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Autumn Internationals: Weekend Reflections

New Zealand opening period too much for France

The All Blacks will review the game tape of this 38-18 triumph over France at Stade De France with mixed emotions. A thoroughly professional opening period saw New Zealand effectively secure the match at half-time.

Dane Coles intelligent running line was too much for France defensively as the hooker scored the opening try after eight minutes. New Zealand’s tempo and breakdown clear-out was posing huge problems for the hosts.

France were unable to stem the incessant flow of New Zealand attacks and it was no surprise that the All Blacks extended the lead with Naholo having the easiest of tasks to touchdown. Barrett’s long raking pass exposing French cover out wide for the try.

Teddy Thomas was probably the standout for France on a disappointing night as he dived spectacularly over to score. Several quality offloads leading to the try.

However, normal service was resumed with a deft try from Ryan Crotty. Crotty is a superb player; game intelligent and performs the basics with ultra efficiency.

Kudos to Sonny Bill Williams for identifying space inside the French cover and the deft drubber kick. Crotty timed this run to perfection and the score snuffed out any chance that the hosts had of getting back into the contest.

As France struggles continued, New Zealand scored their fourth try of the evening. Excellent passing from the likes of McKenzie and Sam Cane’s support running was on point. Game over.

France’s discipline was exposed. Slimani’s yellow card was coming and it duly caused two All Black tries before the interval. Guy Noves expressed disappointment on his players performances but given the lack of training camps during the season, the performance in the opening period was hardly a surprise.

Credit France in the second half, they did try to lift the tempo but you could also argue that New Zealand took the foot off the gas knowing that the game was well in hand.

Sonny Bill Williams and video review of the penalty try concession would have being interesting today. Rugby League move to palm the ball out of the play but unfortunately for the player, we are playing rugby union and not league. Yellow card and then the penalty try were issued.

Teddy Thomas should have had a second try but his foot was in touch meters out while New Zealand were down to fourteen. France’s defensive shape again let them down in the final minutes as Naholo strode over after New Zealand spread the ball with speed in the closing moments.

Scotland next for New Zealand who if Kieran Reid’s comments are anything to go by could be in for an arduous afternoon next weekend. New Zealand looking to put in a more complete performance for a full eighty minutes. Yikes.

France look to lick their wounds; defensive misreads were the order of the day in the opening period. They did show flashes of potential with quick hands resulting several eye catching gain line passages of play but the basic fundamentals were at times lacking. Discipline in the opening period was non-existent. Noves has issues to address and fast.

Ireland take South Africa apart in Aviva stroll

38-3. The surprise scoreline of the weekend. Optimism from the national media after this Ireland win, we have being here before but it is now time that the national side produced this level of performance on a more consistent basis.

What worked for Ireland? Unadulterated work rate and endeavor throughout. Bundee Aki was prominent throughout, an excellent debut and his tackle on Oosthuizen set the tone.

South Africa were surprisingly going backwards at scrum time, really expected more of their front five given their most recent performance against New Zealand.

Henderson and Toner did a superb job of keeping their counterparts off balance throughout. The lineout which was a source of concern before this fixture went extremely well.

The half-back contest was emphatically won by Ireland. Murray and Sexton controlled exchanges throughout. Sexton’s game management particularly noteworthy. Good kicking game and his distribution was sharp and incisive, asking South Africa defensive questions at all times.

South Africa’s half-backs game plan lacked invention at times; passing game became predictable and Ireland’s defensive line speed were coping well with any attacking threats. More variation on the kick game would have assisted the side.

Stockdale had a colossal game on the wing. The Ulster wing was physically imposing, some superb hits and his try was excellent in execution. A player who is establishing a strong reputation; a regular in the national side beckons.

Conway had a solid outing in the back line as well. His ability to win aerial exchanges was to the fore and his opening try was opportunistic, that spark of creativity and game awareness required to unlock a game.

The most pleasing aspect from a Joe Schmidt management perspective was the impact of the subs bench. John Ryan continues to excel in the front row; his scrummaging creating a penalty immediately after his introduction.

Carbery and Sweetnam are such exciting talents; Carbery’s ability to fill multiple positions is a superb problem to have for national team management. His kick in behind which was collected by Sweetnam showed everyone his game management intelligence.

Sweetnam is a player whose potential is only starting to come to the surface; he makes things look so easy and always seems to have space to make gain line yards. His cameo is an indication of what is to come.

