Quick reviews of the first four test matches of the past weekend, including the matches in Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia.
A dreadful first half for Samoa concluded with a Josh Afu try that gave the Ikale Tahi the lead heading into the break. The rot continued until Stephen Betham had seen enough and brought in a raft of changes, with Kahn Fotuali’i and George Pisi making a massive difference to the attack. David Lemi touched down and Tusi Pisi finally found his range after a couple bad early misses, kicking eight points and giving Samoa the lead heading into the final minutes, only to see Fangatapu Apikotoa hit a penalty to level the scores on full-time.
The Manu are sure to make changes for the match against Italy after some really casual efforts. Jeremy Su’a was poor at halfback while Filo Paulo and Taiasina Tuifu’a had forgettable matches. Tonga can be pleased with the efforts of a weakened team, playing well and for much of the match looking the better side. Hopefully they’ll have a couple reinforcements in place for next week to face the Fijians.
Samoa – T. Pisi 1c 2p, F. Otto 1t, D. Lemi 1t
Tonga – L. Fosita 1c 1p, F. Apikotoa 1p, O. Katoa 1t, J. Afu 1t
Samoa – C. Johnston y (68)
Tonga – A. Taufa y (79)
F. Autagavaia; F. Otto, A. Leiua, J. Leota (G. Pisi 54), D. Lemi (capt.) (G. Pisi 32-35); T. Pisi, J. Su’a (K. Fotuali’i 45); S. Taulafo (A. Perenise 54), O. Avei (T. Paulo 67), L. Mulipola (C. Johnston 67); K. Thompson (L. Mulipola 74-78) (A. Tuilagi 79), F. Paulo; F. Levave (D. Leo 50), J. Lam, T. Tuifu’a (O. Treviranus 45).
T. Halaifonua; O. Katoa (F. Vainikolo 67), S. Piutau, F. Anderson, A. Taufa; L. Fosita (A. Apikotoa 70), S. Fisilau (T. Takulua 49); T. Mailau (K. Sakalia 75), S. Taufalele (P. Ngauamo 75), S. Puafisi (E. Aholelei 49); J. Afu (D. Faleafa 51), L. Fa’aoso; P. Mapakaitolo (V. Fihaki 62), N. Latu (capt.), V. Ma’afu.
Referee: W. Barnes (RFU)
Assistants: M. Raynal (FFR) & A. Rees (ARU)
A very uneventful first half saw the Fijian forwards crumbling against the Italian scrum, conceding a penalty try on ten minutes that offered little hope to the home side. Despite the clear dominance in the scrum the Azzurri failed to take further advantage in the first stanza and powerhouse Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo shifted into high gear to score a fine try and get his side back in the game.
The Fijians got some possession in the second half and a cracking solo try from Dominiko Waqaniburotu was followed up by two long-range penalties from Nadolo to build a healthy two-score lead for the hosts. Italy rejuvenated their tiring pack and got another penalty try, but looked completely bereft of ideas in the backline. A late try by Napolioni Nalaga sealed a good win for Fiji, who rewarded John McKee with victory in his maiden voyage as head coach.
Fiji – J. Ralulu 1c, N. Nadolo 1t 1c 2p, D. Waqaniburotu 1t, N. Nalaga 1t
Italy – L. Orquera 2c, 2 Penalty tries (scrum)
M. Talebula; T. Nagusa (A. Delai 65), A. Tikoirotuma (W. Votu 77), N. Nadolo (W. Votu 43-48), N. Nalaga; J. Ralulu, N. Kenatale (N. Matawalu HT); C. Ma’afu (J. Yanuyanutawa 47), T. Tuapati (S. Koto HT), M. Saulo (I. Colati HT); A. Ratuniyarawa, A. Naikatini (W. Lewaravu 60); D. Waqaniburotu, A. Qera (capt.), N. Nagusa (M. Ravulo 77).
L. McLean; L. Sarto (A. Masi 65), M. Campagnaro, A. Sgarbi, G. Venditti; L. Orquera, G. Palazzani; M. Agüero (An. de Marchi 51), L. Ghiraldini (D. Giazzon 51), L. Cittadini (Al. de Marchi 51); Q. Geldenhuys (capt.), M. Bortolami (G. Biagi 60); J. Furno, M. Bergamasco, M. Vosawai (P. Derbyshire 65).
