a game like this was slowly becoming a reality as Scotland racked up points, after points after points and took the lead. With the clock ticking down, Eddie Jones and the England staff looked shell shocked. On the Scotland staff faces, a wry smile was seen from Gregor Townsend on a couple of occasions at least. It was George Ford who came to England’s rescue, running in the final try to save the blushes. Finn Russell for Scotland was outstanding but the whole Scotland team must be applauded for the second half recovery. Scotland may have not had a great six nations, but they retained the Calcutta Cup, so have the bragging rights that they at least picked up a trophy this time around.

From an English perspective, with the World Cup coming up, this has to be a worry that you can concede 38 points in 40 minutes to end up in a losing position. There will be few countries who will go behind against England by 25-30 points after the first half as it is, but those who do should not be allowed back into the game like this.

Scotland faces Ireland in the World Cup, and also the hosts Japan, Samoa and Russia. Based on this Calcutta Cup performance, there’ll be no team in the group to worry them.

For more information including upcoming fixtures, please go to www.sixnationsrugby.com and we’d like to thank them for borrowing their photo above.

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Wales 21-13 England – Humbled By The Welsh

What was a pretty decent first half by England, the half time lead was merited for sure. After securing bonus point wins against France and Ireland, the expectation was this would be yet another England win on the way to a Grand Slam season.

Wales versus England

Well, the wheels came off that plan in Cardiff. Despite England going in a half time leading, the second half belonged to Wales. Their record-breaking 12th consecutive Test win, came about as they humbled England. I’m not sure what Eddie Jones said or did in the half time team talk, but the players who came back out for the second 40 minutes looked bereft of ideas. What had worked the previous 2 matches wasn’t put into play in this fixture.

Tom Curry

England had led 10-3 as the whistle sounded for the half time interval after 20-year-old Tom Curry scored his first touchdown in the six nations for his country. This young man is maturing as each game comes and goes, his awareness and positioning combining with the hits he makes on opposing players means he’s someone with a long international career in front of him for sure. This was a very much deserved try and he was my name to be Man Of The Match sheet.

 

Winding Up The Opposition

Wales decided to target Kyle Sinckler and it worked! He’d already caused controversy in the French fixture, by slapping France’s Arthur Iturria on the head during play. This incident happened shortly after being spoken to by referee Nigel Ownes in the previous scrum shortly before this act of petulance occurred. This is a guy who has been banned before for dangerous tackles, for eye gouging and is a ferocious tackler despite his faults in crossing the line.

Against Wales, he led the tackle count with 20 tackles made by half time, and he was on a roll. He’d made his presence felt with the tackles but also taking the ball into contact making hard yards. It is possibly his actions in the French game that inspired the Welsh to wind him up on the pitch in the second half.

Wales said before the match that while they felt Kyle Sinckler “struggled to contain his emotions in the heat of the battle, they had no intention of lighting his fuse”. So when he gave away a penalty on the 55th minute for a shoulder charge on Gareth Anscombe, which was pulled up by the TMO it was the first sign of him ‘losing it’. A couple of minutes later another penalty conceded for a UFC type choke hold around the neck of Alun Wyn Jones. Jones managed to flail his arm and raise his voice enough to get the referees attention though. Resulting in the final warning from Jaco Peyper handed out to Sinckler, the die was cast and Harry Williams was warming up while Sinckler was still being spoken to by the referee.

Wales Grand Slam

 

 

Welsh Secret Weapon

The combination of Warren Gatland and Shaun Edwards has turned around Welsh rugby. After the dismal Gareth Jenkins results of 20 games played, Won 6, Drew 1, Lost 13 led to his sacking, it was time for fresh blood and this came in the shape of Gatland.

Warren Gatland who came to the attention of the British rugby fans as Wasps and then Ireland coach, is now touted as the replacement for Eddie Jones in the England role. His name has also been thrown about to manage the Lions 2021 tour too. As great as either or both these positions would be for English supports, the big question would be if he’d bring with him the former rugby league dynamo Shaun Edwards?

Shaun Edwards joined the Welsh coaching staff as the assistant coach (defence) on 14 January 2008. He made an instant impact as Wales conceded just two tries in 400 minutes going on to winning the 2008 RBS 6 Nations Championship and Grand Slam.

Another point to note, looking at Welsh records, during the 2013/2014 RBS 6 Nations, a new defence record by not conceding a try for 400 minutes, as set by the team under his coaching.

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England 35-15 Japan

Down To Earth With A Bump

For those who don’t really follow international rugby, this should have been a breeze for might England. After running the All Blacks so close, this was going to be easy…..

A Danny Care try within 5 minutes, surely this was the start of the steamroller. Japan, not the best known rugby nation, would seem to some to be the whipping boys here.

