BLOG BY @susannahsutton
A win is a win
So spaketh my NZ-supporting husband at the final whistle on Saturday once he’d emerged from his defensive position of hiding behind the sofa, and something I repeated when Wales finally put the Australians away with similar margins later that day. The professional era is reaching a level where nothing can be taken forgranted anymore and if you have to stay 3-3 for 65 minutes to eke out the win, so be it. The lack of cricket scores over the weekend (apart from in Edinburgh) shows some gaps closing in time for next year’s world cup, which I think could see a pile of upsets.
So about that Wales win and the bit where I get carried away
I thought Mark Aylwin was a bit harsh in the Guardian saying the professional era has never seen anything like it in terms of low score – did he miss the 2011 RWC final? That aside, it was a bit dour on the pitch and a friend of mine at the match said it was far more exciting in the bars of Cardiff afterwards. However, there were still a few things of interest. Firstly, AWJ had a great game, but he still isn’t the referee manager his predecessor Warbo was. As the season unfolds, he needs to keep his team away from the referee and make sure his relationships develop with them because when marginal decisions are in the offing, influence will count. Anyone remember Sam Warburton persuading Romain Poite to reverse his penalty decision on the Lions tour? That.
Secondly, and more joyously, Wales’ defence is building momentum. Someone tweeted during the first half something along the lines of “come on Wales, you can’t just defend for 80 minutes”. Well in the last few seasons, they haven’t always been able to defend for 10 minutes, so be careful what you wish for! Josh Adams was particularly effective in neutralising the Folau threat, and Tipuric’s work rate in winning turnover ball and landing 20 tackles, missing only 1 made for some good viewing
Carried away moment: the turnaround in the Irish team came when they started beating Southern Hemisphere teams – and now Wales are doing it!! Wales are going to win the World Cup!!
England did not lose on an incorrect use of the TMO
I’ll be the first to admit that I was surprised the try was disallowed, because at full speed from the sofa (where most of the UK does their refereeing) Lawes looked fine. However, the replay showed NZ had rucked deeper and when Perenara lifted the ball, Lawes was offside. Unlucky timing, but there we go. However, social and paid media kicked off: “but the TMO shouldn’t be allowed to make the call”. If Jerome Garces felt that he couldn’t see the big screens properly because of the rain, then he should be able to use other means at his disposal, which is what he did. I think Garces is easily one of the best referees in the world and the game was lucky to have him in the middle. Depending on who is in the final in Japan, he must have a reasonable shout at being the selected official. Even if he does look like Mr Bean.
If it wasn’t the referee’s fault, how did England still lose?
Was anyone else shouting at the telly for England to kick for the posts at the beginning of the second half? 5 points in the lead, tick up another 3. Almost remnants of the decision-making against Wales in Pool A. New Zealand’s decision-making is faultless and enabled them to win from 15-0 down, despite horrendous weather, the midfield and Beauden Barrett missing their usual magic and uncharacteristic handling errors. In addition, the set-piece scores on the doors make for some reading: NZ won 92% of their lineouts and 100% of their scrums, compared to England’s 66% and 83%, making England one of the poorest teams in terms of set-pieces over the weekend.
In fact, the way NZ won is quite threatening. We are all accustomed to seeing them finish off the opposition with a glory try – I’m not sure I’ve still quite recovered from the Ireland game in 2013 – but the fact they were able to batten down the hatches and nail the must-win set pieces to grip onto their sliver of a lead shows a steely malevolence that means they remain the team to beat.
Pool C the 2019 pool of death
In the excitement of England v New Zealand and the lack of it in Wales v Australia, did anyone watch France v South Africa or Ireland v Argentina? There was some sparkling rugby from the home side in Paris, starting with Teddy Thomas breaking down the wing to get his team deep into South African territory, enabling Guirado to go over from a lineout. At one stage, France was 23 – 9 ahead but their ill-discipline kept South Africa in the hunt and South Africa stole a nail-biting victory in extra time. Over in Dublin, Argentina’s recent turnaround wasn’t enough to prevent Ireland from winning, but it was certainly enough to be awkward and Pool C is going to be the one to watch next year, with none of England, Argentina nor France expecting to miss out on the elimination stages.
My Man of The Match choices
• Greig Laidlaw – the elder statesman of the Scotland team, his rugby intelligence is marvellous. Tommy Seymour scored a hat-trick of tries, but the management consultant at the back of the scrum was the architect of a pounding victory, reinforcing the Murrayfield fortress and confirming he deserves his return to the starting XV ahead of Ali Price.
• Brodie Retallick – unbelievable after his shocking start at kickoff that enabled Chris Ashton’s try. He does need a new headshot though, looked like something off Crimewatch when they announced the teams.
• Josh Adams – only his 5th cap, but played like someone far wiser, limiting Folau’s space and adding to Wales’ strength in depth. (WALES ARE GOING TO WIN THE WORLD CUP)
• James Ryan – in an otherwise error-strewn Irish performance, the second row was excellent, but Ryan’s stats in both attacking runs and tackle workload nudges him ahead of Henderson.
• Teddy Thomas – fleet of foot and ran all over the place.
Daftest commentary of the weekend
• One of the chaps in the Sky team on Saturday said it was fortunate that the players are so well remunerated considering the amount of contact lenses they get through. You can get 30 lenses for £11 from Specsavers, I’m not sure they’re the preserve of the rich…