Weekend Rugby Awards

21 11 2010

Team of the Weekend: New Zealand

Whilst they were forced to play in top gear for portions of the game (first half in particular) the All Blacks always looked like they had something left in reserve and that Ireland’s challenge would remain exactly that. With yet another master class display from Dan Carter and excellent marauding work from the back three – Kieron Read in particular – the result was never seriously in doubt.

Runner up: Scotland

Brave, determined and any number of other clichés that sit so well with a Scottish win – to bounce back from the defeat against the All Blacks in this fashion was a superb achievement. We didn’t see this match due to the vagaries of scheduling (why can’t the games be played over two days or staggered throughout the afternoon/evening) and so cannot comment on the style or perhaps lack of it shown by either side – yet it is a remarkable result to mirror their achievement against Australia last year.

Biggest Disappointment: South Africa and Wales

Whilst we could never be accused of supporting the Springboks, we can still sympathise with the majority of their fans. With no disrespect to the Scottish intended – this was a result that no South African would have countenanced pre tour – especially after the way the AB’s blitzed them.

With the pressure already on ‘P Divvy’ after a dreadful Tri Nations campaign and a stop start tour of the North (with the hardest game still to come no less) as a neutral we feel his days must (and should) be numbered. As English fans though we hope he takes the Boks all the way to the world cup.

For Wales, Friday’s 16 all draw with Fiji would have been a bitter reminder of the way they crashed out of the 2007 world cup. Coming as it did on the heels of a close game to the Bok’s, this would have been doubly disappointing. Yes it was a young and slightly experimental team and Fiji battled hard – yet Gatland and the rest of Wales know, this os a result that is simply not acceptable.

NH Obligatory Depressing Moment: Ireland

There came a moment towards the end of the first half where Ireland scored a well worked try after dominating the previous 10 minutes and snuck into the lead. At this stage Irish supporters around the world could practically be heard thinking ‘maybe today is the day that we finally beat the men in black…’

Sadly you could also see the same thought pop into the AB’s head at around the same time and their response was as calculated as it was brutal. In a twenty minute period from this Irish score through to around the 55 minute mark, the AB’s stepped up a gear as only they can and blew the nascent Irish belief away.

For much of this match Ireland did exceptionally well and challenged New Zealand’s superiority in many aspects of the game. Unfortunately there was always a feeling that Ireland were playing at the very edge of their abilities whilst the Kiwis were simply operating at 95%. That final 5% made all the difference and that moment of realization wins Ireland this unwanted award.

In Ireland’s favour, however, there were moments when they made the AB’s falter and look eminently human. It is these small portions of hope that they, and all other chasing sides including Australia and South Africa, need to cling on to. This New Zealand team may be the best in the world and, in our opinion, quite frankly one of the best we’ve ever seen, yet they are still human and can be beaten.

A back handed compliment was paid by Graham Henry to the Irish when he chose not to introduce Stephen Donald around the 60 minute mark as has been his usual trick. Clearly Henry felt there was enough threat in the Irish team to mean that the AB’s main man, Dan Carter, stayed on the pitch until the end. A Donald marshaled New Zealand is after all a much more frail and vulnerable thing than one led by Carter.

Inevitable Come Down Award: England

After the incredible highs of last week, England get this award although we must say that it is a little harsh. On a night when Samoa defended exceptionally well, England provided a workmanlike performance which, whilst it inevitably  failed to hit the heights achieved against Australia, was still reasonably good and had its fair share of positive moments.

Notable plus points were the continued excellent work from the back three who are improving as a unit game after game. Cueto and Foden in particular showed signs of brilliance, creating opportunities from nothing on several different occasions.

Also impressive was the work done by the tight five – several bullocking runs coming from Sheridan, Wilson and Lawes. At the back of the pack, Easter cut out the errors of the previous two weeks and Fourie showed enough to justify his continued selection on the bench against the Bok’s next week.

The Banahan experiment also provided enough evidence that he might yet make a test 13 although he currently lacks the finesse needed to be a top class operator. Not adding much in the way of pace, he did on the other hand make good use of his size and importantly was in the right place at the right time on more than one occasion. His intercept and ‘Sonny Bill Williams offload’ was an excellent example of this.

Regular readers might be surprised to hear us praise him – a man we had previously dismissed as ‘lumbering’ – yet his appearance at 13 was far better than any we’d witnessed on the wing. He’s clearly still got some way to go but probably deserves another chance to develop in this role.

