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All Blacks denied record with draw against the Wallabies in Brisbane - By Mark Ella

It was the hottest day in Brisbane for a long time as summer is just around the corner and there is no doubt that the high humidity played a big part in the weekends final scoreless Bledisloe Cup draw 18-18 between the Wallabies and All Blacks. Watching the match from the stands I was sweating so I could only imagine the extreme temperature at ground level in a match that never really reached any great heights with a large number of errors from both sides. Of course the pressure was on the Wallabies to lift their game against the RWC Champions, Bledisloe Cup holders and Rugby Championship victors and they can feel disappointed that they didn’t defeat the All Blacks. The All Blacks needed a win against the Wallabies to equal the record of most Test successes which was accomplished by the Springboks coached by Nick Mallett in the late nineties but they fell short playing way below their normally high standards. The first half was error strewn with both sides having difficulty holding the football but a flawless kicking game by former Kiwi Mike Harris kept the Wallabies in front going into the break leading 12-6. Apart from All Blacks half back Aaron Smith fumbling the football near the Wallabies goal posts in the 9th minute, both teams never really looked like scoring in the first half. The All Blacks were heavily penalised by South African Craig Joubert who again was over the top and played a big role in a dull first half giving a team warning to captain Ritchie McCaw in the 31st minute. His patience grew thin when he penalised veteran All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock for another cheap infringement at the breakdown and ten minutes in the sin-bin. Eight minutes into the second half Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale kicked a remarkable penalty from 50 metres our to stretch Australia’s lead out to 15-6 with the All Blacks struggling to get into the game. The next 18 minutes were adverse for the Wallabies as they showed ill-discipline and immaturity giving away four dumb penalties which were all converted by Daniel Carter to give the All Blacks the lead for the first time in the match 18-15. With both teams making mistakes Mike Harris managed to even the score for the Wallabies 18-18 in the 73rd minute with the game hanging in the balance. The Wallabies had the best opportunity to seal the match at the 78th when their forwards went through 28 phases of pick and drive hoping to persuade Joubert to give them a penalty when they also had the option of a field goal, which they neglected. On the full time siren the All Blacks received a much relieved penalty but instead of looking for touch McCaw decided to mount a scrum on the All Blacks 22 metre line and two minutes later and sixty metres down field deep in Australian territory, Carter’s attempt to win the All Blacks the match was in vein when his field goal drifted left of the up-rights to end the Bledisloe Cup with an unsatisfying draw. Both teams will rue their error rate and missed opportunities but they looked tired and will use the next ten days to recover before they jump on a flight to Europe for their Spring tours. The Wallabies will be relieved that they showed some passion and belief after a tough season. Coach Robbie Deans inducted his 12th new Wallaby in 2012 when the Reds hooker James Hanson replaced Tatafu Polota-Nau with four other Wallabies playing their first game against the All Blacks. It was the first time since 2004 that the All Blacks had been held scoreless and that was also against the Wallabies when they were beaten in Sydney 23-18. Coach Robbie Deans may have done just enough to retain his position but if he has a few hiccups when they face France, England, Italy and Wales in November it won’t take much for the calls for his replacement to build up again. There was one unsavoury incident in the match when Wallabies flanker Scott Higginbotham was placed on report for kneeing and head butting All Blacks captain Ritchie McCaw 25 minutes into the game. The All Blacks played poorly in extreme conditions and they will be disappointed with the efforts. Hooker Keven Mealamu played his 100 Test match for the All Blacks which is an amazing achievement and he was respected by a crowd of over 50,000 when he was replaced by Andrew Hore in the 56th minute. The All Blacks can be proud of their achievements so far this year playing some great rugby but they will work hard to improve their game because substandard performances doesn’t sit well in their attempt for perfection so beware in Europe when they tour in November because they will be ruthless. Mark Ella

08
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All Blacks secure their Rugby Championship title with another great win over the Springboks 32-16. By Mark Ella

