TWO surprising results but the win by Ireland over the Springboks, their first there in eight attempts since 1961, was truly an upset, made all the sweeter because they played with 14 men for about three-quarters of the Test in Cape Town.
Here was an Irish side without almost half its first choice players and a team that previously lost both Tests there on its last tour but despite hooker and captain Rory Best declaring that the boys were running on empty towards the end, Ireland managed to hold on to deny the Springboks a last-gasp try in the corner to win 26-20.
For Allister Coetzee, it was not the start he had hoped for in his first Test as the new Boks coach and he must now be praying that his boys will cut down on elementary errors and indiscipline when they play in the second Test in Johannesburg this weekend.
Some hours earlier, another northern team earned a deserving win in Brisbane, only its third out of 16 matches on tour to Australia since June 1963. On their previous tour in 2010, England beat the host 21-20 in one Test but lost the other.
Sweet revenge this time for a team that was trounced 33-13 by Australia in last year’s World Cup at its home venue of Twickenham.
There has been much press coverage on what England coach Eddie Jones described as “disgusting, disrespectful and demeaning” remarks against his team.
Jones is Australian and coached the Wallabies from 2001 to 2003 and saw his team defeated by England in the 2003 RWC final in Sydney. Some of what was said was obviously in reference to his reaction in the coach’s box after the final whistle. Also in his coaching panel is former Wallaby Glen Ella.
This was exactly the situation New Zealander Wayne Smith anticipated when he turned down the offer by former England coach Stuart Lancaster to join his coaching panel in 2012. Smith was to say that he didn’t want to be in a position where the team he helped coach would be a threat to the All Blacks – a team he has been assisting to coach for several years now. He recently also turned down an offer from English club Harlequins.
One other issue that seemed to have upset Jones was a promotional video by Fox Sports Australia which features former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns and Rod Kafer, also an ex-Wallaby. Both are now television pundits.
The one-sided video referred to some of the Wallabies’ wins over England while mocking England. It totally ignores the matches won by England, including the RWC final in 2003.
The Wallabies are now left to lick their wounds and as a result of the insults, now face a more fired up England determined to create history by winning a series in Australia.
Unlike Wales against the All Blacks also last Saturday, England didn’t run out of steam after the Wallabies had control of the first quarter of the game. Not only did England manage to hold on, they looked strong even as the match neared its end.
Wales led for a decent part of the Test in Auckland, leading at the break and into the third quarter but did not have the energy to keep up with the power, continuity and pace of the All Blacks.
The last quarter was all New Zealand’s, with three tries scored.
Captain and flanker San Warburton admitted that they couldn’t keep up with the pace, especially since they had to cover more metres than they were used to in the Six Nations.
The All Blacks were again rusty in their first game of the season and while they played with only two debutants in the matchday 23, the formations are different following the retirement of six stalwarts from international rugby after the last RWC.
If there was one match Wales had a good chance to win it was this one but they failed to grab the opportunity. The momentum is now with the All Blacks and it looks like the defending world champions will succeed in denying Wales a first win over them since 1953.
In the other Tests played at the weekend, Samoa became the first Pacific Island team to host Georgia in a game which ended in 19-19. Argentina beat Italy 30-24 while Japan beat Canada away 26-22.