Ireland face Fiji this weekend with pep in the step; the squad may be somewhat different but Schmidt and management will demand a repeat of the key traits of this victory.

South Africa. Where now? Coetzee looks lost in the national coaching role. Erasmus and Niebaner cannot come into the system soon enough. So much was wrong in this performance, lethargic and worryingly the white flag was waved well before the final whistle.

Apart from a ten minute period in the third quarter where they attempted to take the game to Ireland, this was as flat a performance seen by a touring South African party in years. Two years out from the RWC. Is it time to hit the alarm bell?

Scotland beat Samoa in try fest

Defensive coaches will be having migraines when reviewing the game tape of this contest. Incisive attacking lines from both sides but the inside defensive and defending around the fringes was non-existent.

Scotland had excellent cameos from Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Huw Jones and Alex Dunbar. Russell prominent in the opening try, good kick in behind the Samoa defensive line to setup the score.

The Scottish pack also had good moments. The attacking maul a source of two tries. A game in which Scotland should have strolled to victory in the final quarter was anything but as Samoa launched a gallant fightback.

How did they come back into the fixture? Opportunistic line breaks helped in no small measure to Scotland lapses in concentration. The fringes were a particular issue for Scotland defensively with several tries coming from this area.

When you add Williams’ effort when he strode unopposed from twenty meters, Gregor Townsend and management staff will look to remedy those glaring defensive gaffes in time for the visit of New Zealand.

It was a superb game for the neutral and Scotland are continuing to put ball through the hands under Townsend. Jones and Dunbar running lines were on point. Jones’ try was well taken as well as Dunbar.

Samoa’s team must be applauded for the fighting spirit. A turbulent week for the side given the financial off the field problems. The squad put their bodies on the line and one would have presumed that they would have rolled over after fifty-five minutes such was the ascendancy of Scotland but they played until the final play and the hosts nervy closed out the contest.

Excitement aplenty but both sides need to improve massively on defensive ahead for the rest of the November series. Scotland with a fixture with New Zealand this weekend will undoubtedly focus minds.

Stuttering England get past Argentina

Nathan Hughes’ first Test try and Semesa Rokoduguni’s second half score earned England a scrappy 21-8 win over Argentina at Twickenham.

Argentina, who have now lost 18 times in 23 Tests since reaching the 2015 World Cup semi-finals, scored a late try through Nicolas Sanchez.

England were slow off the blocks in this fixture and the yellow card to Argentina’s Tuculet for allegedly taking Mike Brown out in the air was a decisive moment.

Tuculet looked to be going for the ball but the way in which Mike Brown fell to the ground was not good on replays; match officials issued a yellow card. Can players compete in aerial exchanges anymore?

Hughes’ try was well worked and extended Argentina defensively on both sides of the pitch. Hughes’ ball carry was a bit suspect but his power was more than enough to propel the number eight over.

Rokoduguni’s try again came from fluid England play; a superb line break setting the platform. Quick hands had the Bath Rugby with the opportunity to cross over and he duly obliged.

Sanchez’s try for Argentina was of probing of the fringes and gaps started to open up with a couple of quick phase possession. Sanchez with a 2-1 overlap was never going to squander the chance.

This was the proverbial arm wrestle. Argentina’s pack was abrasive and solid which will be a warning for Ireland in a couple of weeks. England will improve on this showing; all about tempo and platform for them.

Farrell and Itoje will come back into the mix and should improve these facets of play but this game will not be remembered much only for the result.

Wales fall to Australia again

21-29 defeat but several positives from the game for Wales. Expansive game on show throughout, several sweeping moves from midfield which will have pleased management.

The pack though at times unfortunately were exposed at times. The opening try was an Australian front five maul effort from ten meters out which was not stopped.

Two other Australian tries conceded due to defensive misread and then Beale ripping the ball out of the Wales ball carrier to run unopposed.

Wales must continue to adopt an expansive style of play and need to keep faith with the likes of Evans, Shingler and Navidi who had several excellent moments in the contest.

The injury to Jonathan Davies is a worry for Wales but these fixtures are to assess squad depth and perhaps an opportunity for a player on the fringes to grab their opportunity.

Excellent contest. Australia showed encouraging signs from a front five perspective. The set piece was solid, maul on point and the back row were a nuisance from start to finish. Pocock was immense (yellow card aside).