Saturday, 4 November 2017

All Blacks fight back to sink Barbarians

The All Blacks claimed a 31-22 come-from-behind win over a gutsy Barbarians outfit in a thrilling match at Twickenham on Saturday.

Tries from TJ Perenara, Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape, Sam Cane and Nathan Harris proved too much for the Barbarians who scored through Richie Mo'unga, Sam Carter and a George Bridge brace.

The Barbarians dominated the first-half much to everyone's surprise, but the All Blacks had a ruthless ten-minute second-half patch to storm back.

The Barbarians came flying out of the blocks and stunned the world champions with the game's first try after an eight minute spell in which they were camped in All Blacks' territory.  It was Mo'unga who exploited the overlap on the right wing to dot down after Andy Ellis's good blindside pass from the ruck.

The Baa-baas continued to tear up the script when Steven Luatua made a thrilling intercept and just when it looked as if he was running out of steam, the dynamic flanker did well to offload to Bridge who dotted down for a 10-0 lead.

The All Blacks responded when TJ Perenara's sniping blindside break off the back of an attacking scrum saw the nippy scrum-half feed Waisake Naholo on the overlap, who did exceptionally well to stay in touch and get the pass away back to Perenara who finished off a wonderful team move.

However, the Barbarians were not to be outshone and scored their third try when Sam Carter burst over after a series of powerful carries from the Baa-baas' forwards to give the rogue outfit a shock 17-5 lead.

But Naholo once again came to the fore, turning creator for the second time when once again he produced a wonderful offload with his body falling to the floor for Fifita to dot down after the All Blacks had taken the ball through numerous phases spanning the length of the field.  That would prove to be the last action of an exciting first half which saw the Baa-baas take a shock 17-10 lead in to the interval.

The All Blacks levelled matters at 17-17 after 53 minutes when Laumape took a wonderful crash ball from Tawera Kerr-Barlow to smash through Mo'unga and go over.

Soon after, the world champions took the lead for the first time in the game.  It was Naholo who made the initial break and put the Baa-baas' defence on the back foot.  The ball was recycled and the All Blacks forwards took the ball through close quarters well before Cane burst over from close-range.

The All Blacks pulled away further as they got the luck of the bounce when Kerr-Barlow's box-kick landed perfectly for Harris who gleefully gobbled up the opportunity.  Barrett added the extras to give the All Blacks a 31-17 lead with 60 minutes gone.

There was still time for the Barbarians to score a consolation try when Bridge pounced on a Julian Savea grubber kick to grab his brace, much to the delight of their players and coaching staff as they signed off with a try.

The scorers:

For Barbarians:
Tries:  Mo'unga, Bridge 2, Carter
Con:  Mo'unga

For New Zealand:
Tries:  Perenara, Fifita, Laumape, Cane, Harris
Cons:  B Barrett 3

The teams:

Barbarians:  15 George Bridge, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Richard Buckman, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Vince Aso, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis (c), 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements:  16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Ruan Ackermann, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Dillon Hunt

New Zealand:  15 David Havili, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Seta Tamanivalu, 10 Beauden Barrett (c), 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements:  16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Matt Duffie

Referee:  Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees:  Nic Berry (Australia), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO:  Rowan Kitt (England)

Nine-try Wallabies put Japan to the sword

Australia continued with their superb recent form when they secured an impressive 63-30 victory over Japan in Yokohama on Saturday.

As the scoreline suggests, this was a one-sided affair with the Wallabies dominating for large periods and they eventually outscored the Brave Blossoms nine tries to three with Tevita Kuridrani leading the way with a deserved hat-trick.

The Wallabies controlled proceedings from the outset and held a 35-3 lead at half-time courtesy of a brace of tries from Kuridrani and further five-pointers from Samu Kerevi, Henry Speight and Tatafu Polota-Nau.

They continued to dominate in the second half and were rewarded with further tries from Kuridrani, Kerevi, Nick Phipps and Rob Simmons.

Head coach Michael Cheika deserves credit for his decision to play Reece Hodge at fly-half as the 23-year-old impressed as his team's chief playmaker and finished with an 18-point haul after converting all his side's tries.

Japan improved as the game progressed and although they scored three tries in the second half, most of their points came during the game's latter stages when the Wallabies had the game in the bag.

Australia were fastest out of the blocks and Kerevi cantered over for the opening try after Adam Coleman and Polota-Nau laid the groundwork with strong carries in the build-up.

Five minutes later, Speight crossed for his side's second try before Rikiya Matsuda opened the home side's account via an 18th minute penalty after Polota-Nau strayed offside on defence.

The burly hooker made up for that indiscretion in the 24th minute, however, when he dotted down off the back of a driving maul and the visitors undrlined their dominance when Kuridrani scored two of his tries towards the end of the half.

Japan made a fine start to the second half when Wimpie van der Walt barged over from close quarters after Amanaki Mafi set him up with a strong run.  Matsuda converted and kicked a penalty which meant the Wallabies led 35-13 by the 50th minute.

Kerevi soon crossed for his second try though after impressive work from Hodge, Speight and Kurtley Beale before Matsuda slotted his third penalty in the 55th minute.

Australia continued to attack and Kuridrani crossed for his third try on the hour-mark after gathering an offload from Kerevi.  Phipps and Simmons' tries followed in quick succession and with the result secured, the visitors took their foot off the pedal as the clock wound down.

To their credit, the Brave Blossoms did not surrender and they were rewarded wwhen Mafi and Kazuki Himeno scored tries which added respectabilty to the scoreline.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Tries:  Van der Walt, Mafi, Himeno
Cons:  Matsuda, Tamura 2
Pens:  Matsuda 3

For Australia:
Tries:  Kerevi 2, Speight, Polota-Nau, Kuridrani 3, Phipps, Simmons
Cons:  Hodge 9

Japan:  15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lava Lemeki, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Harumichi Tatekawa, 11 Ryuji Noguchi, 10 Rikiya Matsuda, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie, 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements:  16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Wimpie van der Walt, 20 Fetuani Lautaimi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Sione Teaupa

Australia:  15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Reece Hodge, 9 Nic Phipps, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements:  16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Curtis Rona

Referee:  Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees:  Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Tim Baker (Hong Kong)
TMO:  Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Maori All Blacks put 50 past Canada

The Maori All Blacks made a superb start to their end-of-year campaign when they claimed a 51-9 victory over Canada in Vancouver on Friday.

The visitors were full value for their win and outscored their hosts seven tries to none with Ihaia West contributing 14 points courtesy of four conversions and two penalties.

West put the Maori All Blacks in front when he landed a penalty in the third minute but Canada drew level when Brock Staller added a three-pointer off the kicking tee two minutes later.

Canada took a 6-3 lead in the 15th minute courtesy of another Staller penalty, after Dan Pryor was blown up for a dangerous tackle which also resulted in him spending the next 10 minutes in the sin bin.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Maori All Blacks took the lead shortly afterwards — Ambrose Curtis crossing for the opening try after Charlie Ngatai, Brad Weber and Rob Thompson did well in the build-up.

West added the extras but midway through the half Staller slotted another penalty which meant the Maori All Blacks held a slender 10-9 lead after 20 minutes.

The rest of the half saw Akira Ioane and Tom Franklin scoring converted tries and West also kicked a penalty in the 34th minute which meant the visitors led 27-9 at half-time.

The Maori All Blacks continued to dominate in the second half although they were dealt a blow shortly after the restart when Tim Bateman also received a yellow card for a high tackle.

Despite that setback, Ngatai crossed for their fourth try in the 52nd minute before Canada lock Josh Larsen was also sin-binned for a dangerous challenge on Weber on the hour-mark.

The rest of the match was a one-sided affair and the Maori All Blacks sealed their win in the game's latter stages thanks to well-taken tries from Shaun Stevenson, Jackson Garden-Bachop and Sean Wainui.

The scorers:

For Canada:
Pens:  Staller 3
Yellow Card:  Larsen

For Maori All Blacks:
Tries:  Curtis, Ioane, Franklin, Ngatai, Stevenson, Garden-Bachop, Wainui
Cons:  West 4, Garden-Bachop
Pens:  West 2
Yellow Cards:  Pryor, Bateman

Canada:  15 Andrew Coe, 14 Brock Staller, 13 Ben LeSage, 12 Guiseppe du Toit, 11 Dan Moor, 10 Patrick Parfrey, 9 Phil Mack (c), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Dustin Dobravsky, 5 Josh Larsen, 4 Kyle Baillie, 3 Matt Tierney, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Hubert Buydens
Replacements:  16 Eric Howard, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Ryan Kotlewski, 19 Lucas Rumball, 20 Evan Olmstead, 21 Andrew Ferguson, 22 Robbie Povey, 23 Kainoa Lloyd

Maori All Blacks:  15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Ambrose Curtis, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Tom Franklin, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Chris Eves
Replacements:  16 Liam Polwart, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Jordan Manihere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Referee:  Kurt Weaver (USA)

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Georgia upset Samoa in Tbilisi

Georgia caused a big upset at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium as they battled past Samoa 16-15 on Saturday, a team sat 11 places above them in the rankings.

