November Tests: All Blacks survive Scotland scare

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A year after Ireland toppled the All Blacks for the first time in Test history, Scotland came within five metres of doing the same thing in an exciting 22-17 loss at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Beauden Barrett's last-gasp tackle on brilliant Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg in the dying seconds ensured the world champions remain unbeaten on their taxing tour of Europe, but it was another close run in an inconsistent year.

For Hogg, it was devastating that his scorching late run and desperate attempt at an offload - ultimately spilled forward - couldn't bring a historic reward.

"It was the brink of something special, wasn't it? The boys were devastated. Like always, I backed my ability and tried to get there," Hogg said.

New Zealand flyhalf Beauden Barrrett was again a standout. Photo: Getty Images"Credit to Beauden Barrett for a cracking tackle - I was pretty gutted to chuck the ball away. On another day that comes off."

The late hail-mary play summed up the spirit of the Scots, who rattled the ill-disciplined world champions from the outset.

The All Blacks relied on desperate defence and flashes of brilliance from the likes of winger Rieko Ioane to open the game up, flattered by a 3-3 half-time scoreline.

The, having pushed 12 points clear in the third quarter, yellow cards to flanker Sam Cane and prop Wyatt Crocket opened the door for a late revival from the sixth-ranked hosts and almost a maiden Test win over New Zealand.

Ioane, who shone like a beacon for the All Blacks with his attacking raids, set up hooker Codie Taylor brilliantly for the first try.

Sonny Bill Williams created a try for Damian McKenzie from a pinpoint grubber, and followed up with a trademark offload to send Barrett in for the side's third.

Twice down by 12 points, Scotland found ways to score through lock Jonny Gray and centre Huw Jones, whose 77th-minute try laid the platform for a storming finish.

The All Blacks escaped in Edinburgh. Photo: Getty ImagesHowever it was all in vain, thanks to Barrett's late tackle.

Coach Steve Hansen rejected the suggestion relief was his prevailing emotion.

"I was pretty satisfied, I thought it was a great game," Hansen said.

"There's a few things we need to get better at, no doubt about that, but we expected what we got - Scotland have been improving over the last 12-18 months (and) it was a pretty impressive performance."

The Test's most contentious moment came midway through the first spell when Hogg leapt for a high ball, making heavy contact with Waisake Naholo on the way down.

The 67,000-strong crowd demanded a serious sanction against the All Blacks winger, but match officials deemed the offence worthy of a penalty only.

Scottish coach Gregor Townsend was disappointed by the ruling but overall was thrilled with his team's skill and execution, throwing the Kiwis off their game.

"To not get that final try was disappointing but it's a huge effort from our players and we can take a lot from that game," Townsend said.

RESULT

Scotland 17

Tries: Gray H. Jones

Cons: Russell 2

Pens: Russell

New Zealand 22

Tries: Barrett 2, Taylor, McKenzie

Cons: Barrett 2

Pens: Barrett

Yellow Cards: Cane (60'), Crockett (70')

FRANCE vs SOUTH AFRICA

It was a dogged match between France and South Africa. Photo: Getty ImagesSouth Africa have scraped past a lacklustre France 18-17 to make some amends for the horror Test performance against Ireland.

Springboks winger Dillyn Leyds and France flyhalf Anthony Belleau scored their first international tries, both in a scrappy first half that ended 8-7 to the visitors.

Centre Jesse Kriel seemed to have finished off the French with a try awarded after a television match official (TMO) review for a suspected knock-on by lock Eben Etzebeth.

But replacement scrum-half Baptiste Serin ducked under a couple of tackles for a converted try to set up a frantic final three minutes.

It proved too late, as the Springboks beat France for the fourth time this year.

South Africa were reeling from a record 38-3 loss away to Ireland, while the French were also in payback mood after being soundly beaten by New Zealand 38-18.

France coach Guy Noves surprisingly kept the same side, while counterpart Allister Coetzee unsurprisingly made 10 changes.

Belleau slotted over a penalty early in the second half to put the French briefly ahead, but only because opposite Handre Pollard left his kicking boots in the Stade de France dressing room.

He missed three penalties and a conversion, the third penalty miss a woeful slice wide from near the posts after 55 minutes.

Then he found his range, slotting one over shortly after and converting Kriel's try to pad the Springboks lead to 18-10 with about 15 minutes left.

Belleau's late penalty attempt from wide left missed and the home side's efforts petered out until Serin showed quick thinking to spot enough of a gap in the South African defence to squeeze through.

RESULT

France 17

Tries: Belleau, Serin

Cons: Belleau

Pens: Belleau

South Africa 18

Tries: Leyds, Kriel

Cons: Pollard

Pens: Pollard 2 

IRELAND vs FIJI

Nemani Nadolod is tackled by Irish defenders in Dublin. Photo: Getty ImagesWing Darren Sweetnam scored his first international try as a second-string Ireland survived a massive scare with a narrow 23-20 victory over Fiji in Dublin.

No.8 Jack Conan and wing Dave Kearney also scored tries for the hosts, who had made 13 changes from the side that thrashed South Africa 38-3 the week before.

Fiji showed guts in defence and their usual confidence in attack as they managed tries through halfback Henry Seniloli and wing Timoci Nagusa, with five-eighth Ben Volavola adding two conversions and two penalties.

No.10 Joey Carbery, making only his second Test start, had a hand in Ireland's opening try as he showed quick feet to dance through the Fiji defence and set up Sweetnam to score.

After Kearney had crossed in the corner and Conan cantered in for a third try, the home side led 17-3 and looked out of sight of the islanders.