After a convincing victory against the Wallabies last weekend in Pretoria 31-8 many expected the Springboks to come out on top of the All Blacks at Soccer City in Soweto who had already claimed this year’s Rugby Championship. But the meaning of the word losing doesn’t sit too comfortably in the Kiwi’s vocabulary ensuring that their match up against their traditional rivals South Africa was always going to be another epic battle. The Springboks had the opportunity to take an early lead over the All Blacks but young No.10 Johan Goosen missed two relatively easy shots at penalty goal in the first five minutes of play which against the All Blacks was always coming back to bite them. With the Springboks controlling the flow of the game it wasn’t surprising to see winger Bryan Habana score the first try of the match after a cleverly executed move from the Springboks lineout put their captain Jean de Villiers into open space to pass to Habana to score his 47th Test try. With Goosen converting Habana’s try and finally kicking a penalty goal to give the Springboks a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes the All Blacks had very little possession but it was only a matter of time before the RWC champions hit back. Ten minutes later the Springboks attempted to clear the football from their own territory but All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg just managed to keep the ball in play on the right side of the field 50 metres out and after a number of fluent passes from the All Blacks, their lock Sam Whitelock scored on the opposite side of the field to send out the warning signs to the Springboks. The Springboks lead of 10-5 didn’t last too long when All Blacks winger Hosea Gear opened up another opportunity for his half back Aaron Smith in the 32nd minute to score which was converted by Daniel Carter giving the All Blacks a 12-10 lead approaching half time. Unfortunately for Goosen he had to leave the field with a left knee injury having to be replaced by Elton Jantjies who quickly made his presence known by kicking two penalties in five minutes, the second from 50 metres out to send South Africa into the change rooms at half time leading 16-12. I don’t know what happened in the sheds but the All Blacks came out firing amazingly scoring from the kick-off after some brilliant team play with the worlds best No.8 Kieran Read popping up a pass for Ma’a Nonu to run onto the put the All Blacks back in front 19-16. The second half was all New Zealand with the Springboks attack passive and unfortunately for them they didn’t even look like scoring in the second half. Conrad Smith was next in line to score for the All Blacks when Aaron Smith, Carter and Dagg combined in the 51st minute to give the outside centre his first try of the match and stretch the All Blacks lead out to 26-16. Carter continued South Africa’s agony when he successfully attempted a field goal ten minutes later which was quickly followed up by a penalty goal to give them a comfortable victory 32-16. The All Blacks were the only team to go through the Rugby Championship undefeated and I would have to say that this current side in much stronger to the one which secured the RWC in New Zealand last year. Their emerging talent never ceases to amaze me and they could easily pick a second squad of players who would challenge the best teams in world rugby. The All Blacks play attacking rugby because they have faith in their own ability and are willing to take calculated risks on the field knowing that all fifteen players are as one. The Springboks will also be a much better team next year with the transition of older players stepping down for the next generation of players to soon taking over. New Zealand are deserved winners of the inaugural Rugby Championship in 2012 with the Wallabies a long way behind them in second place. Mark Ella

08
ottobre


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Wallabies regain their passion with gutsy win over Pumas 25-19 in Rosario - By Mark Ella

This was one of the most inexperienced Wallabies team to have ever taken the field after coach Robbie Deans was forced to use 38 players this season due to the high number of injuries. The Wallabies went to Argentina with many expecting an ambush and possibly Dean’s last coaching assignment at Test level but even though it wasn’t perfect he did enough to get them across the line in Rosario to secure his tenuous position for another season at least. The atmosphere in Rosario was electric with the Pumas striving for their first Rugby Championship victory against the depleted Wallabies but their first indiscretions gave Wallabies fullback Mike Harris five opportunities which he didn’t miss to ensure that the Wallabies went into the half time break leading 15-9. South African referee Craig Joubert was at his pedantic best penalising both teams constantly for errors at the break down not allowing both teams to settle into any rhythm which lead to a scrappy first half. The Wallabies were trying to throw the ball around but their new backline with Kurtley Beale directing play at first five struggled to spread the ball across the field although they had the better of the play in the first forty minutes of the game. At the beginning of the second half both teams had trouble with controlling the football in hot greasy conditions at Rosario dropping the football constantly and lowering the standard to Test rugby. The Pumas never looked threatening in the first half but were gradually starting to put some concerted pressure on the Wallabies when they had a lineout inside the Wallabies twenty two. A wayward throw in by Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazo went straight into the hands of young Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper who ran sixty metres downfield before being tackle by the Pumas defence. From the ensuing scrum in the 65th minute the Wallabies backline finally executed a perfect move from set play to send winger Digby Ioane between the posts to score their first and only try of the match. With the match seemingly out of the grasp of the Pumas 25-12 they managed to get across the line when replacement centre Juan Imhoff scored in the 76th minute but by this stage the Wallabies controlled the match. The finally score of 25-19 reflected the difference in the match with the Wallabies looking more threatening that the Pumas who suffered because of their ill-discipline around the ruck area which was quickly picked up by Joubert. There was a lot of handling mistakes by both teams which made to match a little scrappy with the Wallabies doing enough to ensure victory with a team that is far away from being their strongest XV. Kurtley Beale improved from his performance in South Africa two weeks ago and he looks like staying on the front line particularly with his mate Quade Cooper still to make up his mind what he future with Australian rugby will be. Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe became the most capped Wallabies forward with 111 Test caps edging ahead of George Smith but I doubt that he will get close to George Gregan who sits at 139 caps. The win against Argentina secured Australia second position in this year’s inaugural Rugby Championship and their victory make keep the wolves at bay until the Wallabies play the All Blacks again in Brisbane in two weeks. The Pumas should be proud of their sterling performance in their first full season against the big three nations in world rugby. Their draw against South Africa in Mendoza 16 all was an outstanding effort as was their narrow lose to the Wallabies a few weeks back and they will continue to get better over the next few years with more experience on their side. Mark Ella