The result was some turnaround from last week's 25-23 loss at home to the USA, as the Georgians left nothing in the tank against the islanders.

While they were outscored two to one on the try chart after Alapati Leiua and Jack Lam's first-half efforts, Merab Sharikadze's crossing four minutes after the turnaround put them into a 13-12 lead.

And despite Samoa landing a 70th minute penalty from Tusi Pisi to add to his one from the touchline on the half-hour mark, Georgia full-back Merab Kvirikashbili would be the hero as time ticked on.

Kvirikashbili fired over the final three of his eleven points on the day in added time before the hosts fought off a late barrage until the final whistle.

The scorers:

For Georgia:
Try:  Sharikadze
Con:  Kvirikashbili
Pen:  Kvirikashbili 3

For Samoa:
Tries:  Leiua, Lam
Con:  Pisi
Pen:  Pisi

Georgia:  15 Merab Kvirikashbili, 14 Tamaz Mtchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Giorgi Shkinin, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Giorgi Begadze, 8 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 6 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 5 Levan Datunashvili, 4 Konstantine Mikautadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili.
Replacements:  16 Simon Maisuradze, 17 Zurab Zhvania, 18 Davit Kubriashvili, 19 Girogi Nemsadze, 20 Shalva Sutiashvili, 21 Vazha Khutsishvili, 22 Tedore Zibzibadze, 23 Beka Tsiklauri.

Samoa:  15 Faatoina Autagavaia, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Isaia Tuifua, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Brando Vaaulu, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotualii (c), 8 Faifili Levave, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Ofisa Treviranus, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Piula Faasalele, 3 James Johnston, 2 Tii Paulo, 1 Sakaria Taulafo.
Replacements:  16 Wayne Ole Avei, 17 Viliamu Afatia, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Taisina Tuifua, 21 Jeremy Sua, 22 Sinoti Sinoti, 23 Ken Pisi.

Referee:  Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees:  Andrew McMenemy (Scotland), Vlad Jordachescu (Romania)

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Moore try helps Wallabies to victory

A 72nd minute try from replacement hooker Stephen Moore helped Australia to a 31-28 win over the Barbarians at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

With Taqele Naiyaravoro and Quade Cooper in the sin-bin, the Barbarians couldn't hold Australia out as they recovered to seal the victory.

There is concern for head coach Michael Cheika though as Lukhan Tui (hamstring) and Jack Dempsey (knee) both left the field and are now in doubt ahead of the Wallabies' tour to Japan and Europe.  Cheika will hope they can recover in time as both have been in impressive form.

The Barbarians led 21-12 at half-time thanks to tries from Andrew Ready, Naiyaravoro and Tom Banks, with Duncan Paia'aua and Henry Speight hitting back for the Wallabies, who knew they were in a contest against the invitational side that included several international players.

Australia moved 24-21 in front when tries from flank Dempsey and fly-half Paia'aua in the 53rd and 61st minute got them on the front foot.

But Naiyaravoro nudged the Barbarians back in front before those yellow cards led to Moore driving over from a maul to secure the victory.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries:  Paia'aua 2, Speight, Dempsey, Moore
Cons:  Paia'aua 3

For Barbarians:
Tries:  Ready, Naiyaravoro 2, Banks
Cons:  Cooper 4
Yellow Cards:  Naiyaravoro, Cooper

Australia:  15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Israel Folau, 10 Duncan Paia'aua, 9 Nick Phipps (c), 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Jack Dempsey, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Lukhan Tui, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements:  16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Kane Douglas, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Curtis Rona, 23 Izaia Perese

Barbarians:  15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Tom Banks, 12 George Moala, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Quade Cooper (c), 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Isi Naisarani, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 Pekahou Cowan
Replacements:  16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Ben Alexander, 18 Salesi Manu, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Theo Strang, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Andrew Kellaway

Referee:  Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees:  Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO:  Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Saturday, 8 July 2017

All Blacks and Lions share spoils in drawn series

New Zealand and British and Irish Lions could not be separated as they played out a 15-15 draw in their series decider in Auckland on Saturday.

In a pulsating contest, in which the result was in the balance until the end, there was controversy in the game's closing stages when referee Romain Poite ruled that Lions replacement hooker Ken Owens had played the ball from an accidental offside position.

If the truth be told, this was not a vintage display from the All Blacks as their performance was littered with several unforced errors and although they outscored their tourists by two tries to none, the Lions deserve credit for stifling the world champions.

New Zealand led 12-6 at half-time thanks to tries from Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett and the Lions' only points of the half came courtesy of two Owen Farrell penalties.

With this being the biggest match of most of these players' careers, there was nerves aplenty, especially during the opening exchanges with All Blacks pivot Beauden Barrett missing a routine shot at goal in the second minute.

Two minutes later Jordie Barrett gathered a pass from his brother Beauden inside the Lions' 22 and offloaded to Julian Savea who knocked on with the try-line at his mercy.

The Lions were slowly getting to the match, however, and were soon camped close to the All Blacks' try-line after taking the ball through several phases.

Maro Itoje, Sean O'Brien and Mako Vunipola were prominent with ball in hand during that passage of play but it all came to nothing as Beauden Barrett intercepted a pass from Johnny Sexton inside his 22.

Liam Williams did well to haul in Barrett before he could showcase his electrifying speed but he did well to free his arms and offload to Laumape who set off towards the visitors' try-line but he was chased down by Jonathan Davies inside the Lions' 22.

The All Blacks eventually opened the scoring in the 15th minute and it came straight out of the Hurricanes playbook with the Barrett brothers combining to set Laumape up for the opening try.

This, after Beauden delivered a crossfield kick inside the Lions' 22 and although Jordie could not control the kick, he did well to knock it infield for the on-rushing Laumape, who dotted down in the right-hand corner.

The older Barrett did well to add the extras from close to the touchline before Farrell opened the tourists' account five minutes later from the kicking tee after the All Blacks strayed offside on defence.

The next 10 minutes was an attritional affair with the sides trying to gain the ascendancy but both teams committed a mistakes on attack.

The Lions eventually reduced the deficit to a point when Farrell landed a penalty after Anton Lienert-Brown strayed offside on defence.

The All Blacks extended their lead in style, four minutes before the interval, when Laumape offloaded brilliantly to Lienert-Brown who got a pass out to Jordie Barrett.  The 20-year-old crossed for a deserved try and although his brother failed to convert, the All Blacks had their tails up at half-time.

Two minutes after the restart, Elliot Daly left his stamp on the match when he landed a monster penalty from 51 metres out after Kieran Read had taken Williams out off the ball.

Shortly afterwards, the All Blacks were awarded a penalty and Beauden Barrett put the ball out on the tourists' five-metre line.  From there they set up a lineout drive before the ball was taken wide to Savea, who was in the clear, but the final pass from Jordie Barrett went forward.

Five minutes later, the All Blacks suffered a setback when referee Poite issued a yellow card to Jerome Kaino for a swinging arm tackle to the face of Alun Wyn Jones.

The world champions did well to keep the Lions at bay during Kaino's spell on the sidelines but just before his return, Farrell slotted his third penalty, after Brodie Retallick was penalised for a high tackle on Courtney Lawes, which meant the score was deadlocked at 12-12 by the hour-mark.

The final quarter was a strategic battle with both sides introducing players off the bench in a bid to clinch the result although Lions replacement Kyle Sinckler conceded a scrum penalty in the 68th minute and Barrett added the resulting penalty to give his side the lead again.

The Lions did not take that lying down and drew level when Farrell succeeded with a penalty from just inside his half after Wyatt Crockett infringed at a ruck.

The All Blacks thought they had a chance to secure victory when Poite initially awarded a penalty for Owens' infringement at the death.  Poite changed his decision after watching television replays, however, although there will be lots of debate on whether he made the right call in the end.

The match and series were subsequently drawn, bringing to an end a superb tour that will live long in the memory.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries:  Laumape, J Barrett
Con:  B Barrett
Pen:  B Barrett
Yellow Card:  Kaino

For British & Irish Lions:
Pens:  Farrell 4, Daly

New Zealand:  15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements:  16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa

British & Irish Lions:  15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements:  16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell

Referee:  Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees:  Jérôme Garcès (France), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO:  George Ayoub (Australia)

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Lions fight back in Wellington

The British and Irish Lions levelled the series at one apiece with a 24-21 victory over the All Blacks at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.

