Refereeing blunders, All Blacks mistakes and a characteristic French fade contributed to an underwhelming 52-11 win – as absurd as that sounds – for New Zealand in the opening Test of the series at Eden Park.
Here we take a look at the talking points:
France make best of All Blacks’ slow start
Les Bleus were able to at least dream for the first 21 minutes before the All Blacks, who were guilty of being too expansive too early, turned on the after burners and the Barrett brothers combined to score New Zealand’s first try.
Barrett brother No1 Scott, popped it to Barrett brother No2 Jordie before brother No3 Beauden dove in the left hand corner to score.
Before that France had done well to contain the home side, who committed more mistakes in 20 minutes than they would in a season.
All the talk before the match was about how much New Zealand would win by, not if, and the team seemed determined to turn on a spectacle from the kick off.
But as their stern coach Steve Hansen no doubt reminded them at half-time the game must first be won upfront before you turn on the razzle dazzle.
They clearly heeded that advice and scorched away in the second half with seven more tries.
A big welcome for big Karl
In the 48th minute the feel-good story of the season so far took another step with Karl Tu’inukuafe coming on to make his debut for the All Blacks. And no sooner had the former bouncer taken his place than New Zealand won an important scrum penalty with a big shove. It helped turn the match in the All Blacks’ favour.
New Zealand had started the second half as they should have the first, grinding out the hard yards before giving the ball to their sparkling backs. It may not have been what the crowd wanted to see but it was what was needed.
Soon after the scrum penalty a clever kick through by Beauden Barrett set-up a Codie Taylor try and from then on it was all going to be one-way traffic, especially with the All Blacks. Ben Smith then went over a few minutes later, this time taking a final pass from Taylor.
But it all started with Tu’inukuafe’s impact at his first international scrum.
Can’t really be getting these calls wrong anymore. Definite red. pic.twitter.com/oUnWUqiM8s— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) June 9, 2018
Thanks but no thanks Mr Pearce
You don’t like to attack a young referee controlling his first major Test but three major errors from English referee Luke Pearce greatly assisted the All Blacks – as if they needed the help! It would not have changed the result but may have made a difference to the margin.
Firstly he immediately yellow carded France lock Paul Gabrillagues for a tackle on Ryan Crotty, without using the TMO for a second look. If he had taken the chance to use the video replay he would have seen that the tackle deserved a penalty, if that. But Pearce wanted to impress with his speedy, and incorrect, decision that was then compounded soon after.
While Paul Gabrillagues was in the sin bin France winger Remi Grosso was hit by not one by two illegal tackles in the same instant. First Sam Cane hit Grosso with a high swinging arm around the head then while he was going to ground Ofa Tu’ungafasi came in from the other side with a shoulder which clearly contacted Grosso’s head. It wasn’t that different to the tackle that saw Sonny Bill Williams red carded in last year’s Lions series but no action was taken by Pearce.
Despite two clear red/yellow card offences the arrogant Englishman decided only a penalty was warranted as Grosso was already “going to ground”.
The sin-binning and non-sin-binning completely changed the course of the game and destroyed any brave French resistance. To add further salt to the wounds Pearce awarded a late try to Ardie Savea that clearly should have been ruled out as Savea went to ground in the tackle before hand. Again – no use of TMO.
Let’s hope we don’t see Mr Pearce at this level again until he learns a little humility.
Les Bleus hoping for master stroke, Pocock to spur Wallabies, Jaguares become Pumas and Siya Kolisi brings in a new chapter for the Springboks.
Here are out talking points for the first weekend of June internationals:
France hoping for ‘masterstroke’ against All Blacks
Underdogs France are looking to pull off a trademark “masterstroke” against the All Blacks when they open their three-Test series on Saturday, captain Mathieu Bastareaud said.
France memorably upset New Zealand at the 1999 and 2007 Rugby World Cups but they haven’t arrived in the best of shape, after finishing fourth in this year’s Six Nations.
Bastareaud, who has a chequered record in New Zealand after falsely claiming he was assaulted in Wellington in 2009, described the All Blacks as “a mythical team and jersey”.
But despite the overwhelming odds facing them, he said France were still eyeing their first win in nine years against the triple world champions.
France were the last team to overcome New Zealand at Auckland’s Eden Park, way back in 1994, since when the hosts are unbeaten in 40 games — including the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, when they edged Les Bleus 8-7.
“We are here because we think we can challenge them. A win would be a masterstroke,” said Bastareaud, who said he preferred to leave his personal history in New Zealand aside.
Pocock return to spur Wallabies against Irish: Cheika
Australia coach Michael Cheika says he is looking forward to the return of David Pocock to spur the Wallabies to victory over Six Nations champions Ireland in Brisbane on Saturday.
The influential Pocock — playing his first international since taking a Rugby sabbatical last year — will play in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker, with skipper Michael Hooper preferred at openside.