01
ottobre


All Blacks all class as they defeat Argentina 54-15 to secure the first Rugby Championship - By Mark Ella

Three weeks ago the All Blacks had to battle to defeat a gutsy Pumas side in Wellington 21-5 but last weekend they showed all their class with a superb effort at Stadia Ciudad de La Plata winning 54-14 in front of 53,000 crazy Argentinians. The Pumas have for much of this tournament based their game around a solid defensive line but up against the reigning RWC champions they simply had no answer to the power and precision of the All Blacks. Even though the Pumas opened the scoring after seven minutes into the game when fullback Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino burst through the All Blacks defence from fifty metres out to send halfback Martin Landajo over in the right corner the All Blacks quickly made their presence known. With fifteen minutes into the match trailing the Pumas 5-0, Ma’a Nonu found a gap close to the ruck darting through the hole to put No.9 Aaron Smith under the posts and give New Zealand a lead this would never relinquish. The return of Daniel Carter from a calf injury gave the All Blacks more confidence and the Crusaders No.10 had an outstanding game directing his talented three-quarters around the field. The All Blacks second try showed all their skill when their No.8 Kieran Read finished off a superb set play from their backline to send a one handed off load to Cory Jane to score the first of his three tries in the left corner. Both teams contributed to high tempo match but the All Blacks went on to secure a bonus point at half time with two more first half tries to Julian Savea with the All Blacks in one of their moods which unfortunately for the Pumas had no control over. The score at half time was 32-8 to the All Blacks and whilst the Pumas never gave up the game was well and truly out of their control. Having played against the All Blacks eleven times in my career the one thing I can state is that they never stop playing the game until the referee blows the final whistle and with that in mind the second half was always going to be a challenge for the local side. The second half started just like the first half with Argentina getting the momentum early on when live wire winger Gonzalo Camacho scored an excellent try in the 47th minute, his 5th in Test rugby to give some remote hope to the Pumas. When No.10 Juan Martin Hernandez converted Camacho’s try to bring the score to 32-15 it was the last time that the Pumas would post points in the match. Just ten minutes into the second half Cory Jane finished off another excellent play by the All Blacks with a rampaging Savea setting up his winger team-mate to score in the left corner. Rather than take the foot off the accelerator the All Blacks were still full of running even when coach Steve Hansen replaced Carter and captain Ritchie McCaw mid-way through the second half. Replacement fly half Aaron Cruden glided through a gap on his first touch of the football to put Nonu under the posts to ensure that the All Blacks would leave Argentina with the inaugural Rugby Championship trophy. Cory Jane wasn’t finished yet when he intercepted a wayward Pumas pass to race fifty metres to score his third try for the day and give the All Blacks their most convincing win of the Championship. The Pumas to their credit never stopped trying throwing the ball from one side of the field to the other. What didn’t help them was that in doing so they started to drip across the field rather than run direct at the All Blacks whose defence was intimidating. The Pumas should hold their heads up high for their passion and commitment in playing against the three strongest teams in world rugby. They have one more opportunity at home in Rosario next weekend against the injury depleted Wallabies who are ripe for the taking if they can hold their composure and stick to the what they have been doing throughout this tournament. Mark Ella