Tries from Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray as well as 14 points from Owen Farrell's boot proved too much for the All Blacks who scored through seven penalties from Beauden Barrett.

The last time the All Blacks went try-less in a game was in a 12-12 draw against Australia in Sydney back in August 2014.

This levels the series at 1-1 with the third Test to take place at Eden Park now set up as a mouth-watering decider.

As expected, it was an extremely physical and bruising encounter with the regular exchange of handbags and off-the-ball scuffles.

The wet slippery conditions made handling difficult and resulted in a stop-start game where both sides struggled for continuity on attack.

Lions coach Warren Gatland would not have been happy with his side's indiscipline as they conceded far too many penalties and made too many silly errors, especially since they enjoyed numerical advantage for three quarters of the game after Sonny Bill Williams' red card.

However, Gatland's men came through and won the game although they were almost left kicking themselves having dominated the possession and territory stakes.

The first scoring opportunity went astray as Barrett's penalty hit the post but he made no mistake with his second attempt on the 20-minute mark to give the All Blacks the lead after the Lions were guilty of going offside.

However, Farrell levelled matters with an excellent kick from out wide on the left touchline after the All Blacks this time were penalised for offside.

But in an incredible twist, Williams was given a red card for a no-arms shoulder charge to the face of Anthony Watson in the 25th minute.  Ngani Laumape came on for Jerome Kaino as the All Blacks' coaching staff decided to go one short in the scrum.

Barrett and Farrell exchanged two further penalties apiece as the sides went into the interval drawn at 9-9.

The Lions' poor discipline continued after the break.  The All Blacks profited off this with two more Barrett penalties before Mako Vunipola was yellow-carded for a no-arms clear-out at the ruck, not the first time Vunipola was guilty of using no arms in the tackle.  Maro Itoje was himself lucky not to escape with sanction of for also being a repeat offender.

Barrett added another penalty with a quarter of the game to go giving the All Blacks a nine point buffer at 18-9 which meant the Lions needed to score more than a converted try.

The Lions finally scored with a sweeping team move to bring the deficit to back four.  After Watson showed good pace to make a break down the right wing on the overlap, the ball was swept out to the left wing by the Lions where Faletau collected before bumping off Israel Dagg to finish in the corner.  It was a powerful finish from Faletau when he looked odds-on to be pushed out into touch.

Barrett restored the lead to seven with his seventh penalty at 21-14 with yet another penalty.  However, the Lions hit back with a converted try.  Jamie George made the line break before being brought down five metres out from the All Blacks' try-line and from the ruck Murray's excellent sniping break ensured he dotted down.

With the scores levelled at 21-21, Farrell showed composure and big-match temperament under pressure to slot the match-winning penalty and send the large Lions' travelling support into rapturous celebrations.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Pens:  Barrett 7
Red Card:  Williams

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries:  Faletau, Murray
Con:  Farrell
Pens:  Farrell 4
Yellow Card:  Vunipola

New Zealand:  15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements:  16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape

British & Irish Lions:  15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements:  16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell

Referee:  Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees:  Romain Poite (France), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO:  George Ayoub (Australia)

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Argentina dispatch Georgia

Argentina recorded a comprehensive 45-29 victory over Georgia at Estádio 23 de Agosto on Saturday to end their recent winless run.

Argentine tries from Agustín Creevy, Joaquín Tuculet and a Ramiro Moyano hat-trick proved too much for Georgia who scored through Davit Kacharava, Shalva Mamukashvili and a penalty try.

Los Pumas had lost nine out of their last 10 games prior to this one and the result will give them and their supporters a much-needed morale boost.

The home side will be happy with the attacking threat they posed as well as their clinical finishing especially from Moyano who showed he is some talent.

However, they won't be happy with conceding four tries whereas the Georgians will be buoyed by their attacking threat.

Nicolás Sánchez slotted four penalties as Argentina raced into a 12-0 lead.  Merab Khirkasvili responded with one from Georgia.

Moyano was sin-binned for recklessly challenging Kvirikashvili in the air.  However, parity was restored when Giorgi Nemsadze was also yellow-carded for repeatedly infringing at the breakdown.

Then five minutes before half-time, Creevy got his side's first try of the match as he went over at the back of a strong Argentine driving maul.

Two minutes later, full-back Tuculet finished off a superb backline move in which the Argentines did well to draw in the Georgian defence before going out wide.

But Georgia had the last say in the first half after superb play by Lasha Khmaladze who turned provider for Kacharava to dot down on the stroke of half-time as Argentina took a 26-8 lead in to the interval.

Five minutes after the break, Moyano got on the scoresheet when he intercepted a Kvirikashvili pass.  It was not a good start to the second half for the away side.

Georgia were then awarded a penalty try after a massive scrum by the visitors overpowered the Argentine forwards but the home side responded as Moyano grabbed his brace.  Sánchez converted to restore the lead to 40-18 after 53 minutes.

Moyano then grabbed a hat-trick in a scintillating 11 minutes after half-time, ducking and weaving his way through four defenders and showing searing pace to run 40 metres before crossing the whitewash.  What a way to redeem himself after the yellow card.

Georgia refused to lie down and substitute Matiashvili got himself on the scoresheet before converting his own try.

Georgia showed they are proficient at set-piece, dominating the physical confrontation at the scrum and mauls.  And their fourth try came from a strong driving maul from which Mamukashvili crashed over.  Matiashvili converted as the match ended 45-29 to Argentina.

The scorers:

For Argentina:
Tries:  Creevy, Tuculet, Moyano 3
Cons:  Sánchez 4
Pens:  Sánchez 4
Yellow Card:  Moyano

For Georgia:
Tries:  Kacharava, Penalty Try, Matiashvili, Mamukashvili
Con:  Matiashvili
Pen:  Kvirikashvili
Yellow Card:  Nemsadze

Argentina:  15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Matías Moroni, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements:  16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Pablo Matera, 20 Benjamin Macome, 21 Gonzalo Bertanou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Germán Schulz

Georgia:  15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 13 Davit Kacharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Alexander Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Viktor Kolelishvili, 6 Lasha Lomidze, 5 Konstantin Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Soso Bekoshvili, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements:  16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Tornike Mataradze, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20 Otar Giorgadze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Lasha Malaguradze, 23 Soso Matiashvili

Referee:  Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees:  John Lacey (Ireland), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO:  Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Boks whitewash the French

South Africa secured a 3-0 series whitewash of France with a 35-12 victory at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Springbok tries from Jesse Kriel, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx and Rudy Paige proved too much for France who got on the board courtesy of four penalties from Jules Plisson.

Crucial to the Boks victory was their dominance at the breakdown area and their uncompromising defence.

The French managed to upset the Bok scrum and lineout but had no try to show for their efforts as they ran out of steam in the second half exposing their lack of stamina.

With a convincing series win under the belt, the Springboks have gone some way in exorcising the demons of yesteryear, in which they lost a record eight out of 12 games.

Allister Coetzee has delivered on a SARU ultimatum which demanded he win the series 3-0 in order to keep his job.  But Coetzee will be the first to admit the French were below-par throughout the series and that the Boks' real test will come in the Rugby Championship beginning in August.

The Springboks' opening try came after Virimi Vakatawa was put in a tight spot when he had to chase back towards his own try-line to collect an errant pass from a teammate.  Jean-Luc du Preez and Franco Mostert combined well to hold up Vakatawa and then Ruan Dreyer stole the ball before passing to Kriel who finished well in the corner.  It was a classic case of the Boks forcing the error through pressure and capitalising.

Plisson kept les Bleus in touch with successive penalties but Elton Jantjies cancelled this out with two penalties of his own to stretch the lead back to 10 at 16-6.

Plisson's penalty after the hooter reduced the deficit to a converted try as the Boks took a 16-9 lead in to the interval.

Soon after the resumption of the second half, the Boks scored through a well-executed lineout move.  It was a innovative piece of play with Jan Serfontein collecting the lineout before switching the ball to Etzebeth who, with the momentum of his pack in support, crashed over to give South Africa a 21-9 early second-half lead.

Plisson responded with a penalty with les Bleus captain Guilhem Guirado for some reason opting to kick for poles when surely going for the try made more sense.

The home side extended their lead when Marx showed good game awareness to touch the ball on the post after sustained forward pressure from the Boks.  Steven Kitshoff made a big impact off the bench and was central to the build-up that led to the try.