Referee: J.P. Doyle (RFU)
Assistants: R. Hoffman (ARU) & J. Leckie (ARU)
The weakened English side came oh-so-close to toppling their hosts as the All Blacks put in one of their worst performances of recent memory. Of the two, it was England who looked more likely to score through much of the match, and had Nigel Owens shown yellow to either Ma’a Nonu in the opening minutes or Malakai Fekitoa on the hour, both professional fouls deserving of a trip to the bin, the result may well have been different. Instead Owens chose to card Marland Yarde, deserving but inconsistent with his earlier decisions, and it was the New Zealand who got out of jail with a Conrad Smith try on the overlap.
Stuart Lancaster would be desperately disappointed with those decisions and the narrow loss, but pleased with the efforts of his underdogs, with some players putting their hands up to make selection for next week difficult. Steve Hansen on the other hand will be reading the riot act after an embarrassing performance that needed some divine intervention to salvage the win. If some veteran players don’t show up again next week their World Cup plans might be changing rapidly.
New Zealand – A. Cruden 5p, C. Smith 1t
England – F. Burns 4p, D. Cipriani 1p
England – M. Yarde y (69)
M. Brown; M. Yarde, M. Tuilagi, K. Eastmond, J. May (C. Pennell 79); F. Burns (D. Cipriani 71), B. Youngs (L. Dickson 79); J. Marler, R. Webber (J. Gray 70), D. Wilson (H. Thomas 70); J. Launchbury (D. Attwood 70), G. Parling; J. Haskell (T. Johnson 70), C. Robshaw (capt.), B. Morgan.
I. Dagg (B. Barrett 54); B. Smith, C. Smith, M. Nonu (M. Fekitoa 60), C.Jane; A. Cruden, A. Smith (T.J. Perenara 70); T. Woodcock (W. Crockett 60), D. Coles (K. Mealamu 60), O. Franks (C. Faumuina 54); B. Retallick, S. Whitelock; L. Messam (V. Vito 71), R. McCaw (capt.), J. Kaino.
Referee: N. Owens (WRU)
Assistants: J. Peyper (SARU) & J. Garces (FFR)
TMO: G. Ayoub (ARU)
Seven different players touched down as the Wallabies brought up a half century in a thumping over a totally rudderless French side. Newly minted captain Stephen Moore suffered a terrible blow only a couple minutes into the match, tearing knee ligaments that will see him miss the rest of the year, but Australia rallied around stand-in Michael Hooper and were good value for their score. Halfbacks Nic White and Bernard Foley moved the ball well and the forwards delivered plenty of quick ball for the glory boys out wide.
France had next to no inspiration, severely lacking in leadership and looking clueless until a bevy of substitutes came on to add impetus. Morgan Parra restored some confidence and a late penalty try from a scrum added a dash of respectability to the score, but no more. Philippe Saint-André will be pulling what’s left of his hair out during the week in an effort to rally his troops, and will surely ring the changes ahead of the second test.
Australia – B. Foley 6c 1p, I. Folau 1t, A. Ashley-Cooper 1t, M. Hooper 1t, M. To’omua 1t, N. Cummins 1t, K. Beale 1t, P. McCabe 1t
France – F. Michalak 2c 2p 1d, M. Parra 1t, Penalty try (scrum)
I. Folau; A. Ashley-Cooper, T. Kuridrani (P. McCabe 69), M. To’omua (K. Beale 63), N. Cummins; B. Foley, N. White (N. Phipps 63); J. Slipper (P. Cowan 63), S. Moore (capt.) (T. Polota-Nau 5), S. Kepu (P. Ryan 54); R. Simmons (J. Horwill 69), S. Carter; S. Fardy, M. Hooper, W. Palu (B. McCalman 54).
H. Bonneval; Y. Huget, G. Fickou (R. Lamerat 73), W. Fofana, F. Le Bourhis (B. Dulin 54); F. Michalak, M. Machenaud (M. Parra 69); T. Domingo (V. Debaty 54), G. Guirado (C. Tolofua 69), N. Mas (capt.) (R. Slimani 54); S. Vaha’amahina (A. Flanquart 54), Y. Maestri; F. Ouedraogo, B. le Roux (A. Burban 61), D. Chouly.
Referee: C. Joubert (SARU)
Assistants: C. Pollock (NZRU) & G. Williamson (NZRU)
TMO: B. Skeen (NZRU)