01
ottobre


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Springboks batter Wallabies to win easily in Pretoria - by Mark Ella

It was always going to be a difficult task for the Wallabies to win away from home against the Springboks but to make matters worse, they lost another five key players throughout the match to go down to South Africa 31-8. The Springboks haven’t had a great season so far drawing with the Puma’s in Mendoza and losing to both the All Blacks and Wallabies so it was an important match which they managed to control from the kick-off. It was a game that they couldn’t afford to lose but the Wallabies went into the match with controversy back in Australia with Reds No.10 Quade Cooper stating on twitter that he wouldn’t play for the Wallabies if he was selected because of the ‘toxic’ environment. I know for a fact that many current senior Wallabies were upset with Cooper who did his best to derail their efforts in Pretoria. The Wallabies haven’t won in the high veldt over their last five matches but they were quickly smashed by the bigger more committed Springboks who took the game to the Australians who tried hard but were simply way off the pace. With the legendary No.10 Morne Steyn dropped after his poor efforts against New Zealand a couple of weeks ago there was a great deal of pressure on the 20 year old Johan Goosen playing in his first run on Test for the Springboks. He played reasonably well but along with Ruan Pienaar they both struggled to put the football between the posts missing five goals collectively in what could have been an embarrassing score line for the Wallabies. The Springboks first of five tries came after twenty one minutes when full back Zane Kirchner scored in the right corner after some great build up from the Springboks. Pienaar converted the Kirchner’s try to put the Sprinboks out in front 7-0. The Wallabies never looked like threatening the Springboks and were getting belted at the breakdown with very little muscle to offer in return. A couple of minutes later the Springboks had another opportunity to score but Goosen was penalised by Irish referee Alain Rolland for a double movement inches from the try line much to the relief of the Wallabies. But flying winger Bryan Habana didn’t miss his opportunity when he ran an inside angle to take a great pass from Pienaar to score the second try of the match and his forth in the Rugby Championship to put the Springboks further in front 14-0. The Wallabies offered very little in the first half with Kurtley Beale getting Australia onto the scoreboard with a late penalty to trail 14-3 but their biggest loss was the replacement of fullback Berrick Barnes and outside centre Adam Ashley Cooper. Barnes left the field before half time with a punctured lung and Ashley-Cooper receiving severe concussion when he prevented Kirchner from scoring his second try of the match in the right corner. The writing was on the wall when both sides went into the change rooms with the Springboks in front 14-3 controlling the game at the breakdown unlike the Wallabies who lacked direction and commitment. The turning point in the second half came when Wallabies prop James Slipper was sin-binned by Rolland for slowing the ball down at the ruck in the 53rd minute. The ensuing lineout proved gold for the Springboks flanker Francois Louw went over with the help of Habana to stretch their lead 19-3. At this same time the Wallabies were replacing their No.8 Radike Samo who had a shoulder injury and the match slowly slipping away. Five minutes later Beale threw a lazy pass to winger Digby Ioane which went into touch at the half way mark and quick thinking from Habana set up his second try of the match aided by some clever play from Springboks hooker Strauss who controlled possession like a seasoned No.10. At this stage Springboks were well in front 26-3 before the Wallabies finally managed to score their first try when Beale managed to scoot around Hougaard to put replacement No.10 Mike Harris over in the right corner. By this stage the Wallabies had also lost Digby Ioane with a troubling knee injury and Tatafu Polota-Nau with a neck injury putting their bench severely under pressure. To make matters worse the Wallabies had to play the final five minutes with only 14 players after they had used all of their seven replacements which the Springboks gladly took advantage of when Louw threw another dummy before throwing a fabulous pass to Habana to score his third try of the match. The Springboks played some great rugby and could have easily scored forty points proving that they are a different proposition at home. The Wallabies have a full Test team on the injury list which is going to again challenge their depth when the take on the Pumas in Rosario next weekend. Mark Ella

17
settembre


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Wallabies Scrape Home over Pumas 23 -19. By Mark Ella