Substitute scrum-half Paige, in his first appearance of the series, got himself on the scoresheet after Bongi Mbonambi broke off the back of a scrum before producing an excellent offload for the onrushing Paige to dot down.  Jantjies converted as the match ended at 35-12 to the Boks.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries:  Kriel, Etzebeth, Marx, Paige
Cons:  Jantjies 3
Pens:  Jantjies 3

For France:
Pens:  Plisson 4

South Africa:  15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements:  16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Lood de Jager, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds

France:  15 Brice Dulin, 14 Nans Ducuing, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements:  16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Loann Goujon, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Francois Trinh Duc, 23 Vincent Rattez

Referee:  Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees:  Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO:  Rowan Kitt (England)

Clinical All Blacks draw first blood

The All Blacks drew first blood in their Test series with the Lions when they claimed a 30-15 win over the tourists in an epic game in Auckland on Saturday.

There was plenty of hype in the build-up to this Test and that was certainly justified as both sides went at each other hammer and tongs for the full 80 minutes.

The All Blacks eventually outscored their visitors three tries to two with Rieko Ioane leading the way with a deserved brace and Beauden Barrett finished with a 15-point haul courtesy of three penalties and three conversions.

In a thrilling contest with plenty of end-to-end action, the All Blacks led 13-8 at the interval with Codie Taylor crossing the whitewash for the All Blacks and Sean O'Brien scoring a superb try for the Lions.

The Lions were competitive for large periods but like so many Tests in the past, the All Blacks showed why they are the world champions by blowing their opponents off the park with a fine second half showing.

The Lions made a superb start and an early Jonathan Davies line break had the All Blacks defence at sixes and sevens.  Davies did well to get a pass out to Conor Murray, who was stopped just short of the All Blacks' tryline and the ball was recycled quickly to Elliot Daly, who went over in the left-hand corner.  But television replays revealed that Israel Dagg had done well to hold Daly up after making a brilliant cover tackle.

The next 10 minutes was a tense affair although the All Blacks were gradually gaining the upperhand.  The world champions looked impressive with ball in hand with Jerome Kaino, Sonny Bill Williams and Brodie Retallick leading the way with solid carries.

One passage of play saw the All Blacks taking the ball through 11 phases before Barrett delivered a teasing crossfield kick but Anthony Watson saved the day for the tourists with a spectacular over-the-head catch inside his 22 before clearing his line from the resulting mark.

The home side eventually took the lead in the 14th minute courtesy of a Barrett penalty after Tadgh Furlong infringed at a ruck and their early dominance was rewarded with the opening try five minutes later thanks to quick thinking from Aaron Smith.

With the All Blacks handed a penalty deep inside the Lions' 22, Smith caught the defence napping by playing quickly.  The ball was shifted wide to Dagg, whose pass to Taylor was gathered brilliantly on his toes by the hooker before he crashed over in the right-hand corner for the opening try.

The next 10 minutes was an attritional affair but although the All Blacks held a slight edge they could not extend their lead.  On the half-hour mark, Owen Farrell opened the Lions' account after Owen Franks was blown up for a ruck infringement and with points finally on the board, the Lions seemed reinvigorated.

Barrett added a second penalty three minutes later before O'Brien got over for one of the best ever tries scored at Eden Park.  Liam Williams deserves plenty of praise for his role in the score as it was his counter attack, from deep inside his 22 which tore the All Blacks defence to shreds.

After beating five defenders, Williams' progress was eventually halted close to the halfway mark but he did well to offload to Davies, who traded passes with Daly before Davies got a pass out to the on-rushing O'Brien who crashed over for a deserved try.

The attritional nature of this contest continued in the second half although the Lions wasted a chance to draw level when Ben Te'o slipped while trying to take the ball into contact inside New Zealand's 22, when he had Watson in the clear on his outside.

That decision proved costly as the All Blacks extended their lead in the 55th minute when Ioane went over for his first try.  This, after the All Blacks pack destroyed their counterparts at a scrum and the ball was taken out wide to the 20-year-old, who dived over in the left-hand corner.

Barrett added the extras and added a penalty five minutes later which meant the hosts were in control with the score at 23-8 in their favour by the hour-mark.

With the visitors needing to score twice to take the lead, confidence grew in the All Blacks ranks and they sealed their win when Ioane pounced after Williams dropped a high ball midway between the halfway mark and the Lions' 10-metre line.

Despite being first to the loose ball, Ioane still had work to do but his pace proved too much for Daly and he sealed the win for the hosts when he went over for his second try.

That score knocked the wind out of the Lions' sails but to their credit, they did not surrender.  They spent most of the closing stages camped in the All Blacks' half and were rewarded just before full-time when Rhys Webb crossed for a consolation try from close quarters.

The scorers:

For New Zealand:
Tries:  Taylor, Ioane 2
Cons:  Barrett 3
Pens:  Barrett 3

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries:  O'Brien, Webb
Con:  Farrell
Pen:  Farrell

New Zealand:  15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements:  16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

British and Irish Lions:  15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements:  16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Leigh Halfpenny

Referee:  Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees:  Romain Poite (France), Jérôme Garcès (France)
TMO:  George Ayoub (Australia)

Five-try win for Ireland

Ireland wrapped up an impressive June tour with another victory as they saw off Japan 35-13 at Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday.

Five tries were scored by Joe Schmidt's men as Garry Ringrose, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Rhys Ruddock and Sean Reid crossed.

Kotaro Matsushima and Akihito Yamada responded for the Brave Blossoms but they were well beaten despite a strong second-half showing.

Ireland raced out of the blocks and led 28-8 at the turnaround thanks to tries from Ringrose, Van der Flier, Marmion and captain Ruddock.  Japan's lone scorer in the first 40 was centre Matsushima as they once again struggled to live with the quality Ireland are currently possessing.

It took Ringrose just three minutes to go over when he ran under the posts, with Jackson converting easily for a 7-0 advantage in Tokyo.

That lead was doubled on 11 minutes when Van der Flier, in for Leavy on the openside this week, crossed and Jackson added the two.

Japan's supporters finally had something to cheer about soon after though when fly-half Jumpei Ogura kicked a penalty, making it 14-3.

That didn't stop Ireland from adding a third try two minutes later when scrum-half Marmion made it 21-3, which was concerning for Japan.

The hosts finally stopped the try procession on 24 minutes when Matsushima dotted down but flanker Ruddock's would hit back before the interval.

Unlike the first-half there was no score in the second stanza until 23 minutes in and it went the way of the Brave Blossoms, as dangerous wing Yamada crossed to give Japan slim hope.  But at 28-13 down they still remained over two scores down with the clock also against them.

Ireland almost crossed for a fifth try soon after when Marmion dropped the ball before grounding but it didn't matter as they held on and in fact added that fifth crossing with two minutes remaining, replacement back-row Sean Reidy going over to wrap up a deserved 35-13 victory.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Tries:  Matsushima, Yamada
Pen:  Ogura

For Ireland:
Tries:  Ringrose, Van der Flier, Marmion, Ruddock, Reidy
Cons:  Jackson 5

Japan:  15 Ryuji Noguchi, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Kotaro Matsushima, 12 Yu Tamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Shintaro Ishihara
Replacements:  16 Shota Horie, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Takayuki Watanabe, 19 Kotaro Yatabe, 20 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Rikiya Matsuda, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Ireland:  15 Andrew Conway, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 John Ryan, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements:  16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 James Ryan, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran

Referee:  JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees:  Mathieu Raynal (France), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO:  Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Wallabies see off spirited Italy

Australia returned to the victory trail but were made to work hard before securing a 40-27 triumph over Italy in Brisbane on Saturday.

After suffering a shock defeat to Scotland in Sydney last week, the Wallabies were determined to secure this result but they only achieved that goal late in the second half after staving off a brave fightback from the Azzurri.

The Wallabies eventually ourscored the visitors six tries to three with late five-pointers from Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge clinching the win.

A brace of tries from Israel Folau and another five-pointer from Sefa Naivalu helped the Wallabies to a 21-13 lead at half-time with Michele Campagnaro crossing the whitewash for the Azzurri during that period.

Italy had the better of the early exchanges and took the lead in the second minute courtesy of a Tomasso Allan penalty.

Five minutes later, the Azzurri thought they had extended their lead when Dean Budd went over the whitewash from close quarters but his effort was ruled out when the television match official ruled that Giovambattista Venditti had put a foot into touch before throwing the final pass to Budd.

That decison proved costly to the visitors as the Wallabies soon took control of proceedings and in the 14th minute Naivalu turned on the afterburners on a 40 metre run before diving over in the left-hand corner for the opening try.

Foley added the extras and two minutes later, Folau got his name onto the scoresheet when he dotted down in the same corner after gathering a pass from Dane Haylett-Petty.

Allan reduced the deficit via penalty in the 28th minute before a a well-timed long pass from Karmichael Hunt found Folau in space and he had an easy run-in for his second try.

That score was a significant one as it meant Folau became the first Wallaby to score multiple tries in three successive Tests after he also scored two tries apiece against Fiji and Scotland.

