Wow! What a weekend of Rugby we were just gifted! I have not spent so much time on the edge of my seat in many a season! There was everything on tap from controversial decisions to sublime split second kicks and some unexpected close margin wins!
Let us start with the obvious and call upon the England Vs Australia game; I suspect that if Michael Cheika hadn’t been pulled up on some lip-reading charges by various media outlets over the weekend, it wouldn’t have taken a genius to figure out what was going on inside his head in any case. He has got to be begging the question of what is lying within Eddie Jones’ playbook at the moment, because England are currently 5-0 over the Wallabies since Eddie stepped in to the breach and after Saturdays performance, that doesn’t look like it is going to change any time soon.
England are doing a fantastic job of reading Australian attack and covering the margins very well indeed; sure, there were a couple of loose balls and some risky kicks that could well have reduced the thrashing for the Aussies, but on a cold wet day when your fingers refuse to carry out the tasks your brain is imploring them to do, we are all open to the odd mistake.
England played the conditions like they should, and not only did they make a good fist of the defensive actions, they also handled the attack fantastically well. Danny Care was on fire when he came on and you could even argue that there is a place for him to be a game starter as opposed to a game changer, but let’s be honest, is anyone going to upset the apple cart with the way things are right now? I don’t think so. Launchbury carried like a machine and Elliot Daly seemed to make it his job to be in every camera shot of the game, he was everywhere.
There was argument that Australia were given a hard time by the TMO and assistants, but you know what, that is nonsense. Was Hooper off-side? Yes, he was. Did the ball go into touch just before Elliot Daly crossed the wash? No, it didn’t. Was Chris Robshaw obstructed whilst trying to hold up the ball from what wasn’t a clearly grounded try? Yes, he was and even if he wasn’t, could you say that ball was down? These were the most controversial moments in the game, but clearly, when you sit back and look at it again and again, all the incidents were cut and dried and it was clear that this was a sign of an Australian side that on the day were outplayed and outmanoeuvred. Don’t get me wrong, that bounce of the ball for Daly was sublime and you could never repeat it if you tried, but that’s what you get sometimes. One last point to raise from this game; Jonny May… much as it pains me to say it, moving from Gloucester seems to have done him the power of good, and if he keeps playing like he is and stays free from injury, you’ll be seeing a lot more of him.
Swiftly moving on to Scotland Vs NZ; I don’t think anyone saw that result coming if I’m honest. Gregor Townsend has got to be happy with his sides performance, I know it is a loss, but when you go up against the best in the world, who pretty much run out at every game wondering what the winning margin will be as opposed to can we get the job done, then coming away with only 5 points in it come full-time has got to leave you thinking, “we are getting there!”. They have got a chance to capitalise on this performance this coming weekend, as they are going to be full of expectation when they take on Australia. If there was ever a chance to make your mark, then this is going to be it. Scotland are up and coming, but have been doing this for a while, taking two steps forward and one step back, but now is the time to put the foot to the floor, raise the intensity and blow the opposition out of the park. There is nothing like a good feeling, to make you play good rugby and I can’t imagine the Scots have felt this good in a while!
I don’t have so much to write about the next few games, because let’s be honest, the value wasn’t there! Ireland had a narrow escape against Fiji, after producing some of the best rugby I have seen this season last week, they decided it was a good idea to change the squad wholesale and see what happens; well, the somewhat expected! Much the same with Wales I’m afraid, Gatland changed 95% of his squad and it fell apart, Wales have been playing fantastically as individuals and reasonably as a team, but then you change it all and you have got 15 individuals again and no team!
Elsewhere in Rugby land, there were a couple of notable games that caught my eye in the premiership, and more surprisingly the table standings that made me do a double take on Friday evening. Gloucester? 3rd? Okay, okay, it might have been a short-lived spell in the rarefied heights of the top 3, but none the less, it has been a while since we saw that, and it was made all the more compelling by the team they beat to get there! Saracens! Castle Grim is living up to its name for travelling sides this season, as Gloucester have gone undefeated on home turf. Not a bad starting spell from Mr Ackerman at the helm and if they can start to nail some away form to go along with it, then they should be in a happy position come season end.
The other game I noted was Worcester Warriors who punched in a fantastic shift against Northampton to gain the first victory of the season. Putting a mid-table side to the sword when you are trying to scrape yourself off the foot of the premiership isn’t a bad way to go about a Saturday afternoon, so big congratulations to those boys! If we have some more of that against Leicester this week, then hopefully we won’t be looking at a straight relegation arm wrestle! It’s better for everyone when it is interesting at the bottom as well as the top!
Let’s hope this weekend brings more of the same, because this is exciting rugby from every angle!