The Pumas played some good rugby and their defense was outstanding but as their captain Martin Fernandez Lobbe stated after the match they had trouble closing the match which is something that will come with more experience.The Wallabies can count themselves lucky to have won the match because for most of the game they played poorly against a much more enthusiastic opposition and will have to raise their standards when they meet the Springboks in South Africa in two weeks time.Mark Ella

17
settembre


Too many wasted opportunities by the Springboks give victory to the All Blacks 21-11. by Mark Ella

The Springboks had a perfect opportunity to get back at the All Blacks on the weekend after a disappointing season so far drawing with the Pumas 16-16 in Mendoza and losing to the Wallabies 26-19 in Perth a couple of weeks ago. Before the match All Blacks coach Steve Hansen announced that exciting half back Aaron Smith had been dropped from the starting team after breaking team curfews following their scrappy win over the Pumas last weekend in Wellington with Piri Weepu taking over his position.It was only fitting that this match was played in Dunedin where it all started in 1921 for both proud rugby nations who first played against each other and 83 Test matches later the intensity and passion is still there.The Springboks had their best chance ever to take the lead after only four minutes of play but a wayward pass which went behind Bryan Habana’s head with the line wide open was a sign of what was to follow.Morne Steyn put scored the first points of the match in the 17th minute when he kicked a penalty goal to give the Springboks the lead 3-0 but the normally reliant sharp shooter kicked poorly throughout the match that was there for the taking.Against New Zealand you simply cannot afford to miss major opportunities and the Springboks will rue this match as one that got away.The All Blacks scored the first and only try in the first half in the 20th minute courtesy of a fabulous counter-attack off a deep Springboks kick.All Blacks full back Israel Dagg was the scorer after featuring four times in the movement, through two quite brilliant off-loads by Sam Whitelock and then Kieran Read who created the opportunity for the full back to race clear to the try line from thirty metres out.Poor kicking from Steyn who missed three penalty attempts should have kept the Springbok in the game and quite possibly ahead at half time but instead the Kiwi’s went into the break leading 5-3 in a close contest.Hansen didn’t waste any time in bringing on Smith who replaced Weepu for the second half but it was the Springboks who were quick to set the tone when their flying winger Bryan Habana did it all himself when in the 43rd minute took a close pass from the line-out to chipp over the top of Dagg before regathering to put the South Africans in the led 8-3.Eight minutes later All Blacks No.10 Aaron Cruden even the score 8 all when his kicked a penalty goal with the game swinging either way.But Smith stole the show when in the 59th minute he spotted big Flip van der Merve in front of him, slipped around him with ease and had the skill and the gas to leave the cover defense for dead to break the deadlock which was converted by Cruden to stretch the lead 15-8.When Boks replacement prop Dean Greyling was sin-binned soon after for a cheap shot on Ritchie McCaw at a ruck, it was always going to be a long haul back for the South Africans.They briefly threatened when a Johan Goosen penalty got them back to within four, but two Cruden penalties secured victory for the All Blacks that was every bit hard earned as it looked.The South Africans looked as if they didn’t have a clear strategy and kicked far too much in general play which made their job so much harder against the best team in world rugby.Steyn missed his only conversion attempt, kicked one out his of four penalty attempts but his namesake Francois Steyn missed his two long range penalty attempts with Johan Goosen also kicking one from two which was inadequate at this level.All Blacks skipper Ritchie McCaw who ended the match hobbling badly was huge for the New Zealanders demonstrating all his qualities in his 110th Test appearance.Luke Romano had another impressive outing in the black jersey up front while Israel Dagg, Corey Jane and Smith off the bench all showed their class when clear-cut opportunities were few and far between.The All Blacks will soon be crowned champions in the inaugural Rugby Championship with only two more rounds to go and they are deserving victors because they are consistent and play positive rugby which excites fans from around the rugby world.Mark Ella  

10
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All Blacks domination of Super Championship continues with victory over Argentina 21-5 By Mark Ella

