Warren Gatland hailed his team’s summer tour as the best of his 10-year spell with Wales after a comprehensive 30-12 win over Argentina.
Victory in Santa Fe not only sealed Wales a first series success in the land of the Pumas since 1999, but also sent Gatland’s men into third in World Rugby’s rankings, above rivals England.
Even a late red card for No 8 Ross Moriarty failed to detract from Wales’ glory as Josh Adams and Hallam Amos scored tries and fly-half Rhys Patchell ended the game with 20 points.
“It’s definitely the most pleasing tour I’ve had with Wales. A lot of people were sceptical about the trip and they’d written us off, but we’ve achieved everything we set out to do,” Gatland said.
“I thought the boys were outstanding and the performance was very good. We’re up to third in the world which is an even bigger bonus as well.
“This group of players have been outstanding both on and off the field and with the way they’ve prepared and trained, I haven’t seen a group this hungry for a while.
“It’s a great position for us to be in.”
After impressing in a 22-20 victory over South Africa in Washington and then downing the Pumas 23-10 in the first Test, Wales were even better against the South Americans second time around.
Their defensive line speed made the hosts look plain average.
Argentina’s woeful discipline allowed Patchell to kick four first-half penalties and he also converted a sublime individual try from Worcester wing Adams, his first at international level.
After the break Amos finished off a fine team move, but the only disappointment for Wales was seeing Moriarty dismissed.
The forward saw red for choking Argentina fly-half Nicolas Sanchez around the neck late on, his actions leading to a brawl between both sides.
His leaving of the field allowed Julian Montoya to cross for a converted try in the game’s final play after Bautista Delguy had given Argentina hope just before the break.
“Ross has reacted after being hit from behind. I’m not too sure it was a red card, but you accept the referee’s decision,” Gatland said.
“In fairness to Ross, he’s disappointed in himself. He’s apologised to the player. It’s disappointing, but we won’t take too much out of that.”
Ireland levelled their Test series with Australia by pulling off a 26-21 victory in Melbourne.
There were tries from Munster wing Andrew Conway and Tadhg Furlong at AAMI Park while Johnny Sexton, returning at fly-half, excelled with the boot to propel Ireland clear.
Australia, who won the first Test 18-9, had Kurtley Beale and Taniela Tupou to thank for scoring but poor discipline cost the Wallabies dearly as Sexton was able to rack up four penalties.
Here, we take a look at some of the main takeaways from Melbourne.
It was a much improved display from the Irish.
Joe Schmidt’s men looked well-structured and efficient in attack all afternoon and their defence remained resolute anytime the Wallabies came bounding into their half.
In possession, they executed opportunities better, put more pressure on the Wallabies and their overall game management was superb as they attempted to get the ball wide to take advantage of the pace of Keith Earls and Jordan Larmour.
Any time Ireland forayed into the hosts half , they looked extremely focused, enticing Australia to get in over the top, something that referee Paul Williams was strong on the whistle, resulting in three penalties, which Sexton converted.
In defence, Ireland were granite-like, conceding no points when Cian Healy was in the sinbin on 26 minutes. In contrast, when Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete was yellow carded, Ireland took advantage and scored 16 points, through a converted Conway try and three Sexton kicks.
Sexton and O’Mahony lead by example
Returning to the starting XV after starting on the bench last week, Sexton looked instrumental.
The Leinster man is an inspirational presence and everyone around him plays better and look more confident any time he is in action.
He missed just one out of his seven kicks and put the Wallabies under pressure all day with his crisp passing ability, superb game management and clever kicks to touch.
Up front, Peter O’Mahony produced one of his best performances in an Irish jersey in recent times. He forced opponents into conceding penalties and made two vital poaches in the first-half to put the Men in Green on the front foot.
The 28-year-old tackled effectively, won his own ball comfortably and showed serious willingness in the tight areas. He was replaced with 17 minutes minute to a standing ovation.
Paying the penalty
Michael Cheika’s side didn’t bring the energy required and – apart from Beale’s early try – had few chances to light up the game, with Ireland more ruthless and aggressive.
Although they were shorn of the services of Will Genia to injury and big-name players like Israel Folau, Michael Hooper and Beale failed to replicate their first Test form, the Wallabies made too many unforced errors.
Penalties that did not need to be given away was central to their undoing. They were penalised 15 times (five times in first 20 minutes) – most of which could have been avoided – and in games decided by the smallest of margins, it cost them.
In terms of missed tackles, they made 22 in comparison to Ireland’s 18, and in attack, they looked rudderless at times, with 95 runs in contrast to Ireland’s 142.
Although they crossed for a late Taniela Tupou try and dominated at scrum and line-out time, Cheika will have plenty of work to do if the Wallabies are to win the series in Sydney next week.
A Jordie Barrett brace inspired New Zealand to a 26-13 victory over 14-man France in Wellington which handed the All Blacks an unassailable 2-0 lead in their three-match series.
The tourists started brightly but lost their grip on the game when Benjamin Fall was sent off for dangerous challenge on Beauden Barrett in the 12th minute which resulted in the 27-year-old fly-half failing a head injury assessment.
Joe Moody and Ben Smith were also on the scoresheet for the hosts, while Cedate Gomes Sa scored France’s only try just before the end.
France thought they had opened the scoring after six minutes when Geoffrey Doumayrou took the ball over the line but a TMO review showed he failed to ground it.
The visitors eventually got off the mark five minutes later through a Morgan Parra penalty but lost Fall to a red card shortly after and New Zealand capitalised, with Moody, Smith and Jordie Barrett all going over before the break.
Another Parra penalty had doubled France’s score before the interval but the All Blacks went further ahead in the 58th minute when Barrett got his second try.
Gomes Sa got a consolation try in the closing stages, with Jules Plisson adding the conversion.