Monday, 26 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 3

Another weekend full of international games has gone past. Ireland had an impressive victory over Argentina 46:24. Italy, once again, proved that they should not be underestimated, especially when they play at home. Although after 40 minutes they were behind (6:22), they came back to scare Australia (19:22). In the 79th minute Italians had a chance to level the score but Luciano Orquera’s penalty kick was unsuccessful. England narrowly lost to South Africa 15:16. Rugby fans in Aberdeen witnessed a surprise. Scotland came second best to Tonga (21:15). After the defeat, Andy Robinson has resigned as Scotland's head coach. France completed a clean sweep with a 22:14 win over Samoa. Wales suffered sixth consecutive defeat after going down 10:33 to New Zealand. The World Champions secured the win in the first half, winning it 23:0. Apart from All Blacks’ amazing counterattacking, the Welsh try scored after 15-men lineout maul deserves a special mention. Something you don’t see very often, especially at the top level games.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the stake of the Autumn Internationals is high this year as the IRB ranking will be used for the RWC 2015 pool seeding. England is out of the top four, their spot has been taken by France. Situation seems to be even worse for Wales, which has to win with Australia next week to save the spot in the first eight. The biggest surprise was definitely Samoa, which secured the place in the 2nd band narrowly overtaking Argentina.

Below is the latest IRB ranking for the first 12 teams:
1. New Zealand - 92.91
2. South Africa - 86.94
3. Australia - 86.31
4. France - 85.07
5. England - 81.07
6. Ireland - 80.22
7. Wales - 78.95
8. Samoa - 78.71 (78.709)
9. Argentina - 78.71 (78.708)
10. Italy - 76.24
11. Tonga - 76.10
12. Scotland - 75.83

Monday, 19 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 2

The second weekend of November tests has just finished. Only France and Ireland A managed to save Europe from the whitewash. The French defeated Argentinians 39:22 and cemented their fourth position in the IRB ranking. Ireland A had no problems outplaying Fiji (53:0). This game, however, did not count as a test match so the result has had no influence on the ranking. Other European nations lost their games.

Italians were defeated by New Zealand 10:42. England, despite being a favourite, lost to Australia 14:20. The Scots failed to win with South Africa (10:21) and Wales, after a dramatic game, were beaten by Samoa 19:26.

In a week time, the fight for the most desirable positions in IRB ranking will continue.
The up to date ranking is:

1. New Zealand 92.91 (points)
2. South Africa 86.05
3. Australia 85.94
4. France 84.99
5. England 81.96
6. Argentina 79.89
7. Ireland 79.04
8. Wales 78.95
9. Samoa 78.79
10. Scotland 77.42
11. Italy 76.61
12. Tonga 74.51

Tier 1 and tier 2 games are accompanied by unusual and interesting matches such as clubs challenging national teams. Below are last weeks’ results including lower ranked nations.

Leicester Tigers - Maori All Blacks 32:24
Gloucester - Fiji 31:29
Newcastle Falcons - Tonga 24:13
Wales - Samoa 19:26
Georgia - Japan 22:25
RFU Championship XV - Maori All Blacks 21:52
Italy – New Zealand 10:42
England - Australia 14:20
Scotland – South Africa 10:21
Ireland A - Fiji 53:0
France - Argentina 39:22
Chile - Portugal 22:28

It’s worth mentioning that Leicester Tigers played in shirts with letters on instead of numbers which has become a tradition in this kind of games.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Autumn Internationals - round 1

November is a good month for rugby fans. For four weeks supporters will have a chance to watch word’s rugby elite challenging European Nations. The rivalry this year will be very tense as there is a lot to fight for. After Autumn Internationals, IRB ranking will be used to seed teams to the Rugby World Cup 2015 pools. A place among the first four guarantees avoiding the most powerful teams at the pool stage. Places 5-8 are pretty good, too, and should let the teams look at the pool stage quite optimistically. However, if the team fails to be ranked in the top 8, they will have to face two theoretically better opponents.

So far, Autumn Internationals have not disappointed. Games were very fierce and played at high intensity.

In round one, England scored seven tries and crushed Fiji 54:12. English team played in a very efficient and spectacular way, which will definitely help to build up the team’s confidence before the next game. Next opponent – Australia will be more difficult, but Wallabies already lost to France 33:6.

In other games, Italians beat the ambitious players from Tonga 28:23. Argentinians, hardened in the Rugby Championship used their experience from playing with the best to beat Wales in Cardiff 12:26. Spectators in Dublin watched a real thriller. Ireland hosted South Africa. Both teams played in a similar, very physical style, but it were the visitors who managed to get the win in this close match.

On Sunday, in Edinburgh brave Scots played with the best team on the word – New Zealand.  They tried their best and gave supporters plenty to cheer for but this was not enough to stop mighty All Blacks who won 22:51.

More exciting fixtures are waiting for us next week:
Wales - Samoa
Italy - New Zealand
England - Australia
Scotland - South Africa
France - Argentina

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Fantastic Friday night at Salford City Stadium!

Players, coaches, supporters and everyone connected with the club had to wait a few weeks to see the first win in Aviva Premiership. After Friday night there is no need to wait longer. Sale Sharks beat London Irish 21-9 in a very good style. In my opinion it was one of the best games this season! I am very happy that I was at the stands and could watch our team playing well and winning!

The night was cold, but Sale Sharks prepared a nice surprise for their fans. Yo
u could get a free scarf and a hat if you bought a shirt. Good deal, and very useful (in these conditions), too.
I decided to buy my tickets at the South Stand rather than my usual seats in the East Stand to check the atmosphere in a different part of the Stadium. I must say it was a very positive experience. Fans were even more vocal so I quickly joined the chanting and cheering.

The first half of the game was played in the typical Manchester’s weather. Cold and rainy conditions suited well our local team who dominated in the first 40 minutes. Nick MacLeod was first to put points on the board from the penalty kick. Soon after he scored a fantastic try and extended the lead to 8:0. After 10 minutes visitors replied with a successful penalty kick, but Sale Sharks were still in control of the game. The team kept playing very well showing a great determination and constantly putting visitors under pressure. After 30 minutes, Johnny Leota scored the second try and gave fans more reasons to cheer. Sale Sharks kept creating potential try scoring situations in the first half, but could not quite finish them. After 40 minutes the atmosphere at the stands was fantastic! Everyone got behind the team cheering and chanting. Local fans had plenty reasons to be in a good mood as our team was leading 15:3. Players were focused and committed, dominating set pieces and showing lots of enthusiasm in the attacking game and strong determination in the defense.

Weather conditions changed a bit in the second half. The rain stopped and London Irish attempted to get their second wind. They closed the gap to 6 points after two successful penalties. Danny Cipriani responded well by scoring 6 points from the tee and once again Sale Sharks were 12 points ahead. They had a good chance to extend the lead even more in the last few minutes of the match but London Irish managed to survive our attacks. Final score: 21:9 – a well-deserved win!

I was very proud of the team’s performance. Players showed some big spirit! It was a real pleasure to watch the game and celebrate the win with Sale Sharks enthusiastic fans. I can’t wait for my next visit at Salford City Stadium.