With former RWC winning coach Sir Graham Henry engaged by Argentina as an advisor it was always going to be an apprehensive All Blacks side who took on the Pumas in Wellington on the weekend. The Pumas had some reason to be confident going into the match after their fantastic draw against the Springboks in Mendoza two weeks ago 16-16 but the weather wasn’t too kind to them. Both teams took the field in driving rain which would have suited the home team who play wet weather rugby on a regular basis but as expected from this Pumas side, they didn’t fail to cause the All Blacks grief. In fact they scored the first try of the match when veteran prop Rodrigo Roncero got the football over the line after some bruising clashed between both sides. The All Blacks managed to keep in the game when Aaron Cruden, a late replacement for the injured Daniel Carter, landed penalties in the 9th and 24th minutes with the All Blacks again trying far too hard resulting in a large number of unforced errors. The their credit the Pumas defense made it hard to the All Blacks to build too much continuity with both sides pounding each other in atrocious conditions in what was more of an arm wrestle than a game of rugby. The Argentinians like to play this type of rugby which was confirmed to close quarters due to the elements and they match the All Blacks blow for blow in what was an absorbing contest between two very passionate teams. Thankfully the second half was more favourable for rugby wind the wind and rain abating but not before it caused havoc when the winds peaked at 160km/hr in Wellington which tore roofs off houses and uprooted trees and caused the power cut which plunged Wellington Stadium into darkness for close to 30 minutes. After fifty one minutes into the match Cruden put the All Blacks further in front 9-5 with another penalty but the game changed for the worse when Pumas flanker Julio Farias Cabellos was sinbinned in the 59th minute by French referee Romain Poite for deliberately knocking down the ball from a pass from Corey Jane. The All Blacks didn’t waste this advantage when centre Conrad Smith drew two defenders before offloading to Ma’a Nomu who unselfishly put Julian Savea over in the left hand corner to stretch the All Blacks lead out to 14-5. Victory for the All Blacks was sealed with nine minutes left on the clock when Jane was the recipient of great long pass from Cruden after an excellent set piece from the All Blacks three-quarters to put the flying winger in the right corner. The conversion by Cruden from the sideline was successful to give the All Blacks a much deserved victory 21-5 to keep their Rugby Championship in tact with the only team to have an unbeaten record. Their success against Pumas was the All Blacks 13th straight Test win and they remain unbeaten against Argentina having won all fifteen previous Test matches which is nothing to be ashamed of. The Pumas against played with a great deal of passion and commitment and if they can contain the Wallabies backline their forwards will more than challenge the Wallabies forward by their no thrills and in your face approach. The All Blacks continue to set the standard for International rugby but it must to frustrating for coach Steve Hansen to watch his players strive so hard to impress him but at the same time make a number of elementary mistakes. There are times in Test rugby when holding onto possession is more important than trying fifty fifty plays that almost always don’t come off with the opposition regaining the football. If they would have had a more conservative approach against the Wallabies they come have put forty points on the scoreboard if not for their errors. But if they get it right they will be unstoppable with the next challenger being the Springboks in Dunedin who are themselves struggling to remain in the game and once again their game may be All Black! Mark Ella

27
agosto


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Argentina bounce back to give South Africa a scare drawing 16 all in Mendoza - By Mark Ella

In last week’s column I mentioned briefly just how difficult it is playing rugby in Argentina and the Springboks found out for themselves when they were lucky to escape with a 16 all draw against the Pumas.Many rugby players around the world have already stated that South Africa is one of the most vocal and intimidating venues to play but the South Americans will no doubt give their best to upset the rhythm of the touring side.Playing in their first Rugby Championship match at home over 45,000 vocal fans inspired the home side to challenge the Springboks who looked a little nervous and apprehensive in Mendoza.Two weeks ago in CapeTown the Springboks controlled much of the match comfortably winning 27-6 but last weekend the Pumas played with a great deal more energy and commitments putting the Springboks defence under constant pressure.In Cape Town the Pumas had trouble piecing the strong Springboks defensive line but in Mendoza they found holes that were not there a week earlier and their efforts were rewarded when No.12 Santiago Fernandez scored underneath the posts after 18 minutes into the match.The Springboks never looked threatening in the first half struggling to string together any meaningful phases in attack which was a compliment on the commitment from the Pumas.The Pumas led the Springboks13-3 at half time which indicative of how well they played and obviously how the South Africans had under estimated their opponents.With 14 consecutive losses to the Springboks the Pumas had everything to gain but the South Africans were playing for pride in the second half and lifted the tempo of the match.Their only try of the match came in the 66th minute when Francios Steyn charged down a clearing kick from Marcelo Bosch which he regathered to give the momentum back to the Springboks who were finishing strongly.But the Pumas held on and whilst they may have been disappointed with not defeating the Springboks that had at least stopped South Africa’s winning streak against them.In elite sport defence plays a major role and the Pumas were certainly not afraid tackling the Springboks head on which surprised the match favourites.Both teams had opportunities to put further points on the board when Francios Steyn and Martin Rodriguez in particular missed a couple of simply penalties which could have won them the match.The next match for the Pumas is in two week’s time when they go up against the mighty All Blacks in Wellington New Zealand who won’t take their opposition too lightly.The All Blacks are sitting on top of the world after their impressive victories over the Wallabies but the Pumas must be prepared to go toe to toe with the current RWC champions who are playing some superb rugby.The Pumas have already justified their inclusion in this competition which is now challenging the Six Nations as the games leading contest apart from the RWC itself.The Springboks on the other hand face their nemesis in Perth against the Wallabies who have defeated them on their last four outings.Veteran captain Jean de Villiers will need to get his players focused against a desperate Wallabies side who themselves will need to bounce back in front of an Australian fan base who are deserting the Wallabies in their thousands.Mark Ella