Five minutes later, Italy reduced the deficit when Campagnaro gathered a pass from Venditti before outpacing the cover defence to cross for his side's first try.

The second half started brightly for the hosts when Hunt got a pass out to Naivalu who crossed for his second try in the 47th minute but the Wallabies did not take advantage of their early domination which allowed Italy to come back into the game.

The visitors reduced the deficit in the 64th minute when a cross kick from Allan was knocked on by Haylett-Petty close to his tryline and Padovani gathered the loose ball before crossing for an easy five-pointer.

Five minutes later, Tommaso Benvenuti intercepted a wayward Wallabies pass before racing away to score his side's third try and Allan added the conversion which meant the match was evenly poised with Australia holding a slender 28-27 lead.

There was plenty of drama in the final 10 minutes as first Toby Smith was yellow carded for illegal scrummaging in the 71st minute and shortly afterwards, Braam Steyn followed him to the sin bin for illegally collapsing a maul close to his tryline.

Australia finished stronger and extended their lead when Foley crossed for what proved to be the match-winning try in the 78th minute and Hodge's late try was the final nail in the Azzurri's coffin.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries:  Naivalu 2, Folau 2, Foley, Hodge
Cons:  Foley 5
Yellow Card:  Smith

For Italy:
Tries:  Campagnaro, Padovani, Benvenuti
Cons:  Allan 3
Pens:  Allan 2
Yellow Card:  Steyn

Australia:  15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements:  16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge

Italy:  15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giovambattista Venditti, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Andries van Schalkwyk, 7 Maxime Mbanda, 6 Francesco Minto (c), 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements:  16 Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Abraham Steyn, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Carlo Cane, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti

Referee:  Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant Referees:  Wayne Barnes (England), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO:  Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Volavola the hero as Fiji stun Scotland

Fiji continued with their fine recent form when they claimed a hard-fought 27-22 victory over Scotland in Suva on Saturday.

Ben Volavola was his side's hero as he finished with a 17-point haul, thanks to five penalties and a conversion, although Scotland outscored the Pacific islanders by three tries to two.

The result is a momentous one for Fiji as it is only the second time in their history that they have beaten Scotland with their last triumph registered in 1998.

In a confrontational encounter, in which Fiji had two players sent to the sin bin and Scotland one, the home side led 11-7 at half-time thanks to a Peceli Yato try and two Volavola penalties with Scotland's points registered via a converted Ross Ford try.

The opening half was an error-strewn affair and the hosts suffered a blow in the 19th minute when Tevita Cavubati was yellow carded after repeated defensive infringements by the home side, but shortly afterwards Scotland were also reduced to 14 men when Josh Strauss was sent to the sin bin for an illegal tackle.

Fiji eventually opened the scoring in the 26th minute courtesy of a Volavola penalty before Kalivati Tawake was also yellow carded for illegally halting a Scotland maul close to his try-line.

Scotland soon benifited from their numerical advantage when Ford went over for a try from a rolling maul — a fitting reward for the veteran hooker who eclipsed the record for Scotland appearances in this match.

Ruaridh Jackson added the extras before Volavola reduced the deficit with a penalty in the 37th minute and shortly afterwards Yato crossed for their opening try after Patrick Osborne did well in the build-up.

Volavola extended his side's lead when he landed his third penalty in the 48th minute but Scotland drew level five minutes later when Jackson went over for a try which he also converted.

Volavola and Jackson traded penalties which meant the sides were deadlocked at 17-17 by the hour-mark but a Henry Seniloli try two minutes later pushed the hosts ahead again.

Five minutes later, Volavola added his fifth penalty which meant Fiji now held a 10-point lead and although Scotland reduced the deficit when Frsaser Brown scored their third try in the 73rd minute, the home side kept them at bay in the dying moments thanks to a resilient defensive effort.

The scorers:

For Fiji:
Tries:  Yato, Seniloli
Cons:  Volavola
Pens:  Volavola 5
Yellow Cards:  Cavubati, Tawake

For Scotland:
Tries:  Ford, Jackson, Brown
Cons:  Jackson 2
Pen:  Jackson
Yellow Card:  Strauss

Fiji:  15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Albert Vulivuli, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Serupepeli Vularika, 8 Akapusi Qera (c), 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Kalivati Tawake, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Peni Ravai
Replacements:  16 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Mosese Ducivaki, 19 Sikeli Nabou, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Henry Seniloli, 22 John Stewart, 23 Benito Masilevu

Scotland:  15 Ruaridh Jackson, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alex Allan
Replacements:  16 Fraser Brown, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Ryan Wilson, 22 Ali Price, 23 Greig Tonks

Referee:  Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees:  Will Houston (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)

Friday, 23 June 2017

Wales edge Samoa in Apia

Wales made it two wins out of two in their June internationals as they came from behind to defeat Samoa 19-17 at Apia Park on Friday.

Two tries from Steff Evans proved the difference while Sam Davies slotted three penalties as the Samoans came up just short at home.

Alapati Leiua and Maatulimanu Leiataua did cross for the islanders but they couldn't bounce back from last week's loss to New Zealand.

Conditions were difficult in Apia following a heavy downpour but it didn't stop Samoa from opening the scoring inside four minutes when wing Leiua slid over on the right after a long cut-out pass.  Tusi Pisi was on-target from the touchline as Samoa went 7-0 in front.

Wales couldn't get their hands on the ball early on and when Pisi landed a penalty on 11 minutes, they were 10-0 down and deservedly so.

Soon after, however, they got on the board through the reliable Davies with his first of three first-half penalties, this one from range.

The Ospreys fly-half further reduced the margin on 20 minutes following an offside from the hosts, who now led 10-6 as the game underwent a shift in momentum.

Try-scoring opportunities were few and far between at this point, with only another Davies shot troubling the board going into the break.

That all changed after the turnaround though as, like Samoa in the first, Wales struck early.  The try came thanks to back-row Aaron Shingler charging down Pisi's attempted clearing kick and from the recycled ball, quick hands from prop Dillon Lewis allowed Evans to dive over.

Despite Davies being unable to add the two due to the width of a post, Wales did have the lead for the first time at 14-10 to the good.

Their advantage didn't last long in Apia as a smart run from scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i through a ruck led to hooker Leiataua going over wide on the left.  With fly-half Pisi's touchline conversion, despite his slip while striking, the islanders were back in front at 17-14.

Samoa missed the chance to make it a six-point advantage on 65 minutes as Pisi was wayward with a difficult penalty after a maul collapse.

And it came back to haunt them with six minutes remaining as sustained pressure on the Samoan line again led to quick hands out to wing Evans, whose rich vein of form continued with his second try of the contest.  Despite Davies' missed conversion Wales held on to win 19-17.

The scorers:

For Samoa:
Tries:  A Leiua, Leiataua
Cons:  Pisi 2
Pen:  Pisi

For Wales:
Tries:  Evans 2
Pens:  S Davies 3

Samoa:  15 D'Angelo Leuila, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Fata Alafoti Faosiliva, 7 Galu Taufale, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Faatiga Lemalu, 4 Chris Vui, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Maatulimanu Leiataua, 1 Viliamu Afatia
Replacements:  16 Seilala Lam, 17 Nephi Leatigaga, 18 Bronson Fotualii-Tauakipulu, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Vavae Tuilagi, 21 Dwayne Polataivao, 22 Henry Taefu, 23 Tila Mealoi

Wales:  15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Cory Allen, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jamie Roberts (c), 11 Steffan Evans, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dillon Lewis, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements:  16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Scott Williams

Referee:  Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees:  Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Georgia edge USA in Atlanta

Georgia claimed a 21-17 win over USA in Atlanta on Saturday as the Eagles go into their 2019 World Cup qualifiers on a negative note.

USA take on Canada on June 24 in Hamilton, Ontario, and on July 1 in San Diego, California, as they look to book a spot in the tournament.

Merab Kvirikashvili opened the scoring for Georgia with a try before the kickers traded blows, making it 11-3 to the Lelos on 25 minutes.

Georgia went in 18-3 ahead thanks to a penalty try but when Nate Augspurger crossed for the US, suddenly it was 21-10 to the visitors.

Matt Jensen made it a four-point game late on but Georgia managed to hold on as they followed up last week's win over Canada in style.