Japan though play with pride and Ford adding the conversion must have really got them fired up. Another home penalty given away, this time Tamura  kicking for 3 points after 15 minutes. Japan took the lead against New Zealand and England suffered the same. Ryoto Nakamura with his try, conversion from Tamura 7- 10 to the visitors. An England penalty though soon cancelled out as Leitch gave Japan lead 15-10 half-time lead with his unconverted try.

 

31-69

The significance of this score line, was the outcome of them losing against New Zealand a fortnight before. Played at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, the outcome of this fixture was never in doubt. What was the surprise though to some, was the 31 points Japan put over the All Blacks.

Let’s put this into perspective, 34-36 was the All Blacks only loss in the 2018 Investec Rugby Championship, coming against South Africa. The Springboks are the only team to score more points against the All Blacks.

 

Second Half Recovery

George Ford landing a penalty 15 minutes into the second half, to narrow the gap. Mark Wilson scoring a try 5 minutes on, Ford again adding the conversion. George Ford pokes over a penalty just past the hour mark, to put the home team clear in the lead.

Quick hands sees Joe Cokanasiga  with the debut score as once again Ford pops over the conversion. 30-15 and the game should be wrapped up now. Dylan Hartley scoring an unconverted try made sure of the win, making the score look more flattering that it could have been,

England seem to be playing 40 minutes of telling rugby and 40 minutes of mediocre stuff. Fitness was a deciding factor, especially the last 20 minutes. Granted Japan didn’t score in the second half, but their performance in the first half was great.

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England 15-16 New Zealand

 

 

https://twitter.com/AllBlacks

Wow what a start to this match, England played their best starting 20minutes that I think I have ever seen. They steamrollered the mighty All Blacks into nothingness.

Sheer determination from the kick-off saw England set out their stall. The Twickenham fans singing Swing Low while the Haka was laid down, gave the air of expectation.

 

Chris Ashton scoring a try in the corner after two minutes was the start few would have expected. Using the wet surface to slide across the whitewash to open the scoring. Farrell’s attempted conversion just not scraping in, coming back off the sticks. The drop-goal for 8-0, was a great tonic for Farrell, who was dictating play at 10.

An Elliot Daly penalty hammered into touch by the corner gave the lineout to England. Dylan Hartley delivering a great throw in, before the driving maul saw him at the back, bound on with ball in hand. An influx of backs arrived to add extra weight and drive, seeing the juggernaut roll over the line for  Hartley to score the try. The conversion was good, 15-0 and the shell-shocked All Blacks were being schooled here it seemed.

 

Heading towards halftime, the game had levelled out a little more. England winger Jonny May penalised for offside as he intercepted a pass, saw New Zealand refuse the easier 3 point kick option, instead going to a 12 metre scrum. A good scrum saw quick hands slip an inside pass for Damian McKenzie to score for the visitors. Beauden Barrett adding the conversion and swiftly followed up with a penalty to make the halftime score 15-10.

 

Second Half

Straight out of the blocks, the All Blacks put pressure on from the restart. Flanker Ardie Savea looking to be on his way for a try, just managed to fumble the ball, a wake up call for England there.

Dylan Hartley was replaced during the interval, and the early costly errors by  New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick were soon forgotten as he upped his game especially in the line out for the second half. England who had been rock solid in the line out in the first half were now looking very average indeed. Stats at one point in this half was from 10 lineouts, won 5 lost 5 on their own throw !!!!

McKenzie putting his clearing kick straight into touch giving England an attacking line-out on the All Blacks 22, which was an ideal platform to look to extend their lead. Sadly replacement hooker Jamie George wasted it with a dummy throw and conceded possession.

Barrett showed he is a beast on the pitch. His first ever drop goal in an international sailed over the bar. His second penalty of the game nudged the New Zealanders into a single point lead.

 

Was He Or Wasn’t He?

Courtney Lawes charge-down with just 5 minutes on the clock was called back to the TMO, to check if he was onside or not.  Jerome Garces the referee and television match official Marius Jonker, kept the 82,149 crowd holding their breath before declaring he was offside. What a difference an inch makes. The sight though of flanker Sam Underhill turning Beauden Barrett inside out was beautiful to watch.

There are not many teams who can dominate the All Blacks as England did in the first 20 minutes. However this sport is 80 minutes and the pressure applied, in the pouring rain wasn’t going to last a further hour. Errors from both sides in this enthralling game and the TMO call with 5 minutes to go, made for an all round entertaining game of rugby.

This wasn’t a first choice England XV, it could be said ( but not in defence of the outcome). Several key players were not available; No.8 Billy Vunipola who is out for three months after breaking his arm,  Nathan Hughes faces a disciplinary hearing for punching & Sam Simmonds also out with an injury. Front row Mako Vunipola injured and Marler retired, backline missing  Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph through injury. So one positive to take away from this result England are looking strong, looking good and the game against Australia could be interesting, to say the least.

Wales beating Australia for the first time since 2008, 9-6 is a feather in the cap for Wales. This result should be another motivator for England to prepare and give the Wallabies a hiding.

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