Lesson of the Weekend: Small margins…

Rugby is undoubtedly a game of tiny margins. In England’s game against Samoa there were several occasions where England got over the line only to be called back for a foot in touch or a short forward pass. These were certainly the correct decisions by the referee although it is worth noting the difference they might have made. England dominated Samoa and it was only a combination of Samoan grit and tiny errors by the English that ensured it was not a much larger win.

We are not complaining you understand – simply noting that it is the cutting out of these errors that make the All Blacks so good. When there is a try scoring pass to make – they make it. It really is as simple as that.

Ireland, too, had a couple of opportunities when they were pressing from only a yard or two out but couldn’t quite make the telling run or pass. If the rest of the world are to catch up it is, as ever, this finishing ability we all need to work on.

Question of the Weekend: Can Sonny Bill Williams pass from left to right any other way other than out the back of his right hand?

And then secondary to that – is he going to patent it as even Matt Banahan was getting in on the act yesterday?!

Answers below please…

************

P.s. Any sharp eyed reader noticing our lack of mention for Australia, Italy, France or Argentina must accept our apologies. We simply didn’t see the games or feel that they were particularly notable in anyway…

 

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4 responses

21 11 2010
Jonathan

Can I add an award?

Play of the weekend – has to go to BOD for that one handed pick up and subsequent try. What a legend of a player that man is.
Such a tremendous performance from Ireland, a really great game to watch. NZ look, well like the NZ we have become accustomed to in between world cups! Theyre an impressive unit.

Dare I say that Keiran Reid is now a better player than McCaw? He has become a superb player and put in another great performance yesterday.

I didnt see the Scotland game, props to them. I did however see the Wales game, shocking.

As for England, a solid performance, and as you rightly point out tiny margins prevented quite a few more points. Frankly, that would have been harsh on Samoa; this was the most disciplined Samoan side I have seen playing against England. THeir defending was superb, theyre always great hitters, but they held the line really well. If the England tight five had not been so superior I think Samoa could have caused some more problems.

Now, bring on the Boks!

22 11 2010
Bradders

It was a superb moment – testimony to BOD’s ability to get into games even when he perhaps wasn’t as his best.
Massive fan of Read and he’s part of the reason I have so little time for Nick Easter – reasonable and solid player though he is!

Can’t wait for the Boks – would love to do what we did to Australia to them!

24 11 2010
Will Buck

I am a little tired by the author’s comments on Nick Easter. Since the 2007 World Cup when he ousted Dallaglio (no mean feat even at the tail end of his career) he has been one of the stalwarts of the england side through some tough times. There have admittedly been some dips in form, but mainly due to injury and he has had some well documented fitness issues, but in general he has been impressive for us. He is now in the best shape of his career and is certainly one of our best players. I think the author is judging by appearances. He certainly looks a little ungainly in style, but he is certainly not slow, has excellent hands in fact and I reckon he must make more yards than any England forward. He is clearly an intelligent guy, hearing him interviewed and being made captain etc. What is the issue. With a lack of ball carrying, hard-yard making back-row forwards, Easter is absolutely key to our success and twice the player that fashionable gym-monkey Haskell is!! Back-row is about balance and the Easter, Moody, Croft balance is good. Throw dim-witted Haskell in there and it is an entirely different unit. Easter also has an extremely goo try-scoring record. He also has awesome grey hair which I appreciate as a silver-fox. Get off his back!!
Regards,

Easter Fan Club.

24 11 2010
Bradders

Dear Easter Fan Club,

Thank you for your comments… But I was actually paying him a compliment in this particular article! I said he did well and cut out the previous weeks errors (where actually against the Kiwis and the Aussies he had conceded more turn overs than anyone else)!

Actually if you look back at the other comments you’ll see I agree that he is the best we have at the moment and perhaps I have criticised him but – I am not alone. Opinion is split and if you look at different websites / papers then you see not everyone agrees. The southern hemisphere sites in particular are fairly damning.

With Haskell he might not be the answer but I’d like to see him given a go as, if you remember, he did well prior to injury in this years six nations.

Its more frustration when we compare him to Read or Harinordoquy than anything else. You say he’s not slow – but he’s hardly the quickest player around! And as for replacing Dallaglio he was not the player he was. What I will concede is that using scrum.com’s stats which is where I got the turn over numbers from, he did make more yards than any of the other back row forwards. Only Croft came close.

Either way – surely I’m allowed my little foibles – we all have them!

You must have enjoyed my defence of Jonny though yesterday?

Cheers for commenting

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