The Guinness PRO14 went on a break this weekend as all eyes of the rugby world turned to the autumn internationals.
Ireland, Scotland and Italy all claimed impressive victories to kick off their autumn series in style, but it was a familiar tale for Wales who slipped to a narrow loss to Australia.
BUNDEE’S BIG DAY
Ireland stretched away late to claim their best-ever win over South Africa in Dublin on Saturday evening.
Jonathan Sexton kicked 14 points and Andrew Conway went over for a breakaway try as Ireland dominated proceedings against the Springboks.
And Joe Schmidt’s side turned the knife late on as Rob Herring, Rhys Ruddock and Jacob Stockdale all went over to secure a 38-3 victory.
— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) November 12, 2017
Connacht centre Bundee Aki impressed on his debut in green and the 27-year-old loved every minute out at the Aviva Stadium.
“It was good,” he said. “It’s been a long journey for myself and my family, my friends as well. I thank the Lord for this game and I thank the brothers here for helping me out for the two weeks. It’s been a hell of a journey and a hell of a night.
“Putting on an Irish jersey, a country’s jersey, is a privilege. You don’t take anything for granted – whatever jersey I wear I always wear it with pride and I also do the best I can. I try to be the best teammate I can be, the best player and it’s a privilege for me to put on the Irish jersey, the amount of supporters that were texting me and supporting me all week – I can’t thank everyone enough.”
For the Springboks it was a tough defeat but Cheetahs centre Francois Venter did come on in the second half to win his fourth international cap.
TOWNSEND DEMANDS IMPROVEMENT
Scotland ran in six tries against Samoa but were made to sweat late on as they secured a 44-38 victory in their autumn opener at BT Murrayfield.
Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally crossed for a double and secured the man of the match award while Huw Jones, Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar and Peter Horne all dotted down.
But the Pacific Islanders came roaring back in the second half and that left Gregor Townsend with much to ponder before the visit of New Zealand next weekend.
“There’s lots of room for improvement but we knew that would be the case,” he said.
Victory for Scotland. They pip Samoa 44-38 in a highly entertaining match at BT Murrayfield with four Warriors scoring tries in the process. pic.twitter.com/TQVRXHuWCQ
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) November 11, 2017
“This is the first time this team has played together. We were playing an opposition who are going to force you into errors at times. They’re excellent players.
“We know, in all aspects of the game, that we have to be better. But, we knew that would be the case heading into next week.
“Today’s match probably just highlights a couple of aspects where we definitely need to be better in order to compete with, what are currently, the best team in the world next Saturday.”
McKINLEY MAKES HIS MARK
Ian McKinley came off the bench for his international debut and kicked a late penalty as Italy claimed their first win this year in downing Fiji.
Simone Ferrari scored his first international try as Conor O’Shea’s side claimed revenge for their defeat to Fiji this past summer with a 19-10 victory.
— Benetton Rugby (@BenettonRugby) November 12, 2017
Benetton fly-half McKinley, born in Dublin but qualified for Italy on residency rules, wears special goggles having lost the sight in his left eye six years ago.
“It’s difficult to win matches of this level and it’s hard to take advantage of the chances when you’re not used to winning,” said O’Shea.
Captain Sergio Parisse added: “We got ourselves into trouble in the first half by giving them the 10-10, my fault too for a bad tackle.
“I’m proud of the guys. It’s a good start even if it wasn’t perfect. This victory gives us serenity to work towards the next two matches.”
Italy next play Argentina on November 18 in Florence and South Africa on November 25 in Padua.
WORRIES FOR WALES
It was unlucky 13 for Wales as they again slipped to a narrow defeat to Australia at the Principality Stadium.
Kurtley Beale’s second-half try proved decisive and to make matters worse, Warren Gatland’s side look set to be without Jonathan Davies for the rest of the autumn.
The Scarlets centre – the Lions man of the series in New Zealand no less – went off injured late on in the 29-21 defeat.
“He has an ankle injury which will be assessed, but it doesn’t look good,” said coach Warren Gatland.
Fellow Scarlet Steff Evans scored his first international try on home soil in the defeat and the youngster admitted to mixed emotions.
— Scarlets Rugby (@scarlets_rugby) November 11, 2017
“We let them into the game and errors cost us the game,” said the Scarlets wing, who beat nine defenders in the game.
“I tried to take things in my stride and get my hands on the ball.
“It was nice to score a try which was a good feeling. Getting three tries in three games was a bonus.
“But I need to be accurate in my carries. It was my inaccuracy that cost the Kurtley Beale try, it was my error.
“We are not going to change the way we play and I thought we matched the type of rugby they wanted to play.
“We just need to polish off where we went wrong.”
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