It was an incredible weekend of international rugby with nine Test matches stretching right across the globe from Suva in Fiji to Edmonton in Canada.
Here’s our round up of all nine matches.
SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND in Johannesburg
In the craziest test match of the weekend England led 24-3 within the first twenty minutes with tries to Mike Brown, Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell, then somehow found themselves behind 29-27 at half time as the Boks hit back with a double to Sibusiso Nkosi and singles to Faf de Klerk and Willie Le Roux.
Some of these were due to some comical defending – Maro Itoje tripping to allow de Klerk in and Daly missing a regulation clearance to led Nkosi in for his first – but others, such as Le Roux, were simply poor defending brought on by poor attitude or alignment.
The second half was a much more standard affair with a try to Aphiwe Dyantyi putting the Boks out to a twelve point lead 39-27, before England clawed their way back to tries to Itoje and a long range score to Jonny May. But it was too little too late.
England seem to have some real issues with attitude and physical preparation and South Africa will only get better. As Rassie Erasmus said afterwards, it will be a huge game this week in Bloemfontein.
South Africa 42 (Sibusiso Nkosi 2, Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi tries; Handre Pollard 4 conversions, 3 penalties) defeated England 39 (Mike Brown, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Jonny May tries; Farrell 4 conversions, penalty, Daly penalty). HT: 29-27.
AUSTRALIA v IRELAND in Brisbane
Where did that come from? This was an extraordinary performance from Michael Cheika’s much maligned side led by a rejuvenated, super-human David Pocock.
Everything pointed to an Irish victory.
Australia were coming off just six days preparation, with three new caps in the 23, facing up to World No.2 Ireland, the current Six Nations Grand Slam champions, on a 12-game winning streak.
But Joe Schmidt erred in not starting all his big guns – Tadgh Furlong, Johnny Sexton, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy were all left out of the starting XV.
It opened a chink in Ireland’s armor and Pocock and the Men of Gold (closer to fluorescent yellow these days) came pouring through.
Even when Sexton was introduced in the second half, Australia’s self-belief had grown to such an extent that even the great Leinster man could make no difference.
The match was tightly poised at 11-9 before a late try to Pocock sealed it for the Wallabies – it was nothing more than they deserved, and Cheika’s team will be desperate to wrap up the series this Saturday in Melbourne.
Australia 18 (Bernard Foley, David Pocock tries; Foley conversion, 2 penalties) defeated Ireland 9 (Joe Carbery 3 penalties). HT: 8-6.
Rémy Grosso suffered a double fracture to his face.— Paul Tait (@Argentina_2027) June 9, 2018
Ofa Tu'ungafasi all but certain of being suspended for a lengthily period. Red card not given by Luke Pearce.
Sam Cane also in danger of being suspended for his involvement in the tackle.https://t.co/cRHCH6Z1cm
NEW ZEALAND v FRANCE in Auckland
The French were always on a hiding to nothing at a venue where the All Blacks have not lost for almost 40 Tests since 1994 but the home side were greatly assisted by some cavalier refereeing by the very confident English-man Luke Pearce.
With the score locked at 11-11 early in the second half, Pearce yellow carded France 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.
Then while Gabrillagues was in the sin bin France winger Remi Grosso was hit by not one but two illegal tackles by Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi that left Grosso’s head fractured in two places – but no action was taken by Pearce.
The sin-binning and non-sinbinning completely changed the course of the game and destroyed any brave French resistance.
The All Blacks turned on the razzle dazzle, as only they can, to score seven second half tries – one by Ardie Savea that also should not have been awarded as he was brought to ground before the line. Expect more of the same in Wellington this weekend.
New Zealand 52 (Rieko Ioane 2, Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape, Ardie Savea tries; Beauden Barrett 3 conversions, 2 penalties) defeated France 11 (Remy Grosso try; Morgan Parra 2 penalties). HT: 8-11.
FIJI v SAMOA in Suva
Fiji squeaked home 24-22 in their World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup opener despite having three players sin-binned at various stages.
The Flying Fijians led 17-3 at half-time, despite having centre Jale Vatubua and captain Akapusi Qera sinbinned for dangerous tackles, and stretched the lead to 24-3 while prop Eroni Mawi received a yellow card early in the second spell.