27
agosto


All Blacks win their 10th Bledisloe Cup against Australia - By Mark Ella

In Australian rugby there is nothing more important outside of winning the RWC than the Bledisloe Cup and the Wallabies must have been shattered to have been held scoreless for the first time in 50 years against a great All Blacks side. New Zealand was in complete control in Auckland on the weekend as they easily won 22-0 against a Wallabies outfit devoid of any attacking ideas.The current All Blacks team is in my opinion much stronger that the team who won last year’s RWC because they have again lifted the bar against teams like the Wallabies who are currently ranked No.2, ridiculously miles behind the Kiwi’s.To the Wallabies credit they defended well against the All Blacks who went on the attack from the kick-off and managed somehow to keep in the game for the first 20 minutes at least.But under such sustained pressure the penalties were always going to come and with All Blacks five eighth Daniel Carter kicking three first half penalties to give the All Blacks a 9-0 lead going into the half time break.The first ten minutes into the second half sealed the match for the All Blacks as they come out of the dressing room like an expressed train with Carter adding another three points to his tally and a superb try to fullback Israel Dagg which of course was converted by Carter to give the All Blacks a commanding lead of 19-0.Minutes later Carter kicked another penalty goal and at 22-0 the All Blacks had won their 10th Bledisloe Cup series after fifty minutes and toyed with the Wallabies for the last 30 minutes of the game.The All Blacks had plenty of chances to increase their lead but they were over eager to punish the Aussies that they squandered many great try scoring opportunities.Players like Israel Dagg, No.9 Aaron Dagg, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’u Nonu made metres every time they touched the football with the Wallabies continually on the back foot trying to stop the impending avalanche that was coming their way.For the Wallabies it was the same old excuses kicking away vital possession far too often and not having the belief in each other to work harder on the field as a unit team.Much was said of Quade Cooper two weeks before when he was left out of the Wallabies squad in Sydney but he was hardly recognisable in Auckland and had little, if no impact on the game itself.Replacement full back Kurtley Beale who a year ago was rated the one of the game’s best No.15’s, had sixty minutes on the field and like Cooper he went through the motions without contributing too much to the Wallabies attack.The Wallabies backline directed by No.12 Berrick Barnes kicked away far too much possession making it easy for the All Blacks to dominate the match and ultimately win the game.The pressure in now on coach Robbie Deans to lift the Wallabies performance with his remaining four Rugby Championship games against South Africa and Argentina otherwise he may have to consider moving back to New Zealand.The Wallabies fans are baying for blood and anything but a convincing win against the Springboks in Perth next weekend will save his hide.Over the last two years the Wallabies have had the edge over the Springboks winning their last four matches but nothing is certain in this competition. During his tenure with the Wallabies Deans has coached teams that have lost to Scotland twice, Samoa and last weekend coaching the first Australian team in fifty years not to have scored a point against New Zealand in a Test match.He has lost 14 out of 17 matches against New Zealand who are Australia’s biggest competitor which is simply not good enough and I am afraid that the writing is on the wall for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.Mark Ella

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