New Zealand started their Rugby Championship campaign by thrashing Australia in Sydney. The All Blacks came out of the blocks fast and delivered a blistering first half. Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty scored two tries each as New Zealand raced into a 40-6 lead at half time.
Australia made a game of it with three tries in the second half, but further tires from Damian McKenzie and Ben Smith took New Zealand over 50 points to complete a 54-34 win. The two meet again in New Zealand next week.
South Africa got their rugby Championship campaign off to a winning start scoring four tries to beat Argentina in Port Elizabeth. It was a tight first half with Argentina taking an early lad through a Martin Landajo try, but two penalties from the boot of Elton Jantjies and a try from Courtnall Skosan gave the Springboks a 13-5 half time lead.
From there they took control of the set piece and dominated the second half. Three more tries from Raymond Rhule, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit enabled the hosts to run away with it in the second half eventually winning 37-15 and claiming the four try bonus point in the process. A good start for the Springboks who head to Argentina for Round 2 next week.
Georgia were looking at a potential shock defeat as Spain led 10-3 at half time in Medina Del Campo. Tries from Giorgi Tkhilaishvili and test debutante Soso Matiashvili eventually saw the Six nations B Champions home 20-10. Romania comfortably saw off Russia 30-10 with the pick of the tries being Jody Rose’s interception try going 40 yards to complete the score. Belgium found themselves 21-0 down against Germany but threatened an unlikely comeback when Andy Williams went over to close the gap to just 5, however a try from Jaco Otto secured the victory for Germany who have two wins out of three.
The USA are the Americas Rugby Champions for the first time in a thrilling decider against Argentina. David Tameilau went over from a driving maul to give the USA a surprise 15-3 lead. However two penalty tries brought Argentina back into it and when full back Gabriel Ascarte went over in the corner Argentina had a 12 point lead. Cam Dolan got a try six minutes from time to bring the American back within a score it but they still needed a converted try to level and take the title. Tameilau was the hero breaking a tackle to score from close range for his second try, Ben Cima nailed the conversion for a 27-27 draw and due to previous bonus points it was enough for the USA to win the title for the first time.
In the other final games Freitas Alleges and Leivas Ballestrino got two tires each as Uruguay comfortably thrashed Chile 45-14, Chile finish bottom of the table. Finally Brazil scored an impressive upset win over Canada 24-23 in another tight finish. Winger Ze Tranqez got the winning score in the very last minute to give Brazil victory in Sao Paulo.
Scotland improvement continues with impressive win
Scotland’s improvement in recent times continued with a big win over Wales, their first in a decade. A Liam Williams try helped give Wales a 13-9 lead at half time but Scotland fought back. Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser went over and excellent defense helped them shut out Wales in the second half. The Welsh never recovered from confusion with the game ties 13-13 and they had a kickable penalty but indecision led them going to the corner from which they failed to score. Finn Russell kicked 5 penalties as Scotland went on to win 29-13 and set up the chance to win a triple crown, if they can win at Twickenham.
Despite a good start from France, Ireland played a controlled and disciplined game to claim the win and keep their championship hopes alive. France took a 6-0 lead but Connor Murray’s try, the only one of the game, gave Ireland the lead at half time. Ireland played an excellent territorial game in the second half with 2 penalties and a drop goal from Johnny Sexton helping Ireland complete a 19-9 victory that will not live long in the memory but shows how far Ireland have come as a side from that poor first game in Scotland.
Italy came to Twickenham with a new tactic of not competing at the ruck to stop the application of an offside line which caused chaos amongst the England side in the first half. The tactics set up by Italy coach Connor O’Shea saw Italy take a shock 10-5 lead as Giovanbattista Venditti reacted first to a kick that hit the post to score just before half time. England solved the issue in the second half by exploiting the space down the middle. Tries from Danny Care, Ben T’eo, Elliott Daly and two from Jack Nowell saw England run away with the win, their 16th in a row, in the end and keep their attempt at back to back Grand Slams on track.
Georgia began the defense of their Six Nations B title with a comfortable 31-6 victory over newly promoted Belgium. Giorgi Tkhilashvili and Giorgi Koshadze went over to give the defending champions a commanding 17-0 lead at half time, two more second half tries saw Georgia easisy home. Germany scored an upset victory over Romania in a thrilling contest. Romania lead 38-27 going into the final 10 minutes but tries from Dash Barber, his second of the game, and Marcel Cotezee six minutes from time completed the comeback for Germany to claim their first win against the Romanians for 70 years. Finally Spain got off to a winning start against Russia. Mathieu Belie got the only try of the game for the Spanish as they won the game 16-6.