But just before halftime, the visitors turned on their Sevens skills as Nemani Nadolo produced a brilliant kick-and-collect before setting up Seniloli for the converted try. Five minutes after the break the scores were level when Nagusa intercepted an attempted pass from Kearney and raced clear to score under the posts.

Fiji botched two chances to score next as their handling let them down close to the Ireland line, before substitute five-eighth Ian Keatley kicked what proved the winning penalty eight minutes from the end.

Fiji have completed their fixtures for the year, while Ireland are at home to Argentina in their final game of 2017 on Saturday.

RESULT

Ireland 23

Tries: Sweetnam, Kearney, Conan

Cons: Carbery

Pens: Keatley 2 

Fiji 20

Tries: Seniloli, Nagusa

Cons: Volavola

Pens: Volavola 2

WALES vs GEORGIA

Georgia challenged Wales. Photo: Getty ImagesA second-string Wales team held on for a narrow 13-6 win over Georgia with stout defence denying the eastern European country a first win over a top tier rugby-playing nation in a controversial finish at the Principality Stadium.

There was a single try from Wales winger Hallam Amos in a first international between the two countries that will be seen as a morale triumph for Georgia, who have been lobbying for a place in the Six Nations Championship.

Wales, who made 14 changes to the team that lost 29-21 to Australia last weekend, crossed the Georgia line three times but only Amos's 20th-minute effort was awarded in a match that only livened up near the end as Georgia pushed for an upset result.

They might have grabbed a draw in a controversial finish that mirrored Wales' loss to France in the Six Nations in Paris last March which later led to a reprimand to the French for manipulating the rules to their advantage.

This time Wales substitute Tomas Harris was sin-binned in the final minute, handing Georgia a penalty yards from the try line.

Wales claimed they did not have any more fit props to come on, even though Leon Brown and Nicky Smith were still standing on the sideline encouraging their teammates after being replaced, and so the referee ordered an uncontested scrum which denied the visitors an opportunity for a pushover try.

Georgia instead kicked for a lineout, then went through 11 phases as they attacked the Welsh line before being penalised for not releasing the ball and losing their chance for a draw.

The game's only try came after a long skip pass from Rhys Priestland as Wales won a lineout and allowed their back line to sweep the ball across the length of the field and for Amos to go comfortably over.

Priestland kicked two penalties and a conversion while fullback Soso Matiashvili kicked over two penalties for Georgia, who were 10-3 down at halftime.

"It was a tale of two halves. In the second half there were a lot of errors, a lot of stoppages," Wales captain Dan Lydiate told the BBC.

"We weren't clinical enough in the second half.

"We're happy with the win, but the nerves were going at the end."

RESULT

Wales 13

Tries: Amos

Cons: Priestland

Pens: Priestland 2 

Georgia 6

Pens: Matiashvili 

ITALY vs ARGENTINA

Argentina ran away with a win in Italy. Photo: Getty ImagesArgentina scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to claim a 31-15 win over Italy after a see-sawing Test.

The lead changed nine times and Italy led 15-14 on the hour before Argentina broke loose in the last 20 minutes on Saturday with converted tries by Marcos Kremer and Joaquin Tuculet for only their second win this year.

Sebastian Cancelliere scored the other try for Argentina in the first half.

Italy's points came from four Carlo Canna penalties and a drop goal from Marcello Violi. Juan Martin Hernandez converted one penalty for Argentina while Nicolas Sanchez scored 13 points from three penalties and two conversions.

Hernandez, temporarily replacing Sanchez, opened the scoring with a penalty for Argentina but Italy hit back with two quick Canna penalties. Cancelliere ducked between the Italian back line to score the game's first try.

The two sides took it in turns to score and take the lead until, with Argentina 17-15 ahead, Kremer powered through Jayden Hayward's tackle to give the Pumas breathing space.

Tuculet finished off an Argentina attack by diving into the corner for another try on his 50th appearance as they extended their unbeaten run against Italy which goes back to 2008.

RESULT

Argentina 31

Tries: Cancelliere, Kremer, Tuculet

Cons: Sanchez 2

Pens: Sanchez 3, Hernandez

Italy 15

Pens: Canna 4

Drop: Canna 

JAPAN vs TONGA

Japan beat Tonga easily. Photo: Getty imagesJapan coach Jamie Joseph hailed a performance of strength and application as his side overwhelmed Tonga 39-6 in southwest France on Saturday.

But Joseph warned his team that France would represent a different level of challenge when he takes the 2019 World Cup hosts to the new U Arena outside Paris next weekend.

"I'm really proud of the team," Joseph said after the easy win in Toulouse.

"We played a very physical team today and for much of the match we matched the physicality.

"Our attack and defence were very clinical, we didn't concede any tries.

"Playing France in Paris is a very different challenge for us, we are going to come up against a Tier One team at home.

"But now we can go on to that game with an element of confidence and we can go to play our own game which I think is going to be exciting for the boys."

It was a Japanese player of Tongan origin, Lomano Lemeki, who opened the scoring after 14 minutes in front of 4,500 spectators at the Ernest-Wallon stadium.

Amanaki Mafi scored back-to-back tries before Japan's captain Michael Leitch increased the margin further and Tonga never recovered.

Tonga coach Toutai Kefu bemoaned a lack of preparation time for his side.

"It is a performance I expected from Japan, they are a really well prepared team, they have a lot of resources at their disposal," he said.

"It is definitely an issue, we don't have our players much of the time, they play in France, in New Zealand, in England.

"It's hard but we just deal with it."

RESULT

Japan 39

Tries: Leitch, Fukuoka, Mafi, Lemeki

Cons: Tamura 4

Pens: Tamura 2

Tonga 6

Pens: Takulua