The second-ranked Irish are on the crest of a wave, having won their last 12 internationals and this year’s Six Nations tournament, but have not won in Australia since 1979.
Cheika, who coached Irish province Leinster to their first-ever European Cup in 2009, said Pocock’s leadership was invaluable but warned that breakdown turnovers would be at a premium against the well-organised Irish.
“We all talk about Poey’s (Pocock’s) on the ground work but that’s going to be very hard against Ireland,” he said.
Jaguares become Pumas as Argentina crave success
The Jaguares became Pumas this week and Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade hopes they can take stunning Super Rugby form into two Tests against Wales, the first on Saturday.
Jaguares, effectively the national team, compete out of Buenos Aires in the annual southern hemisphere franchise competition and their recent form has been a revelation.
After only two victories in their first seven matches, they have won six in a row, including a shock triumph in New Zealand over two-time Super Rugby champions Waikato Chiefs.
When Super Rugby took a break to accommodate Test Rugby, Hourcade called up all 23 Jaguares who helped defeat the Sharks to the national squad, known as the Pumas.
Hourcade is desperate for success after two horror international seasons following an impressive fourth place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
After 127 years, Kolisi opens new Springboks chapter
After 127 years, 478 Tests and 60 white captains, Siyamthanda ‘Siya’ Kolisi will open a new chapter in South African Rugby on Saturday when he leads the team against England.
The 26-year-old captain and flanker of the Stormers is set to be the first black Test skipper of a traditional world Rugby powerhouse.
Injuries to captain Warren Whiteley and stand-in Eben Etzebeth created a leadership void, and new coach Rassie Erasmus opted for soft-spoken, media-shy Kolisi in a three-player contest.
“I like him,” says the coach. “He is quiet, he is humble, he is nice and physical. I am really excited about what Siya can offer to us.”
Erasmus insists Kolisi was not chosen because of his colour amid constant government pressure to deliver a national Rugby team that better reflects a population that is 92 percent black.
“I have always known Siya as a great player and a great leader — the fact that he will become the first black captain of the Springboks is definitely just a bonus.”
An agreement has been struck between the national Rugby body and the government that 50 percent of the team at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan will be black.
It’s a bumper weekend of International Rugby and we picked out six players to watch as the Boks host Eddie Jones’ England, France face the might of the All Blacks at Eden Park, Ireland try to break their drought in Australia and Argentina take on a new-look Wales.
There are some world class stars trying to re-assert their authority at Test level, brand new faces making just making their mark and pace-men hoping to carry their Super Rugby for into the international arena.
Here are six players to watch:
Brandon Paenga-Amosa (Australia v Ireland)
He’s yet to play a test but the 22-year-old Reds rake has already endeared himself to Australian rugby fans with his down-to-earth attitude and abundant personality. Thrust in to the starting No2 spot due to the retirement of Stephen Moore, the non-selection of Tatafu Polota-Nau and the injury to Jordan Uelese the former garbage man, landscaper and theology student has his big chance this Saturday.
Joey Carbery (Ireland v Australia)
With Ireland coach Joe Schmidt deciding to rest first choice fly half Johnny Sexton for the first Test a lot of pressure falls on the shoulder of Auckland-born No10 22-year-old Carbery. The Irish are favourite but any mistakes from Carbery will be pounced on by a desperate Wallabies pack. Off the field Carbery’s forced switch to Munster is also causing headlines for the wrong reasons.
Duane Vermeulen (South Africa v England)
The backrow battle between the Springboks and England is set to be titanic and whoever comes out on top in the No8 match-up – Vermeulen v Billy Vunipola – will go a long way to determining who wins the series opener. South Africa have a new look to their pack and they desperately need the big Toulon eighth man to lead from the front.
Owen Farrell (England v South Africa)
England have hit a bad patch with four losses in a row (Scotland, France, Ireland and the Barbarians) and the wheels definitely seem to be coming off Eddie Jones’ all conquering side. The man entrusted with righting the ship is his captain, and best player, the Saracens No10. England certainly have the talent but it will up to Farrell to make sure they have the focus and urgency to pull off a much needed test win.
Emiliano Boffelli (Argentina v Wales)
The 23-year-old Jaguares pace-man has been in outstanding form in Super Rugby this season, sitting third on the top try-scorers list with 10 tries. His devastating finishing has played a big part in the Argentinian team making a run to the playoffs. Boffelli has been switched to fullback for the Wales test and the Pumas will need his superb finishing if they are to continue their winning streak at international level.
Beauden Barrett (New Zealand v France)
It may seem a ridiculous statement to make but the Hurricanes superstar, the World Rugby Player of the Year for the last two years, is fighting to hold on to the All Blacks No10 jersey. Such is the depth of New Zealand rugby that Barrett’s spot is under threat from the Crusaders Richie Mo’unga and the Chiefs Damian McKenzie. Barrett will want a big game to claim back his status as the first choice No10.