Monday’s Rugby News looks at the Wallabies, the NRC, international rugby from home and abroad and the retirement of a hero.
The Wallabies have survived a scare from Samoa before running out 34-15 winners at Bankwest Stadium.
The Aussies would race out to a 19 point lead before a pair of tries to Dwayne Polataivao brought the margin back to just seven points.
However, the Wallabies would secure the result, with tries to Dane Haylett-Petty and Matt Toomua securing the victory in the final home test of 2019.
For a more in-depth breakdown of the game, check out Steve’s match report.
Coach Michael Cheika was pleased with the performance put up by the under-strength side, believing that there is a good spirit around the team as they look to regain the World Cup for the first time since 1999.
“You want to have as many players as possible competing for the spots, it’s exactly where you want to be going into the tournament,” Cheika said after the match.
“I think we have a really good atmosphere in the team, where players all compete with each other and then once one gets selected, the other one works with him to make sure the right outcome comes in the game.
“There’s a really good camaraderie within the team at the moment.
“Realistically what we’re feeling like now is we can’t wait for it to start, which is probably something we may not have said six or seven months ago.
“We really feel like we can’t wait for it, just excited about getting it on.”
The only concern from the game was lock Adam Coleman, who went off the field with a thumb injury midway through the second half.
However, Cheika cooled any fears on his fitness, joking off suggestions that it was serious enough to miss any World Cup matches.
“I think he’s good, there’s no sign of any serious damage there – I think he just got a bit of a fright there, he got hit right on it,” he said.
“It’ll teach him to pass the ball a bit quicker next time because he took his time.
Also, shout out to Waverley College for getting their name on the Manu Sutherland Shield (The prize awarded to schools for winning curtain-raiser games before test matches) after they beat St Augustine’s 27-17 in the curtain-raiser to this game.
NRC Round Two
Round two of the NRC started in Fiji, where the Force fired a warning shot to the rest of the competition with a stunning 38-15 victory against the Fijian Drua in Suva.
Jonah Placid was the chief destroyed for the Force, crossing for a well-deserved hat-trick, which was capped off by a powerful 78th minute try to secure the result.
Departing skipper Andrew Deegan was immense in this contest, leading from the front with a try of his own in the victory.
However, the most impressing part of their performance was their goal-line defence, which repelled the Fijians for the majority of the last quarter of this match, with the WA men rewarded with two late tries.
From here, we head to Adelaide? Yes, Adelaide, where NSW Country narrowly hung on for a 29-19 win against the Melbourne Rising.
Once again the Country was bolstered by a barnstorming first half, racing out to a 24-5 lead before Melbourne fought back and threatened a late boilover.
However, it was a case of too little too late as the boys from NSW continue their unbeaten streak, with the match summed up in Scott’s wonderful match report.
The comp would then head to the Gold Coast for a doubleheader, with Brisbane City accounting for Sydney 52-26.
Winger Jordan Luke finished with a hat trick as City ran in four tries in the final 20 minutes to cap off their statement victory against the under-strength Sydney.
Reg’s match report captures the madness of this contest in which twelve tries were scored over the eighty minutes.
We finish off the round with the second match of the double-header where Queensland Country pulled off an impressive 36-23 win against Canberra Vikings.
The Vikings looked to back up their win last week against the Rising after going into the break up 20-19.
However, the Country put them to the sword in the second half, recording three unanswered tries to secure the result.
Reg managed to stick around and catch this excellent encounter and summed it up perfectly in his match review.
Rugby’s hot potato of the World number one ranking has continued as Ireland has snatched the crown after a 19-10 win over Wales.
With both sides close to full strength, tries from Rob Kearney, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan have meant Ireland will arrive in Japan as the top-ranked side for the first time.
“Today was really, really important to make sure we took a step forward,” captain Rory Best said after his last game on Irish soil.
“There’s still a way to go but that was a very efficient performance against a quality side.”
The true number one (IMO) New Zealand sent shivers down the spines of their fellow contenders with a mollywhopping of Tonga 92-5.
The All Blacks notched up 14 tries to record their biggest winning margin in more than a decade.
The dominant performance was summed up in the last ten minutes where they were reduced to 14 men (by choice) and continued to dominate the Tongans.
Back at home (well my rugby home), Argentina has put on a show in front of a packed Coogee Oval, dominating Randwick 74-0.
It was an arm-wrestle to begin with, with the mighty Wicks holding the Pumas scoreless for the first 18 minutes (12 mins longer than the All Blacks managed).
However, the Pumas showed their class and proceeded to run in 12 tries in the next 60 minutes to seal a comfortable win.
“Especially that first 20 minutes, the guys didn’t expect that and they really gave it to us and pushed us to push ourselves,” he said.
“It was good and I’m happy that everybody over here in Randwick was able to be a part of it.
“I think it’s given back a little bit of what they gave me when I first came here and they welcomed me with open arms.”
To finish off, we head over to the land of the rising sun where South Africa cruised to a 41-7 win over Japan.
A hat-trick of tries from Makazole Mapimpi and a double to Cheslin Kolbe was the difference as the Springboks vanished the demons of World Cup’s past with a win over the tournament hosts.
So long, partner
Onto the saddest news from the weekend, Wallabies flanker David Pocock has announced that he will retire from international rugby at the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Pocock retired from domestic rugby in May after a niggling calf injury had sidelined him for the majority of the Super Rugby season.
The announcement of his retirement from international rugby was unexpected, with the 31-year-old slipping it into his pre-match press conference on Friday.
“I feel like it’s time to move onto other things and contribute in other areas,” Pocock told the media.
“On a personal note, you reflect on the time you’ve had in a Wallabies jersey, what you’ve tried to add, the legacy you hope you’ll leave and then just the opportunity to play in front of family and friends one last time.
“That’s all great but it comes down to the team effort really.
“That’s been the focus for the guys, we know if we don’t have a good team performance it won’t be as special.”
The Zimbabwean-born Pocock was grateful for the opportunities that the sport has given him, suggesting that he still has plenty to give as the Wallabies look to win their first World Cup since 1999.
“As an immigrant, rugby has provided me with somewhere to make friends, to feel like I belong and obviously huge opportunities to play professional rugby at the Force, Brumbies and Wallabies,” he revealed.
“I’m not done just yet, there will be plenty of time to reflect on it. Very much wanting to get back out there and get back to my best rugby and contribute over the next couple of months.”
He believes that the time is right to move on as the next generation of loose forwards begin to come through the system, singling out Queensland flanker Liam Wright as his successor.
“I think looking at the flankers coming through, I think we’re in good hands and that is exciting for Australian rugby. I feel like I’ve put a lot into it and really enjoyed and benefited a huge amount,” he said
“Liam, he’s got a big future ahead of him. incredibly diligent, always looking to learn, has real game sense, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of him,”
Pocock has played 78 Tests for the Wallabies since debuting against the All Blacks in 2008, winning the John Eales medal in 2010 and 2018.