The scorers:

For USA:
Tries:  Augspurger, Jensen
Cons:  MacGinty 2
Pen:  MacGinty

For Georgia:
Tries:  Kvirikashvili, Penalty Try
Pens:  Kvirikashvili 3

USA:  15 Mike Te'o, 14 Matai Leuta, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 AJ MacGinty, 11 Nate Augspurger, 10 Will Magie, 9 Shaun Davies, 8 Cam Dolan, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Todd Clever (c), 5 Ben Landry, 4 Nate Brakeley, 3 Chris Baumann, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Tony Purpura
Replacements:  16 Peter Malcolm, 17 Ben Tarr, 18 Dino Waldren, 19 Matthew Jensen, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Ben Cima, 22 Marcel Brache, 23 Ryan Matyas

Georgia:  15 Merab Kvirikashvili, 14 Giorgi Koshadze, 13 Davit Katcharava, 12 Merab Sharkadze (c), 11 Sandro Todua, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Lasha Lomidze, 5 Kote Mikautadze, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements:  16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Tornike Mataradze, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20 Otar Giorgadze, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Lasha Malaghuradze, 23 Giorgi Tsutskiridze

Referee:  Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant Referees:  Luke Pearce (England), Chris Assmus (Canada)
TMO:  Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Romania claim win over Canada

Canada were beaten 25-9 by Romania in Edmonton on Saturday in their final Test match before their 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying series.

Canada kicked three penalties from Gordon McRorie but also had two tries disallowed in a fierce game that saw a red card and two yellows.

The hosts went 3-0 up through McRorie in the 12th minute but Romania hit back with their first try, coming from back-row Viorel Lucaci.

However, the 23rd minute saw a red card for Romania's Otar Turashvili after punching Canada's Tyler Ardron.  On the same play, Ardron saw yellow.  From the ensuing penalty, McRorie cut the Romania lead to 7-6, a lead the visiting team would take into the half-time turnaround.

It was an exceptional start to the second half for Romania as they scored less than a minute in through Fonovai Tangimana before McRorie hit back with another penalty to make it 14-9.

Florin Vlaicu's penalty made it 17-9 before controversy struck again.  Van der Merwe seemed to win a high ball from a cross-field kick and a few phases later Ardron had scored for Canada.  But after another TMO review, the try was ruled off and Van der Merwe was sent to the sin bin for contesting a high ball and making contact above the shoulders.

Tangimana would grab his second try of the day in the 62nd minute before a late Vlaicu penalty sealed the result.

The scorers:

For Canada:
Pens:  McRorie 3
Yellow Cards:  Ardron, Van der Merwe

For Romania:
Tries:  Lucaci, Tangimana 2
Cons:  Vlaicu 2
Pens:  Vlaicu 2
Red Card:  Turashvili

Canada:  15 Ciaran Hearn, 14 DTH van der Merwe (cc), 13 Conor Trainor, 12 Nick Blevins, 11 Sean Duke, 10 Connor Braid, 9 Gordon McRorie, 8 Aaron Carpenter, 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Brett Beukeboom (cc), 3 Matt Tierney, 2 Ray Barkwill, 1 Anthony Luca
Replacements:  16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Ryan Ackerman, 19 Conor Keys, 20 Kyle Baillie, 21 Phil Mack, 22 Shane O'Leary, 23 Andrew Coe

Romania:  15 Luke Samoa, 14 Fonovai Tangimana, 13 Paula Kinikinilau, 12 Sione Fakaosilea, 11 Ionut Dumitru, 10 Florin Vlaicu, 9 Florin Surugiu, 8 Mihai Macovei (c), 7 Viorel Lucaci, 6 Vlad Nistor, 5 Valentin Poparlan, 4 Johannes Van Heerden, 3 Andrei Ursache, 2 Otar Turashvili, 1 Ionel Badiu
Replacements:  16 Constantin Pristavita, 17 Andrei Radoi, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 Marius Antonescu, 20 Andrei Gorcioaia, 21 Tudorel Bratu, 22 Vladut Popa, 23 Marius Simionescu

Referee:  Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant Referees:  Andrew Brace (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Series joy for England

England sealed a 2-0 series win over Argentina in Santa Fe on Saturday as they beat the Pumas 35-25 in an impressive victory.

Tries from Charlie Ewels, Piers Francis, Danny Care and Will Collier helped them to the success, with George Ford contributing 15 points.

In reply, Joaquín Tuculet, Pablo Matera and Emiliano Boffelli crossed for Argentina, but they fell short as Ford's late drop-goal was key.

Following on from last week's thrilling match, the opening 40 minutes also brought plenty of excitement as England went in 18-13 ahead.

It took the visitors just six minutes to cross the whitewash as quick lineout ball saw Nathan Hughes bust through the heart of Argentina's defence before Joe Launchbury's subsequent run led to him offloading to second-row partner Ewels for a try.  Ford converted for a 7-0 lead.

The buffer didn't last long though as two minutes later Argentina hit back, with width on the ball seeing Tuculet go over for the crossing.

Ford was on target again off the tee soon after to make it 10-7 but again the Pumas responded, this time a scrum penalty saw them level.

Argentina had their tails up at this point and duly edged ahead for the first time on 19 minutes as an offside from England made it 13-10.  Sánchez though couldn't extend the lead five minutes later from wide out before Ford made no such mistake, with the score now 13 apiece.

On 31 minutes England would cross for their second try and it was a thing of beauty.  From a poor cross-kick from Sánchez, Mike Brown would leap highest near halfway and set off, with his fine offload 15 metres from the line finding debutant Francis for the unconverted score.

Coming out for the second-half at 18-13, both teams knew the first score would be crucial.  That made Sánchez's missed penalty following a lovely counter attack down the right that saw Brown make a high tackle all the more disappointing for the Pumas.  England dodged a bullet.

England would have no such luck on 53 minutes as Francis turned from hero to villain when his grubber near halfway was blocked by Matera, before the flank showed good footballing skills to kick ahead and collect for a try on the left.  Sánchez again though missed off the tee.

At 18-18 the game wasn't locked up for long as turnover ball saw the slick Brown put pace on an attack before finding Care on his inside.  Ford was having no such trouble with his kicking and with his extras England now led 25-18 as the game approached its final 20 minutes.

It was far from over and looked like being a repeat of last week in terms of drama, with Boffelli's crossing down the left wing handing Sánchez the opportunity to level matters once again.  This time he made no mistake and at 25 apiece the excitement was growing in Santa Fe.

England extinguished that somewhat in the 65th minute when a line-out drive saw replacement Collier burrow over, which made it 32-25.

Argentina still had plenty of time to claw themselves back within sight of a series-levelling victory but it was to be England who had the final say, with Ford's smart drop-goal on 76 minutes putting the seal on an impressive personal performance and a 2-0 series win.

The scorers:

For Argentina:
Tries:  Tuculet, Matera, Boffelli
Cons:  Sánchez 2
Pens:  Sánchez 2

For England:
Tries:  Ewels, Francis, Care, Collier
Cons:  Ford 3
Pens:  Ford 2
Drop Goal:  Ford

Argentina:  15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements:  16 Julián Montoya, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertanou, 22 Juan Martín Hernández, 23 Matías Moroni

England:  15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Piers Francis, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements:  16 Jack Singleton, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Collier, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Denny Solomona

Referee:  John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees:  Nigel Owens (Wales), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO:  Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Springboks overwhelm France to clinch series

South Africa clinched their three-match series against France with a comprehensive 37-15 win at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

The Springboks have now taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series after last week's 37-14 victory in Pretoria with the final match to take place next weekend in Johannesburg.

The Boks continue on the road to redemption after last year's annus horribilis.  However, coach Allister Coetzee cannot rest on his laurels as a defeat next weekend could still cost him his job after the SARU ultimatum which said he had to win the series 3-0.

However, Coetzee would be satisfied with not just the winning margin but also the style of rugby his side are playing this year.  And so the Springbok supporters should be.

Tries from Jan Serfontein, Siya Kolisi, Coenie Oosthuizen and Elton Jantjies proved too much for the French who scored through Scott Spedding and Damian Penaud.  Jantjies produced another solid kicking display in which 17 points came from his boot.

South Africa attacked the gainline ferociously and were immense on defence, driving the French back as well as creating a number of turnovers.  The opening 20 minutes of the second half in which they resisted a sustained French onslaught was a throwback to the glory days of 2007 under Jake White.  The Boks made 153 tackles with three players making over 15 tackles whereas the French only made 44.

Despite the French enjoying 66 percent possession and 64 percent territory, the Boks showed it is not about how much ball or territory you have, but how you use it and how clinical you are.

Some good work by the French backline down the left wing resulted in the game's first try.  Virimi Vakatawa broke three tackles to create the momentum and from the recycled ball Penaud managed to stay in the field of play before feeding Spedding who finished well in the corner.  Francois Trinh-Duc added the extras to give les Bleus a 7-0 lead inside three minutes.

France had the better of the early possession enjoying over 70 percent of the ball in the first quarter.  Despite this the Boks made a few promising line breaks but failed to convert.  Oupa Mohoje was then knocked out after a heavy collision with Louis Picamoles and Jean-Luc Du Preez came on for his debut after only 13 minutes.  Jantjies then pulled a penalty back for the Boks to make it 7-3.