Kini Murimurivalu, Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli and Vereniki Goneva scored tries for the defending champions, with Volavola adding two conversions.
With 20 minutes remaining Samoa started to overcome their high error count and began to pressure Fiji.
Scrum-half Melani Matavao, flanker Jack Lam and replacement scrum-half Dwayne Polataivaia all scored in the closing quarter but one missed conversion denied them a draw.
Fiji 24 (Kini Murimurivalu, Ben Volavola, Henry Seniloli, Vereniki Goneva tries; Volavola 2 conversions) defeated Samoa 22 (Melani Matavao, Jack Lam, Dwayne Polataivao tries; Tusi Pisi conversion, penalty, Ah See Tuala conversion). HT: 17-3.
He's done it again! Soso Matiashvili loves scoring epic tries, and this is up there with the best of them!— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) June 9, 2018
Final score in the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup: @GeorgianRugby 16-15 Tonga pic.twitter.com/aBmiE6SxMn
GEORGIA v TONGA in Suva
Fullback Soso Matiashvili scored all of Georgia’s points as they staved off a strong finish by Tonga to win 16-15.
Matiashvili converted his own try from a 90-metre kick-and-chase, and landed three penalties as Georgia built a 16-3 lead with 10 minutes remaining.
However the Ikale Tahi (Sea Eagles), who had been pinned inside their own half for most of the match by Georgia’s accurate kicking, began to show signs of dominance when Racing 92 prop Ben Tameifuna came off the bench late in the game.
He brought stability to the pack as Tonga won two scrum penalties which led to tries by Viliami Lolohea and David Halaifonua.
But with time on the clock, a desperate attempt by Tonga to produce the match-winning points ended with a handling error.
Fiji play Georgia next week, while Tonga face Samoa.
Georgia 16 (Soso Matiashvili try, conversion, 3 penalties) defeated Tonga 15 (David Halaifonua, David Lolohea tries; Sonatane Takulua conversion, penalty). HT: 13-3.
Marcel Brache, the hot-stepper, takes it himself All.The.Way.— FloRugby (@FloRugby) June 10, 2018
HT: USA 34-13 RUS pic.twitter.com/703GMdgzro
USA v RUSSIA in Commerce City
Hooker Joe Taufete’e and winger Marcel Brache scored two tries each as the US ran in nine tries in all to beat Russia 62-13 in Colorado.
Taufete’e scored two tries in the first half and had a massive influence on the match before being replaced in the 47th minute. Brache scored on either side of halftime, including a brilliant individual try to end the first half with the United States ahead 34-13.
The former Stormers and Western Force Super Rugby player also provided a superb offload in the lead-up to a late try by Nate Augsburger.
The US play Scotland and Russia face Canada this weekend and US captain Blaine Scully said his team would have to improve to be competitive against the Scots.
USA 62 (Joe Taufete’e 2, John Quill, Paul Lasike, Marcel Brache 2, Nate Augspurger, Cameron Dolan, Blaine Scully tries; Alan MacGinty 4, Will Magie 3 conversions; Alan MacGinty penalty) defeated Russia 13 (Mikhail Babaev try; Yury Kushnarev conversion, Kushnarev 2 penalties)
JAPAN v ITALY in Oita
This was a result that surprised everyone except the Brave Blossoms.
An inspired performance from Kenki Fukuoka propelled Japan to a 34-17 win over Italy in Oita.
In front of a crowd of 25,824 the flying Japan wing scored one try, helped create another and defended heroically as Jamie Joseph’s side showed their Rugby World Cup preparations are well on track.
Flyhalf Yu Tamura weighed in with a good kicking performance while flanker Kazuki Himeno was in the thick of things up front as Japan picked up their second straight win over Italy following five losses.
Italian coach Conor O’Shea was left to rue what might have been.
“Our biggest issue is we need to finish,” the former Ireland fullback said. “We did some good things but let ourselves down.”
Japan 34 (Amanaki Mafi, Kenki Fukuoka, Lomano Lemeki, Kotaru Matsushima tries; Yu Tamura 4 conversions, 2 penalties) defeated Italy 17 (Tiziano Pasquali, Abraham Steyne tries; Tommaso Allan 2 conversions, penalty). HT: 17-14.
