All Blacks 39 – 21 Wales
Wallabies 28 – 39 England
South Africa 20 – 26 Ireland
By hokey, isn’t it good to have international footy back on?
And, away from the singularity of a World Cup, we’re back to a more pure sort of pleasure. It’s the game in front of you that matters, just the 80 minutes rather than a whole four years.
The ABs did what we expect: rusty in their first outing of the season, but imposing order in the final quarter. Once again the most important factor was not on the field. Shag was up in the coaches’ box looking like he’d just eaten some dodgy chicken. His substitution decisions are becoming the defining moments of test matches. Hooking an out of sorts Julian Savea for Beauden Barrett in just the second minute of the second half was brutal inspiration.
Injecting extra muscle in the form of Ardie Savea and Patrick Tuipolotu got us crucial extra yards of go forward. And running the youngsters on at the end is money in the bank for future matches.
The bad news for a Welsh team that played with courage and skill and ambition and flashes of panache is that the ABs will get much better over the next two weeks. Can they find some extra, too?
The Aussie-England match in Brisbane was an excellent test match: an arm wrestle, a seesaw, a match of moments. The first ten minutes you thought the Aussies would run away, but the Poms built themselves back into it. This was my first look at Maro Itoje, the young English lock, and he’s going to be a sensation. If you like the look of SBW’s physique, you’re going to love Itoje: 6′ 5″ of nothing but rippling muscle, great in the air, athletic around the park, beautiful ball skills. I’m looking forward to a Retallick-Itoje match up.
Best sight of the night: Cheika. ‘Nuff said.
Ireland achieved a famous victory in South Africa (their first ever in the Republic), and did it the hard way: with 14 men for three-quarters of the match (and at one stage being down to 13.)
Not the greatest spectacle, perhaps, but another panel in the argument that it’s the coach that matters the most. Joe Schmidt has rebuilt his team after an injury plagued World Cup. And the Jaapies have just chosen a bloke that doesn’t look the goods.
Good news for the officials for Saturday’s second test in Wellington: Ned’s got a ticket, so there’ll be plenty of excellent advice coming from the stands.