On the 20 minute mark, the South Africans responded with a try.  Good interplay saw the ball go down the left wing through the hands of Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan and Kolisi who offloaded brilliantly on the inside for Serfontein to dot down.  Jantjies added the extras.

Soon after, Kolisi got in on the act with a sublime intercept in which he plucked the ball out of the air from inches above the ground and showed good speed to race in under the posts.  It all came from a good Serfontein kick in behind the French defence which pressured the French defence into throwing an errant pass.

Jantjies added a further two penalties in the first-half to ensure the Boks went in to the interval at 23-7 in the lead.

The French dominated the possession and territory stakes and applied persistent pressure on the Springbok try-line for the opening 20 minutes of the second half.

Credit must go to the Boks for surviving this onslaught with a heroic defensive effort.  This will please the coaching staff and supporters greatly as it is something the Boks have always prided themselves on.  All the French had to write home about for their sustained pressure was a sole Francois Trinh-Duc penalty.

Having soaked up the pressure, the Boks went on to score their third try in the 69th minute.  Pieter-Steph Du Toit showed the subtle touch and vision of a backline player with an expertly timed pass to Oosthuizen who ran a marvellous line and with that sort of momentum was not going to be stopped.  Jantjies converted to give the Boks a 30-10 lead.

However, the French responded immediately from the re-start.  South Africa were unable to secure the ball from the French kick-off and launched a swift counter-attack with Vakatawa integral to the move that saw Penaud dotting down on his debut.

The fourth Bok try came courtesy of some more Kolisi magic.  Again he made an excellent intercept and ran 40 metres before producing a wonderful offload for Jantjies to cruise in under the posts.  And that's how it stayed until the final whistle with the Boks winning the match 37-15.

The scorers:

For South Africa:
Tries:  Serfontein, Kolisi, Oosthuizen, Jantjies
Cons:  Jantjies 4
Pens:  Jantjies 3

For France:
Tries:  Spedding, Penaud
Con:  Serin
Pen:  Trinh-Duc

South Africa:  15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements:  16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds

France:  15 Scott Spedding, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 François Trinh-Duc, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kévin Gourdon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Romain Taofifeuna, 4 Yoann Maestri, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements:  16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Uini Atonio, 19 Julien le Devedec, 20 Bernard le Roux, 21 Antoine Dupont, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Nans Ducuing

Referee:  Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees:  Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO:  Rowan Kitt (England)

Lions too strong for Maori All Blacks

The British and Irish Lions bounced back with a commanding 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday.

Leigh Halfpenny finished with 20 points as the Lions scored second half tries through a penalty try and second-row Maro Itoje, having completely dominated after half-time as the Maoris failed to add any points.

As with the Crusaders, for all their firepower out wide the Maori All Blacks could not get firing against a miserly Lions pack, whose kicking game dominated the contest.

The so-called 'fourth Test' certainly played out like a Test match, aided by difficult, slippery conditions in Rotorua.  The Lions simply outpowered their opposition in the second half, moving clear thanks to two quick tries.

Finishing off line breaks and soft penalties, familiar issues on this tour, appeared once again in Rotorua and especially in the first half, before the Lions ultimately settled.

They started patiently, showing good ball retention and involving their forwards before winning a penalty for not rolling away, converted by Halfpenny with four minutes on the clock.

Their initial approach was tight but effective, momentum from the maul and then Murray's box kick forcing an offside penalty for Halfpenny to make it 6-0.

Understandably the Maori All Blacks wanted to lift the tempo, opting for quick lineouts, but with the ball slipping and sliding all over the place it was the hosts who scored the first try against the run of play.

Milner-Skudder's grubber kick wasn't covered by George North and Leigh Halfpenny, the two colliding with the loose ball then hacked on into space for Messam to slide and score.  McKenzie converted to give the Maori a 7-6 lead.

Slightly deflated as a result of that the Lions needed a lift, and it came from a Jonathan Davies break, spotting the space and cutting through as the Lions came away with a third penalty from Halfpenny.  The lack of a try however was symptomatic of the Lions' issues in the red zone on this tour.

McKenzie responded instantly with his first three-pointer, with his opposite man Sexton growing in confidence and enjoying his best game so far on tour.

Tries might have looked unlikely for the Lions but the work of their tight five especially in defence and attack continued to win penalties, the Maori penalised for not rolling away as Halfpenny made it 12-10.

McKenzie attempted a long-range strike from 60 metres to swing the lead back, his kick having the distance but not the direction.

A soft breakdown penalty conceded by Tadgh Furlong threatened to put the Lions under pressure, but the defence held firm to win a penalty, ensuring the Lions led at the break despite not knowing their laws and kicking straight to touch from the penalty, consequently forced to take another lineout.

The heavens opening naturally suited the Lions' approach perfectly, Halfpenny adding three more points, as Lowe continued to struggle under the high ball.

And the tourists' control on the contest continued to grow after Tawera Kerr-Barlow's yellow card for leading with the shoulder on Halfpenny metres out from the line.

Jamie George claimed to have scored, the TMO ruling he was short of the line, and the Lions simply had to come away with points so close to the home side's line.  Winning successive scrum penalties with huge power from the tight five, Jaco Peyper awarded a penalty try.

A second try wasn't far behind, Itoje burrowing his way over after another five-metre scrum, with the Maori All Blacks having been harried back into their own dead-ball area by more accurate kicking.  Halfpenny, yet to miss, converted from out wide.

Peter O'Mahony's treatment on his knee saw him swiftly replaced by Sam Warburton with the game wearing on, the Lions pack continuing to dictate.

Halfpenny twisted the screw with a sixth penalty after the Maoris strayed offside, making the score 32-10, with the Lions unable to add to their tally but leaving Rotorua with a spring in their step.

The scorers:

For Maori All Blacks:
Try:  Messam
Con:  McKenzie
Pen:  McKenzie
Yellow Card:  Kerr-Barlow

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries:  Penalty Try, Itoje
Con:  Penalty Try, Halfpenny
Pens:  Halfpenny 6

Maori All Blacks:  15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Kane Hames
Replacements:  16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson

British and Irish Lions:  15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements:  16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Elliot Daly

Referee:  Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees:  Jérôme Garcès (France), Romain Poite (France)
TMO:  Ian Smith (Australia)

Lions too strong for Maori All Blacks

The British and Irish Lions bounced back with a commanding 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday.

Leigh Halfpenny finished with 20 points as the Lions scored second half tries through a penalty try and second-row Maro Itoje, having completely dominated after half-time as the Maoris failed to add any points.

As with the Crusaders, for all their firepower out wide the Maori All Blacks could not get firing against a miserly Lions pack, whose kicking game dominated the contest.

The so-called 'fourth Test' certainly played out like a Test match, aided by difficult, slippery conditions in Rotorua.  The Lions simply outpowered their opposition in the second half, moving clear thanks to two quick tries.

Finishing off line breaks and soft penalties, familiar issues on this tour, appeared once again in Rotorua and especially in the first half, before the Lions ultimately settled.

They started patiently, showing good ball retention and involving their forwards before winning a penalty for not rolling away, converted by Halfpenny with four minutes on the clock.

Their initial approach was tight but effective, momentum from the maul and then Murray's box kick forcing an offside penalty for Halfpenny to make it 6-0.

Understandably the Maori All Blacks wanted to lift the tempo, opting for quick lineouts, but with the ball slipping and sliding all over the place it was the hosts who scored the first try against the run of play.

Milner-Skudder's grubber kick wasn't covered by George North and Leigh Halfpenny, the two colliding with the loose ball then hacked on into space for Messam to slide and score.  McKenzie converted to give the Maori a 7-6 lead.

Slightly deflated as a result of that the Lions needed a lift, and it came from a Jonathan Davies break, spotting the space and cutting through as the Lions came away with a third penalty from Halfpenny.  The lack of a try however was symptomatic of the Lions' issues in the red zone on this tour.

McKenzie responded instantly with his first three-pointer, with his opposite man Sexton growing in confidence and enjoying his best game so far on tour.

Tries might have looked unlikely for the Lions but the work of their tight five especially in defence and attack continued to win penalties, the Maori penalised for not rolling away as Halfpenny made it 12-10.

McKenzie attempted a long-range strike from 60 metres to swing the lead back, his kick having the distance but not the direction.

A soft breakdown penalty conceded by Tadgh Furlong threatened to put the Lions under pressure, but the defence held firm to win a penalty, ensuring the Lions led at the break despite not knowing their laws and kicking straight to touch from the penalty, consequently forced to take another lineout.

The heavens opening naturally suited the Lions' approach perfectly, Halfpenny adding three more points, as Lowe continued to struggle under the high ball.

