This time last week, sports blogs around the world were lighting up with praise for the Southern Hemisphere rugby teams, and now it’s time for Northern Hemisphere.
New Zealand had just beaten Ireland by 23 points, Australia bettered England despite being a man down the majority of the match, South Africa toughed out a scrappy match against Wales, and Argentina secured their first home victory in almost three years over Scotland.
After the Southern Hemisphere toured poorly late last year, only winning 5/13 matches against the North, these results signified a swing of momentum. The South was back to its winning ways, producing a 4-0 clean sweep last weekend.
Oh, how things can change in the course of a weekend.
Now, rugby columns around the world are singing the praises of Northern Hemisphere rugby once more, as each of the four touring sides picked up a win to level their series 1-1.
Here’s a look at how each match unfolded.
Read more about the Northern Hemisphere.
Northern Hemisphere: New Zealand vs. Ireland: 12-23
In a match marred by cards, a much improved Ireland gained their first ever win on New Zealand soil over a patchy looking All Blacks side.
In a repeat of last weekend, Ireland started the stronger of the two sides, coming out of the gate firing and being rewarded with an early try to prop Andrew Porter. This was backed up by a successful penalty soon after, and the visitors were ahead 10-0.
What followed was a decisive 15 minutes in the game— Leicester Fainga’anuku received a yellow card for striking Hansen awkwardly after an attempted charge down; Ofa Tuungafasi was sent to the bin for ten minutes for tackling a player early; and Angus Ta’avao was red carded for a head clash with Gary Ringrose after he cut back into the defensive line. Add to this a dose of confusion which left Ardie Savea off the field for the rest of the game as substitutes were being juggled, and the All Blacks’ game was in tatters.
The home side performed valiantly at first, heading into the break at 7-10, despite their heavy disadvantage. However, they were unable to keep the Irish out in the second half, leaking a try soon after half-time, and making crucial handling and discipline errors under pressure throughout the second half, ultimately going down 12-23.
Australia vs England: 17-25
Too little too late for Australia, as they failed to claw their way back into the match after a strong English start.
An early try to Billy Vunipola, followed by a flawless display from Owen Farrell off the tee, saw England race to a 19-0 lead after half an hour of play. Australia managed to turn the game into an arm wrestle shortly before half-time however, scoring through Tupou and taking back momentum. At 17-22 with 15 minutes to play, it seemed as though Australia were going to be able to steal this one from England, however another Owen Farrell penalty and a lack of Australian execution meant it was all too little, too late, as England came out victors 17-25.
South Africa vs. Wales: 12-13
Another historic result, as Wales gain their first win in South Africa after 12 attempts.
The Springboks will be disappointed to have let this match get away—ahead 12-3 with less than 15 minutes to play, they will have felt aggrieved to end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in this one. After making a host of changes from the first Test, South Africa came out with renewed vigour and pinned Wales in their own half for large swathes of the game, picking off penalties and accruing a healthy 12-3 lead.
However, a brilliant link up between Anscombe and Adams with two minutes to play, followed by a clutch conversion, saw Wales edge ahead of South Africa and take down the victory by a solitary point.
Argentina vs. Scotland: 6-29
Perhaps the most underwhelming of all the matches this weekend, Argentina will be bitterly disappointed at their inability to back up last weekend’s win.
A mediocre first half from both sides saw the game in the balance at 6-8 at the break, before Scotland fired into life in an inspired second half performance. The visitors put on three tries, dominating the breakdown and being helped by an Argentinian yellow card and several disallowed tries. Stoic defence saw them come away worthy victors 6-29, as they kept the home side scoreless in the second stanza.
Regardless of where one’s rugby loyalty lies, the past fortnight’s results have been incredible for world rugby. To have four series locked at 1-1, and the overall score between hemispheres reading 4-4, is a fantastic advertisement of the game.
The coming weekend of rugby is sure to be a spectacle as each series is decided.