Autumn Internationals: Japan and France play out unlikely draw

by AAP

Japan have produced a spirited second-half display to draw 23-23 with France at the U Arena in Nanterre.

France ended a run of five-straight international defeats but failed to build on a first-half lead of 13-8 after Rabah Slimani went over to add to two Francois Trinh-Duc penalties.

The Brave Blossoms, who last weekend beat Tonga 39-6 in Toulouse, swiftly got themselves back into the contest after a try from Timothy Lafaele, which Yu Tamura converted to put the tourists ahead.

However, after Gabriel Lacroix's try and another Trinh-Duc penalty, his fifth successful kick at goal for the night, Les Bleus looked set to lift the pressure on Guy Noves as they moved into the closing stages 23-18 ahead.

Japan, though, responded once again as Shintaro Ishihara went over with just seven minutes left to tie the match.

Tamura missed the conversion for what could have been a remarkable Test win.


France 23

Tries: Slimani, Lacroix

Cons: Trinh-Duc 2

Pens: Trinh-Duc 3

Japan 23

Tries: Horie, Lafaele, Ai Valu

Cons: Tamura

Pens: Tamura 2


Rieko Ioane was the star for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty ImagesSteve Hansen rates Rieko Ioane among the finest young talents he's seen after his All Blacks ended the year on a winning note against Wales in Cardiff.

The 20-year-old winger was heralded a "phenomenon" by Hansen after his injury-ravaged team saw off the belligerent hosts 33-18 on Saturday, scoring five tries to two.

Ioane had a hand in four of them, including scoring the last two, continuing his game-breaking form from last week's gripping defeat of Scotland.

Hansen was thankful his young star -- who is nominated in two categories at Sunday's World Rugby awards -- had shaken off an injury that looked set to rule him out of year's final Test.

"Thank goodness his shoulder came right, that's all I can say," Hansen said.

"He's phenomenal. If we can keep his feet on the floor he can go anywhere, that kid.

"Every time he gets the ball, you think 'wow, what's going to happen?'."

The world champions looked vulnerable entering the last 10 minutes just eight points up and missing stand-in captain Sam Whitelock, who was shown a yellow card.

Rather than succumb to the fatigue of a long season, the All Blacks finished stronger, consigning Wales to a 30th successive defeat dating back to 1953.

It left the All Blacks with a record of 11 wins, one draw and two losses in a year notable for the forced development of fresh face as injuries and unavailability struck Hansen's side.

By the half-hour mark, New Zealand had made 81 tackles to Wales' 11.

Despite that, they created two tries to winger Waisake Naholo in the right-hand corner and then had too much class when the game opened up in the second spell.

Ioane's offload set up Anton Lienert-Brown before the young winger's brilliant late double, the first from an intercept and the second via his footwork and raw speed.


Wales 18

Tries: Williams, Davies

Cons: Halfpenny

Pens: Halfpenny

New Zealand 33

Tries: Naholo, Ioane 2, Lienert-Brown

Cons: Barrett 4

Yellow Cards: S Whitelock (68’)


South Africa got revenge on Italy. Photo: Getty ImagesSouth Africa have overrun Italy 35-6 with five converted tries, avenging their shock loss to the Azzurri last year and notching their first back-to-back wins since August.

The Springboks, who have struggled this year against top-tier teams, offered a very different performance to last year's shambolic effort, controlling the game and using their big forwards as battering rams on a wet and foggy afternoon.

It was the visitors' second straight win after a one-point victory over France last week. The last time they had strung two victories together was against Argentina at the start of the Rugby Championship three months ago.

The pack scored four tries, overpowering the Italians in the ruck and maul, while man-of-the-match five-eighth Handre Pollard was flawless off the tee. He kicked four conversions with his late replacement Elton Jantjies kicking the final two points.

"It's one of our best forwards performances," coach Allister Coetzee said. "It was a very clinical performance from the team and I am very pleased with the physicality."

Ten minutes into the second half, Italy almost emptied its bench and went on the attack again, but the men in sky blue ran repeatedly into a green wall of defenders. All they could manage in the end were six points from the boot of Carlo Canna.