Congratulations to the 7 Warriors involved in Scotland’s 48-10 victory over Canada 🏴— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) June 10, 2018
George Turner scored a hat-trick, Ruaridh Jackson also scored and Adam Hastings made his Scotland debut.
Congratulations to DTH van der Merwe who captained the Canadians 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/IvDNWBVZu1
CANADA v SCOTLAND in Edmonton
Canada have a lot to improve on after a 48-10 shellacking by a developmental Scottish side.
George Turner struck for three tries as the Scots came away with a in front of a crowd of 12,824 at Commonwealth Stadium.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but there’s no better place to start than against a team of that calibre,” said Canada head coach Kinglsey Jones.
Scotland is currently ranked sixth in the world, while Canada is a distant 21st.
“The truth is we didn’t help ourselves,” said Jones. “We kicked away possession when we didn’t really need to. We needed to make those guys tackle and we didn’t do that often enough.
Canada have a chance to redeem themselves against Russia this weekend.
Scotland 48 (Byron McGuigan, Ruaridh Jackson, George Turner 3, Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael tries, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne 2, Blair Kinghorn 3 conversions, Hidalgo-Clyne) defeated Canada 10 (Penalty try; Shane O’Leary penalty)
Wales were not supposed to do this to Argentina and nobody saw it coming https://t.co/qe59XaEhlb— WalesOnline Rugby (@WalesRugby) June 10, 2018
ARGENTINA v WALES in San Juan
In perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend a young Wales side defeated Argentina to grab the sole win for top tier northern hemisphere rugby in the first weekend of action in the June test window.
Wales showed efficiency on attack and tenacity on defence to defeat Argentina 23-10 and take a 1-0 lead in the two-test rugby series.
Two try-scoring chances came Wales’ way in the first half and they nailed both, through flanker James Davies and winger George North, both assisted by halfback Gareth Davies, opening a decisive 17-3 lead by halftime.
Argentina, in contrast, lacked precision on attack and paid heavily for the defensive lapse that led to North’s try.
The Pumas had ample possession inside Wales’ half and often carried the ball through long phases inside the Welsh 22, but their attacking threat was dulled by poor handling and a lack of discipline.
They struck back with a try to flanker Tomas Lezana in the second half but it was too little too late.
The win was Wales’ first in Argentina since 2004, and was a triumph for a relatively untested combination, missing several senior players through injury.
Wales 23 (James Davies, George North tries; Rhys Patchell 2 conversions, 2 penalties, Gareth Anscombe penalty) defeated Argentina 10 (Tomas Lezana try; Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias conversion, Nicolas Sanchez penalty). HT: 17-3.
South Africa dramatically retained their overall World Sevens Series title by beating England in the final of the last of 10 tournaments on Sunday.
The Blitzboks’ 24-14 victory in Paris ensured they overhauled Fiji in the overall standings by 182 to 180 points.
It was only their second tournament victory out of 10 in the 2017/18 season compared to Fiji’s five — including the last four in a row — but South Africa’s consistency in reaching at least the semi-finals of every event proved decisive.
England’s 19-17 victory over Fiji in the quarter-finals — thanks to a stunning winning try at the end of a 26-pass move — was crucial despite the Pacific Islanders bouncing back to claim fifth place with a 28-7 win over the United States.
In the final Werner Kok opened the scoring for the Boks before the English went ahead through scores from Oliver Lindsay-Hague and Dan Norton.
A Ryan Oosthuizen try levelled matters at 14-14 before Dewald Human got South Africa’s third and a Justin Geduld penalty secured the win.
In the women’s final, Australia clinched the series title despite losing to New Zealand 33-7 in the final.
And over the last few years there have been matches that have made local rugby fans hearts’ swell with pride – the 23-18 defeat of the All Blacks in Brisbane last year and the 33-13 dismantling of England at Twickenham on the Man of Gold’s run to the Rugby World Cup Final in 2015, just to name a couple.
But there are very few that have lifted Australian sports fans’ spirits as much as the extraordinary 18-9 victory over Ireland in Brisbane last weekend in the opening match of the Mitsubishi Estate series.
