Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Groundhog Day

A quick wrap up of last weekends' rugby internationals. I didn't get to see all the games -- in fact, I saw about half -- and that was thanks only to some pirates broadcasting the game live and bit-torrent files.

Canada improved on their pasting from Ireland a week earlier by bouncing back against Wales on Friday night. The Canadian lads got onto the scoreboard this week and did a better job of protecting their line, falling by what you would have to rate as a somewhat respectable score of 34-13.

England looked stale falling to Australia 28-14 at Twickenham on Saturday. Robbie Deans has either worked some small wonders in the Wallaby scrummage, or else all those Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup matches the past half-year against the worlds' two best packs has paid dividends in technique and experience. Whatever the case, the smartass British print journos should be shutting their pieholes and muttering under their breath after the Wallaby scrummage shoved the supposedly formidable Pom pack around the paddock.

Scotland was up 10-0 at the halftime break against the world champion Springboks and a huge boilover loomed. But South Africa rebounded, scored a try and slotted three penalty goals, to squeak in and rescue a 14-10 victory.

More Southern Hemisphere deja-vu as the Pumas of Argentina outmuscled Italy 22-14 in Turin. The IRB made more noises about Argentina being admitted to the Sanzar Tri-Nations tournament this past week. We'll take a closer look at the proposal, the merits, and the roadblocks to that proposal in the coming weeks & months.

France was the only team to plug their finger in the hole in the dyke and uphold northern hemisphere pride, downing the Pacific Islands touring combo by a score of 42-17. The game will long be remembered more for Napoleoni Nalaga's ridiculously idiotic dangerous red-card hit to the head of Frech scrumhalf Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who was knocked unconscious and looked in worse shape than Randy Couture after Brock Lesnar's hammer-fists later that same night.

This sort of stupidity gives Pacific Island rugby a terrible reputation, and you'd think the players should already be aware of that sordid rep - it having existed in some form-or-another since before most of these players were born - and that they would do everything in their power to exercise some self-control.

The big test of the afternoon was Ireland hosting New Zealand for the first-ever time at Croke Park. New venue, but same result. I'm pretty sure that was a banshee we heard wailing during the haka. The ABs still have a bit of sharpening to do and, like the week prior, bombed more simple scoring opportunities, but in the end were a class above and the 103-year Irish hoodoo continues. Final score All Blacks 22-3 over the Potato Farmers. The reporter from the Irish Independent underlined the reality:

"The difference is enormous, not so much men against boys as the collision of an advanced rugby civilisation with one at a much inferior stage of development."

The All Blacks stay in Ireland to face old nemesis Munster in Limerick on Tuesday, playing a 30th anniversary match commemorating Munster's famous victory.


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