And the tourists' control on the contest continued to grow after Tawera Kerr-Barlow's yellow card for leading with the shoulder on Halfpenny metres out from the line.

Jamie George claimed to have scored, the TMO ruling he was short of the line, and the Lions simply had to come away with points so close to the home side's line.  Winning successive scrum penalties with huge power from the tight five, Jaco Peyper awarded a penalty try.

A second try wasn't far behind, Itoje burrowing his way over after another five-metre scrum, with the Maori All Blacks having been harried back into their own dead-ball area by more accurate kicking.  Halfpenny, yet to miss, converted from out wide.

Peter O'Mahony's treatment on his knee saw him swiftly replaced by Sam Warburton with the game wearing on, the Lions pack continuing to dictate.

Halfpenny twisted the screw with a sixth penalty after the Maoris strayed offside, making the score 32-10, with the Lions unable to add to their tally but leaving Rotorua with a spring in their step.

The scorers:

For Maori All Blacks:
Try:  Messam
Con:  McKenzie
Pen:  McKenzie
Yellow Card:  Kerr-Barlow

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries:  Penalty Try, Itoje
Con:  Penalty Try, Halfpenny
Pens:  Halfpenny 6

Maori All Blacks:  15 James Lowe, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Elliot Dixon, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon (c), 1 Kane Hames
Replacements:  16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Leighton Price, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Rob Thompson

British and Irish Lions:  15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements:  16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Elliot Daly

Referee:  Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees:  Jérôme Garcès (France), Romain Poite (France)
TMO:  Ian Smith (Australia)

Ireland put 50 points on Japan

Ireland made light work of Japan, putting up 50 points in their comfortable 50-22 win at Ecopa Stadium in Shizuoka.

Keith Earls, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan all finished with braces for Joe Schmidt's side, with Garry Ringrose the other try scorer for Ireland.

Japan did score three tries of their own, but all of them came late in the second half when the contest was already long over.  Ryuji Noguchi, Kenki Fukuoka and Yutaka Nagare added some respectability to the scoreline.

Ireland opened the scoring as soon as the sixth minute through a Paddy Jackson penalty after Japan strayed offside, before getting the first try thanks to Conan's offload to Earls, Jackson converting to make it 10-0.

Yu Tamura responded with a penalty for Japan but the home side were under pressure notably in the scrum, coughing up multiple penalties before losing prop Heiichiro Ito to a yellow card.

Three quick tries followed, two to Leavy and one to Conan, making the sin-bin a costly one for Japan.  Jackson converted all three scores to give Ireland a 31-3 half-time lead.

A breakaway score from Conan then added to the rout at the start of the second half, his second try, but Ireland's good run was hampered slightly by the loss of winger Andrew Conway to a yellow card for a high tackle.

Spurred on Japan scored through Noguchi, after multiple phases, but Ireland responded through Ringrose, finishing off a spectacular try made by Tiernan O'Halloran's cross-field kick after starting in their own 22.

Earls then made it 50 for Ireland after more impressive handling, before Fukuoka and Nagare crossed late on for Japan.

The scorers:

For Japan:
Tries:  Noguchi, Fukuoka, Nagare
Cons:  Matsuda 2
Pen:  Tamura
Yellow Card:  Ito

For Ireland:
Tries:  Earls 2, Leavy 2, Conan 2, Ringrose
Cons:  Jackson 5, Scannell
Pen:  Jackson
Yellow Card:  Conway

Japan:  15 Ryuji Noguchi, 14 Kotaro Matshima, 13 William Tupou, 12 Timothy Lafaele, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Kotaro Yatabe, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Keita Inagaki
Replacements:  16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Hendrik Tui, 20 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Derek Carpenter, 23 Rikiya Matsuda

Ireland:  15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements:  16 James Tracy, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Rory O'Loughlin, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran

Referee:  Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees:  JP Doyle (England), Alex Ruiz (France)
TMO:  Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Scotland stun Australia in Sydney

Scotland continued with their fine recent form when they claimed an historic 24-19 victory over Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

The last five Tests between these sides were decided by six points or less and, as the scoreline suggests, this one was no different with this result being Scotland's first-ever triumph over the Wallabies in Sydney.

Both sides scored three tries apiece and the game was in the balance until the end although a 61st minute try from Hamish Watson was the difference between the sides.

The visitors held a 17-12 lead at half-time thanks largely to tries from Duncan Taylor and Finn Russell with a brace of five-pointers from Israel Folau keeping the home side in the game.

Scotland took an early lead courtesy of a long range penalty from Greig Tonks in the fifth minute after Scott Higginbotham infringed at a ruck.

The visitors spent the next 10 minutes camped in Australia's half and were rewarded when Taylor intercepted a Tatafu Polota-Nau pass just outside the home side's 22 and had an easy run-in for the opening try.

Midway through the half, Will Genia made a telling break inside Scotland's 22 before offloading to Bernard Foley and he did well to get a long pass out to Israel Folau who glided through a gaping hole in Scotland's defence before crossing for Australia's first try.

Five minutes later, Foley was yellow carded for a shoulder charge on Russell and it did not take long for Scotland to benefit from their numerical advantage when Russell charged down an attempted clearance from Genia before regathering and diving over for his side's second try.

Just before half-time, referee Wayne Barnes sent Ryan Wilson to the sin bin for slowing the ball down cynically at a ruck close to his try-line and the Wallabies made them pay when Folau gathered a pin-point cross-field kick from Foley before diving over for his second try.

The second half was a more measured affair although the Wallabies showed more urgency on attack, they were met by a solid defensive effort from the visitors.

The Wallabies continued to probe at Scotland's try-line and were eventually rewarded in the 55th minute when Genia barged over from close quarters.  Foley added the extras which meant the Wallabies held the lead for the first time with the score at 19-17.

The visitors did not take that lying down and five minutes later, Lee Jones found himself in space down the right-hand touchline.  He threw an inside pass to Taylor who did well to draw in Folau before offloading to Watson, who crossed for the matchwinning try.

The Wallabies tried gallantly to fight back in the final quarter and spent large periods camped inside their opponents' half during that period but they were kept at bay by a superb defensive effort from the Scots.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries:  Folau 2, Genia
Cons:  Foley 2
Yellow Card:  Foley

For Scotland:
Tries:  Taylor, Russell, Watson
Cons:  Russell 3
Pen:  Tonks
Yellow Card:  Wilson

Australia:  15 Israel Folau, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements:  16 Stephen Moore, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Reece Hodge

Scotland:  15 Greig Tonks, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements:  16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Willem Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Josh Strauss, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Matt Scott

Referee:  Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees:  Matthew Carley (England), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)

Volavola drop goal sinks Italy

Ben Volavola's 82nd-minute drop goal clinched a dramatic 22-19 win for Fiji over Italy at ANZ Stadium in Suva on Saturday.

Facing each other for the first time since 2014, when Fiji also won in Suva, the contest went right down to the wire as Fiji outscored the visitors by three tries to one.

The match had looked set to end in a draw after Italy number ten Tomasso Allan added his fourth penalty with three minutes left, before Volavola stepped up to win the game.

It was Fiji who led at the interval 14-9 after tries from both of their centres, Eroni Vasiteri and Jale Vatubua crossing within the first 20 minutes of the match.  Italy's response came from three Allan penalties.

Vereniki Goneva's score in the 45th minute then gave Fiji a healthy ten-point lead at the start of the second half.

However the match turned when Fiji were reduced to 14 men following a yellow card for winger Timoci Nagusa.  Italy's pack was also well on top, winning multiple scrum penalties, and eventually the Azzurri registered a first try through Maxime Mbanda to make the score 19-16.

Allan's penalty in the 77th minute then followed to level the scores, before a Leone Nakarawa break with time running out ultimately created the platform for Volavola to make himself a hero.

The scorers:

For Fiji:
Tries:  Vasiteri, Vatubua, Goneva
Cons:  Volavola 2
Drop Goal:  Volavola

For Scotland:
Try:  Mbanda
Con:  Allan
Pens:  Allan 4

Fiji:  15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Jale Vatubua, 12 Eroni Vasiteri, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Serupepeli Vularika, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Akapusi Qera (c), 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kalivati Tawake, 2 Tuapati Talemaitoga, 1 Peni Ravai
Replacements:  16 Jale Sassen, 17 Joeli Veitayaki, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Mosese Voka, 22 Nikola Matawalu, 23 Benito Masilevu

Italy:  15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Abraham Steyn, 7 Maxime Mbanda', 6 Francesco Minto (c), 5 Dean Budd, 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements:  16 Ornel Gega, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Carlo Canna, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti

Referee:  Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant Referees:  Pascal Gauzère (France), Graham Cooper (Australia)