Favourites Argentina got their second bonus point victory of the Championshp with an easy 57-12 thrashing of Uruguay. Sebastan Cancellier got a hat trick in a nine try demolition in Bahia Blanca. The USA also made it two out of two with Lock Tony Lamborn going over twice as part of eight tries in a 51-3 thrashing of Brazil. The final game saw Canada get their first win of the championship over Chile. Left winger Taylor Paris got a hat trick of tries to help Canada to a 36-15 victory.
Ireland got their six nations back on track after defeat to Scotland by thrashing Italy in Rome. CJ Stander and Kieth Earls scored two tries a piece as Ireland took a 28-10 stranglehold by half time. As Italy tired more tries came in the second half, Stander completed his hat trick and Craig Gilmore also got a second half hat trick as Ireland ran in nine tries by the end, all converted by Paddy Jackson ending in a 63-10 scoreline with Ireland looking more like the side that beat New Zealand in the summer.
For the second week in a row England left it late to come from behind against Wales in Cardiff. A smartly worked set piece allowed Luke Williams to go over to give Wales a 13-8 lead at the break. However despite much possession Wales could not take much advantage early in the second half with excellent English defense frustrating them. Two Owen Farrell penalties brought England within two and with three minutes left, Jonathan Davies failed to clear his lines after good Welsh defensive work to turnover the ball, it allowed England to counter and Elliott Daly was put clear on the left wing and was able to go over for the decisive score. Farrell converted and England maintain their unbeaten run to 15 games and remain on track for back to back grand slams.
France has earned a close fought victory against Scotland in Paris with the scrum being the key to victory. Scotland took an early lead as Stuart Hogg went over to score a try in his fourth straight international. France hit back with a wonderful try going through 18 phases with eventually Gael Fickou going over in the corner. Some poor decision making allowed Scotland back in with two penalties from Finn Russell leaving Scotland just two points down at half time. A Camille Lopes penalty made it 16-11 but Scotland leveled after a long kick bounced kindly and allowed space for Tim Swinson to score under the posts, however Russell bizarrely missed the kick which would have given Scotland the lead. The French then began to take control with the scrum dominating and winning penalties. Lopez landed two more to take France to a 22-16 lead and then used their power to run down the clock and seal the victory. It means only England can now win the Grand Slam as every other side has lost at least one game.
Scotland won their first game against another home nation against Ireland at Murrayfield in one of their best displays for many a year. Stuart Hogg was the star scoring two of Scotland three first half tries to put the Scots 21-8 up at half time. Ireland fought back through tries from Keith Earls and Ian Henderson but Scotland regained control sealing the game with two late penalties from Greig Laidlaw. Ireland who have lost a number of players over the last couple of years have plenty of talent but it may take some time to re-make the team. Scotland on the other hand look on the way up, how far can they go in this six nations remains to be seen.
Substitutes the key as England see of French power
England have stretched their unbeaten run to 15 games after a tight 19-16 win over France. The French were in control up front for much of the game and looked as if they may have made the key break to win it when Rabah Slimani went over to give the visitors a 16-12 lead. However substitutes Danny Care, James Haskill and Ben Te’o from England upped the pace and intensity as Owen Farrell began to dictate the game as the French began to tire. The winning try came with 12 minutes left as Farrell’s excellent pass sent Te’o crashing over. There were some frantic moments towards the end as France tried to find another score, But England have the win and their quest for a rare back to back Grand Slam will continue, as well as remaining unbeaten under Eddie Jones.
Wales moved to a comfortable win in Rome against Italy after an early scare. The Italians played with the confidence of a team who recently got their first win against South Africa with excellent first half defence and took their chance through Edoardo Gori with a smartly worked forwards try to lead 7-3 at half time. Wales then took control in the second half as Italy ran out of steam. Tried from Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and a long range effort from George North meant Wales pulled away to a 33-7 lead. They thought they may have had a fourth try and bonus point in the final play but that was denied by the TMO as Williams had been deemed to have lost the ball over the line. Tougher tests for Wales await, none more so than Champions England in Cardiff next week. For Italy, despite a good first half it looks like it will be another long championship for the Azure.
Kenya comfortably defeated Hong Kong in a one off test match in Tatu City. Darwin Mukidza was able to dominate with the boot as the forwards had them on the front foot from the start and Mukidza opened the scoring with a penalty. Joseph Kangethe and Tony Ownor added tries as Kenya led 20-3 at the break. Mukidza scored and converted another try in the second half to increase the lead. Hugo Stiles got a late consolation try for Hong Kong but it was a deserved win for Kenya with Mukidza scoring 19 points for the home side who try and build a team to take on Namibia in future African Championships.