To put the win in perspective this was an Australian team coming off just six days preparation, with three new caps in the 23, facing up to World No2 Ireland, the current Six Nations Grand Slam champions, who were on a 12-game winning streak.
Often Cheika’s comments on playing an Australian style have been interpreted as being in the mold of Mark Ella and David Campese ball-in-hand magic.
But even more than the razzle-dazzle what the Australian public wants to see, is 15 players in gold jerseys who will tackle like their lives depend on it.
And that’s what the Wallabies gave in bucket-fulls in Brisbane. There were huge hits right from the kick off in the team’s most committed defensive performance in recent memory.
One hit from Marika Koroibete on Conor Murray was eye-popping as was another from Michael Hooper on Joey Carbery, just to name a few.
This was a victory built on defence, set-piece and when the opportunity arose, scintillating backline play.
In nearly every facet of the game, except lineouts, Australia were the better team.
With the platform provided by Australia’s pack and Will Genia’s speedy service Bernard Foley was able to unleash his runners Dane Haylett-Petty, Koroibete, Samu Kerevi and of course the peerless Israel Folau.
The NSW No15’s stunning aerial skills may in the end have been the difference between the two sides.
Kurtley Beale was also breathtaking in an attacking (and defensive) display that was near his very best.
There was a lot of talk before the match about how young Munster-bound fly-half Carbery would handle the pressure of starting in such a big Test but to his credit he held up well, showing he belongs at this level.
But as the game wore on the Wallabies No10 Bernard Foley stamped his own authority in his kicking and distribution.
Even when Ireland’s first choice No10 Johnny Sexton came into the game Foley continued to dominate.
Then in the tight five, Australia’s very own fairy-tale, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, the garbo who rose to become a Wallaby, starting his first Test at hooker.
He can look back at his Test debut with distinction and with more experience under his belt, and some more accurate line out throws, could become a key part of Cheika’s side for years to come.
The Australian scrum, expected to be dominated by the fearsome Ireland pack, stood up much better than expected and Adam Coleman was a strong presence for Australia, as was James Ryan for Ireland.
In the loose forwards this was one of the best back row battles ever seen on Australian soil.
David Pocock stood tall all game, in his first Test in 18 months, and put in his best performances in a gold jersey since the 2015 Rugby World Cup. He was a constant menace at the ruck making the Ireland pack work harder and harder to retain possession – and he took his match sealing try superbly.
He was ably assisted by Michael Hooper and Caleb Timu with new Brumbies signing Peter Samu also making an impression with his brief cameo.
Loved being back on the field with the @qantaswallabies. Thanks for all the support!— David Pocock (@pocockdavid) June 10, 2018
Thanks to Ireland for the game and congrats to Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Caleb Timu and Pete Samu on their first game in the green and gold.
Big couple of weeks ahead. pic.twitter.com/7zvPPGxxu2
As Cheika said afterwards, “Looking at previous games, Ireland, particularly in the forward pack, have outworked other teams.”
“I felt like we needed to win the ‘hard work’ battle just to have a foothold in the game and then see what our backs could from there.”
And that is exactly how the game unfolded. But what Cheika would have hammered into the Wallabies heads as soon as they left the field was the job is only half done.
The triumph in Brisbane will mean nothing unless the Men of Gold claim the series.
“The big thing for us has been consistency,” he said. “We have had real highs over the last couple of years and we’ve got to stay consistent over the rest of the series.
“It’s about mindset every week. We’ve got to have that winner’s mindset all the time.”
As for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt he will be disappointed his side did not claim their first win in Australia for 39 years, though admitting the Wallabies were “incredibly physical.”
“We got in behind them a couple of times and probably over-kicked the ball,” he admitted after the game. “We probably didn’t hold onto the ball as well as we would have liked.
“[David] Pocock obviously put a lot of pressure on and he always makes a big difference to a team. Apart from that, I don’t think there was too much between the teams.”
“We’ll just have to dust ourselves off… and get the margins to fall our way, albeit they were pretty skinny today.”
The Wallabies will be desperate to clinch the series in Melbourne this Saturday while Ireland will be just as desperate to keep it alive another week till Sydney.
It all adds up to another high quality rugby test played at heart-stopping intensity.