by Ciarán Duffy
It was a long old season of rugby. Warm-ups, that international thing in September/October, a slow Six Nations, and an historic summer tour that may have gotten more attention had it not come while both football teams on this island were also making history. That’s just the internationals, we also had the highs of Connacht, and the lows of Europe. With the super rugby season having just wrapped up, and the Olympics bringing mainstream attention to a variety of sports, you’d be forgiven for not being too excited by the start of the Rugby Championship, and just trying to get some sleep before the Pro12 starts. That being said, these lads can offload. And with Argentina improving we can expect a competitive tournament (in the sense that New Zealand are still going to win because this isn’t a world cup year). Even if the All Blacks do steamroll their way to the Championship this year (more on that shortly) they do it in style. Regardless of how close the games are the rugby is of a standard we just don’t see in the Six Nations.
Australia 8 – 42 New Zealand
Not a typo, New Zealand were nearly untouchable. The World Champions showed that they will not be weakened despite the loss of some big names. This was the steam rolling I mentioned earlier. The Wallabies did go in front early on from a Bernard Foley penalty. They weren’t to be heard from again for a while. It started when Ryan Crotty charged down the wing for the first try of this years competition, Barrett added the extras. The fly-half showed he is more than up to taking over from Dan Carter, he added two penalties before scoring a try of his own. 5 minutes after Brodie Retallick was denied a try by the TMO, Barrett found a gap in the Australian defence, his conversion made it 20-3 to the All Blacks. Jerome Kaino chased his own charge down to score New Zealands 3rd of the game. The bonus point was wrapped up before halftime, Waisake Naholo injured himself when he sprinted over the line, the winger was replaced by Julian Savea. At half time the New Zealand were ahead 32-3. Dan Cole stretched over the line and Julian Savea bounced off a few tackles to get over in the corner bringing New Zealands try total up to 6. Nick Phipps got over for Australia late on after Kieran Read had been sin binned. A battering like this after a 3-0 series loss to England makes next weeks return fixture even more crucial for the Wallabies.
South Africa 30 – 23 Argentina
The repeat of the world cup bronze final was a lot closer than the repeat of the final. Argentina were 10 minutes away from a historic win over South Africa, but ultimately, well… we know the feeling. Ruan Combrinck got over in the corner after Elton Jantjies found a gap in the Pumas defence. The fly half converted the try he helped create. Sanchez and Jantjies would exchange penalties before Manuel Montero was sin binned for a dangerous tackle. Argentina were not troubled by being down to 14, Sanchez added another penalty, and Orlando touched down. The conversion made it 10-13. The second half saw South Africa go down to 14 early on. Bryan Habana made contact with Santiago Cordero while the Argentine was in the air. Despite the fact Habana had slipped the TMO still ruled that he caused Cordero to land on his back. Sanchez and Jantjies exchanged penalties once again before a kick over the top allowed Cordero to get in for Argentinas second try of the game. Sanchez converted it and it seemed as though Argentina would secure the win. However, Johan Goosen crossed the line, Jantjies converted the try and added a penalty to level the scores. With two minutes to go Eben Etzebeth and Bryan Habana combined to set up Warren Whiteley to get over in the corner. Having been so close the Pumas had to settle for a losing bonus points.
After round 1 New Zealand are top with 5 points, South Africa have 4, Argentina are in third with 1, and Australia are bottom with 0. No word on Georgia or Romanis joining as yet.
Next Saturdays fixtures (with their Irish kick-off times):
New Zealand – Australia (8:35)
Argentina – South Africa (18:40)
Happy 8th birthday to Harpin on Rugby. Glad to have been contributing for over a year now, and I’m sure that old logo was just a phase.
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Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter who would watch any game of rugby while undoubtedly taking it too seriously. He enjoys over analysing and taking a pessimistic look at the bright side while talking about Irish, European, and World Rugby issues on and off the field.
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