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Autumn Internationals – Schmidt Era Stutters Drastically

O'Connell's look of dejection sums things up adequately

O’Connell’s look of dejection sums things up adequately

France 38 – 18 Tonga

France started this game in brilliant fashion when Guitoune was setup with a superb cross field kick that gave them the early lead. Morgan Parra was on form from the boot, slotting three successive penalties despite missing the early conversion. France didn’t have it all their own way however as Tonga were creating try scoring chances that really should have been converted. Apikotoa slotted over two penalties to give them some respectability on the scoreboard.  France scored a late try in the first half from Damien Chouly which gave them a strong lead heading towards half time.Tonga’s ball retention in the first half was quite remarkable and it posed a lot of problems for the French defence, alas with no reward. Through the second half France continued the scores, after each side lost a player to a red card for on pitch fighting. This ugly incident aside, it was still a good and flair filled finish out from the French, with Tonga mustering up a consolation try and little more.

Italy 37 – 31 Fiji

This game had everything; it was high scoring with brilliant tries, and of course tonnes of yellow cards. Italy started well with an early penalty by Orquera. Despite the Italians dominating, it was the Fijians who got the first try of the game thanks to Talebua to take the lead. Poor discipline by the Fijians saw four of their players being sin binned close around half time. Italy seized the opportunity and two tries by Parisse and McClean gave them a strong lead and punished Fijian ill-discipline. Italy took a commanding lead by 20 points to 5 at the break. The Fijians with numbers restoring back to their team scored a try through Nagusa who got the luck of the bounce for his try as they began to probe through gaps in the Italian defence. This was cancelled out when the Italian scrum put fierce pressure on the Fijians, which resulted in a penalty try being given, Orquera converted. Fiji were finding holes in the Italians defence, a superb running try by Nadolo was the best try of the weekend who ran through the Italian defence from his own half to bring the Fijians back into the game. It was all about Fiji in the last few minutes with two tries from Nalaga and a second try by Nagusa which cut the gap to six points, with Seremaia Bai converting both tries. Fiji searched for a late winner but it failed to come as the Italians clung on to victory despite being outclassed in the second half. Fijian discipline is what really let them down, despite the fact they scored more tries than the Italians.

Wales 40 – 6 Argentina

Wales were rampant in the Millennium Stadium as Argentina on the other hand never really got going. Early tries by Phillips and North put Wales securely ahead of the South American giants. Wales seemed to cut loose at times as Argentina had no answer to the onslaught of welsh attacks. Both sides traded penalties towards the end of the half from Argentina’s Nicolas Sanchez and Leigh Halfpenny for Wales. Wales never seemed to lose control and pressed ahead in the second with further tries by Faletau and Owens giving the Pumas a hammering in the millennium stadium. Argentina need to look at why they conceded these tries so easily as Wales remain the prominent force in European rugby. Argentina only managed a mere consolation penalty from Sanchez in the second half as Wales won comfortably, and in turn notched up their first Autumn International victory in four years.

Ireland 15 – 32 Australia

This was the first real serious test for Ireland under the management of Joe Schmidt. Australia’s form is beginning to come back after the Rugby Championship and new coach Ewan McKenzie is seemingly beginning to get a grip on his squad. Australia started best in this tie when Quade Cooper scored an early penalty, which was soon cancelled out by Jonathan Sexton. It would be all about Australia for most of this half as their ball retention seemed better than the Irish. Ireland seemed to spill a lot of possession. Australia made good use of space out wide and some good ball retention and offloading resulted in tries for Cummins and debutant Michael Hooper to give Australia 15-3 lead. Sexton brought Ireland back into this game when he scored three further penalties to close the gap to three points at half time. The second half was to be one to forget for the Irish as their tackling seemed poor, which was taken at full advantage by Cooper who scored without any trouble and he followed this with a conversion. Ireland could only muster a solitary penalty in the second half and their performance seemed very flat. A second try by debutant Hooper sealed Australia’s victory over the Irish with Cooper adding the extras. Ireland will need to improve drastically for next weekend’s clash with the all conquering New Zealand; otherwise they will be wiped off the pitch.

Colm O’Shea

Scotland 0 – 28 South Africa

Deary me Bonny Scots. “Expect this to be a landslide”. Yes, I said that last week. But 28 nil? Nobody could call that. Far and away the worst Scottish performance in years. Within 33 minutes the Springboks had three tries notched up, and that they only mustered one more in the ensuing forty minutes was nothing short of a miracle.

Scotland have been sitting on the lower rung of world rugby for some time now, the odd win against Ireland and Australia two shining lights amidst a sea of mediocrity aside, and next year cannot come quick enough with the arrival of Vern Cotter likely to be the only thing possible to turn them around.

South Africa on the other hand have been showing steady, if not mind blowing, form of late and can seemingly bring their best to most teams. They showed this immensely today, particularly in the form of full back and man of the match Willie Le Roux who looks extremely threatening going forward for the Boks.

Scotland on the other hand, it’s hard to see where they can go and a disastrous Six Nations lies ahead of them as things stand.

England 22 – 30 New Zealand

The big one, axes to grind and revenge to be had. New Zealand were famously routed by England last year, and their chances of losing this one were quite slim. The opening half hour of the game confirmed as much too, with the visitors notching up a 17 – 3 lead and looking like they would head out of site sharply. Then however came an English try and the departure from Dan Carter, who will miss next weekend’s fixture, and suddenly the chariot got its wheels back.

England even managed to lead by two on the hour mark and for all the world it looked like the comeback would succeed, only for New Zealand to find their spark once more. Savea crossed and Cruden converted, throwing on a penalty to put them out of reach towards the end. With regards to who deserved it, the All Blacks were the better of the two but with England beating them, then following that up a year later with such a close fixture it looks like some chinks in the All Black armour are being found, about time too.

Niall Hetherington

Image courtesy of RTE.ie

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