Replacement lock Franco Mostert sealed the victory for South Africa by crossing under the posts near the final whistle, consigning last year's 20-18 loss in Florence to the history books.

"A lot of changes have happened (since that loss)," Coetzee said, describing 2016 as a disastrous year.

"It's a great team environment and a completely new team culture ... The players enjoy playing for the Springboks again and they are taking ownership and accountability for the South African team."


Italy 6

Pens: Canna 2

South Africa 35

Tries: Louw, Mbonambi, Venter Kitshoff, Mostert

Cons: Pollard 4, Jantjies 


Elliot Daly sealed the game for England. Photo: Getty ImagesEngland coach Eddie Jones said he was happy with the mistakes made during their 48-14 win over Samoa as he had a close look at another crop of hopefuls two years out from the World Cup.

England got off to a flying start with tries by Mike Brown, Alex Lozowski and Charlie Ewels but lost their way before regaining the initiative as four more in the last 20 minutes by Elliot Daly (two), Henry Slade and Semesa Rokoduguni completed their highest score in eight wins over the islanders.

"I'm really happy with it, we had a number of players playing their first big Test, some struggled and some did well," Jones said.

"Some players will be pleased and some disappointed. There's lots to work with and it's important now that they go away and look at what they need to improve and then show their desire to be part of a World Cup-winning side.

"We started well and thought it would be easy, but like all island teams, they kept coming and it took us until maybe the 55th to realise we had to work harder. When we did that we played really well."

As always, Jones had half an eye on the 2019 World Cup and having rested some of his regular starters, he said he was not only unconcerned by some of the problems on Saturday but pleased by them.

"I would have been disappointed if some of them didn't struggle," he said. "We need to find out now what they struggle to do and have time to fix it - we don't want to be finding it out in the 60th minute of the game against Tonga in Japan (England's opening World Cup match).

"It was the sort of game we needed to play after Australia; against a team you're expected to beat by a big score, so the mindset of that is something you get by experience."


England 48

Tries: Daly 2, Brown, Lozowski, Ewels, Slade, Rokoduguni

Cons: Ford 5

Pens: Ford 

Samoa 14

Tries: Faasalele, Vui

Cons: Nanai-Williams 2 


Ireland bested Argentina to complete a perfect November. Photo: Getty ImagesIreland have completed a clean sweep of November Test wins with a mostly novice back line coming through with a relatively comfortable 28-19 win over Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.

With one eye on the 2019 World Cup, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt used each member of his squad fit for selection over the course of wins against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina with second-rower James Ryan and winger Jacob Stockdale in particular laying down a marker for next year's Six Nations.

"We're blooding young players. It's three wins from three, there are elements that we'll improve on but it's a nice stepping stone for us come February," Ireland captain Rory Best said.

Stockdale was one of four backs with just five caps between them going into the game and he combined with another to score a superb opening try as centre Chris Farrell's deft, disguised pass took two defenders out and allowed the experienced Johnny Sexton to put Stockdale away.

Ryan, the 21-year-old lock who has made a big impression in just a handful of games for Leinster, looked equally comfortable in a first start cut short by injury as Ireland dominated up front, just as they did in the 38-3 hammering of South Africa.

Sexton and Stockdale combined again just after halftime as the impressive Ulster winger ghosted through the Argentine defensive line but still had to finish well to notch his fourth try in four games for Ireland.

Argentina, playing the final game of their season, began to work their way back into the game as the hosts lost their spark, and breached the Irish defence on 55 minutes when Joaquin Tuculet touched down a pinpoint dink through from Nicolas Sanchez.

Ireland quickly snuffed out any real chance of a comeback as No.8 J Stander barrelled over the line but Argentina would not let the them pull away, as Ireland did against the Springboks, with Juan Manuel Leguizamon pulling a late try back and Ramiro Moyano adding another on the final whistle.


Ireland 28

Tries: Stockdale 2, Stander

Cons: Sexton 2

Pens: Sexton 3

Argentina 19

Tries: Tuculet, Leguizamon, Moyano

Cons: Sanchez 2