Archive for October, 2008

LIVE: Tonga vs Samoa

October 31, 2008

You know the drill by know. The teams:

Tonga: Michael Jennings; Cooper Vuna, Fetuli Talanoa, Etuate Uasisele, Esikeli Tonga; Feleti Mateo, Joel Taufaao; Antonio Kaufusi, Tevita Leo-Latu, Awen Guttenbeil; Lopini Paea (capt), Richard Fa’aoso, Willie Manu.

Interchange:Tony Williams, Epalahame Lauaki, Sam Moa, Mickey Paea.

Samoa: Smith Samau; Francis Meli, George Carmont, Willie Talau, Matt Utai; Nigel Vagana (capt), Ben Roberts; Kylie Leuluai, Terrence Seuseu, Tony Puletua, David Solomona, Lagi Setu, Harrison Hansen.

Interchange: Frank Puletua, Joseph Paulo, Ali Lauitiiti, Alby Talipeau.

Two war dances at the same time. Gotta love it. Apparently there are extra police at the groumd for this one. Are there extra referee?

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Teamsheets: Australia vs England

October 29, 2008

Here it is. The big one. The teams:

Australia: Billy Slater; Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Brent Tate; Darren Lockyer (c), Johnathan Thurston; Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Steve Price; Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi; Paul Gallen.

Interchange: Brent Kite, Josh Perry, Anthony Tupou, Karmichael Hunt.

England: Paul Wellens; Ade Gardner, Martin Gleeson, Keith Senior, Mark Calderwood; Leon Pryce, Rob Burrow; Jamie Peacock, James Roby, James Graham; Gareth Hock, Gareth Ellis; Kevin Sinfield.

Interchange: Danny McGuire, Adrain Morley, Maurie Fa’asavalu, J Wilkin.

Brief Thoughts:

  • These two sides are almost exactly the same as the teams they both fielded last weekend. If England play like they did against Papua New Guinea, they will suffer the same (if not worse) fate as the Kiwis.
  • New Zealand completely failed to test out the new Kangaroos back row. England need to be punchier down the middle and more dynamic running wide. All the English props had good games last weekend but the back-row seemed to go AWOL.
  • Australia will also be looking to spread the ball wide and put up the high bombs. Folau in particular will be looking to have some fun. Keith Senior completely shut down Folau during the World Club Challenge but if he plays like he did last weekend then Folau mught just end up getting his revenge.
  • The obvious big change for England is Lee Smith’s enforced absence. It’s a shame because he was clearly coming to form. Mark Calderwood hasn’t played up to a haigh enough level for the last few seasons, although he had been coming good for Wigan towards the end of the season. Thurston and Lockyer will almost certainly target him.
  • Again, why no Purdham, Tony Smith?
  • The front-row battle could be absolutlely awesome and go a long way to deciding this game. England have the younger set, with Roby and Graham still establishing themselves as international class, and they are backed up by two older heads in Morley and Peacock. All of these players had good games at the weekend. Civoniceva and Price are the two most senior figures in this Kiwi side, and they and Cameron Smith will no doubt be looking to teach the whippersnappers a lesson.
  • This might be Leon Pryce’s last chance to establish himself as the main stand-off. Danny McGuire has been playing well whilst Pryce has not.

If England play like they did against the Kumuls and Australia play like they did against the Kiwis, then this game won’t be pretty. However, it strikes me as unlikely that Tony Smith will let them play like that again, even if he hasn’ made the obvious personnel changes. Australia will obviously have confidence in the quality of their backline and it is imperative that England match the intensity both up front and out-wide (where they seemed to be lacking defensively against PNG). If England are able to raise a few levels and handle the Aussie backs then it should be very, very interesting…

Aftermath: Ireland vs Tonga

October 28, 2008

Wow. What a game. This is exactly what World Cups are about; two nations needing exposure and competition going at each other for 80 minutes. Tonga just about deserved to win, but they were pushed all the way by an Irish side that could have won it but for a bit more composure.

Actually, both sides were rather lacking in that department on the day. I think that contributed to the entertainment factor of the game. It certainly stopped Tonga pulling too far ahead at any point. In fact, if they had more discipline it’s not outrageous to think that this game could have been over by the start of the second half, but every time the Tongans started to gain an advantage they threw it away. This was a proper back-and-forth contest that was worthy of any stage, but the Tongan indiscipline was one of the major dramatic contributions.

Another factor was the spectacular passages of play that the two sides put on. When Tonga actually focused on the job at hand they produced an eye-catching offloading, hard-hitting, quick flowing game which would challenge all but the sturdiest defences. At the heart of it was Feleti Mateo, who encapsulated the entire Tongan performance by himself. He was either back-chatting to the referee and incurring his wrath (including a trip to the sin-bin) or he was producing sublime bits of play. He and Michael Jennings were threatening every time they touched the ball and are among the front-runners for performers of the tournament.

Of course it takes two to tango, and Ireland were good enough to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and then some. Damien Blanch of course had a game to remember in scoring his hat-trick, but the pack also did a good job of matching up to the Tongans. In the end they probably paid for a lack of natural play-makers; Scott Grix and Karl Fitzpatrick are good players, but both have been mostly playing full-back and to ask them to slot in together to form a cohesive half pairing is probably a tad unfair. They both tried their hardest and had hands in the Irish tries, but they couldn’t provide the Wolfhounds with the direction needed to outsmart Tonga. Even so, Ireland have a lot they can take out of th game as they look ahead to Samoa.

Tonga are also looking ahead to a game against the Samoans on Friday, and it could be a classic. The biggest ask for them will be making sure their bodies are up the task of taking on Samoa after such a physically taxing encounter. Of course they should be up for Samoa anyway, but it’s possible that the neat couter-action to that physical demand is that they no have momentum on their side after coming through such an enthralling game. And to think I nearly didn’t get up in time…

Aftermath: Australia vs New Zealand

October 27, 2008

Hmmm.

Okay, Australia were good. They were clearly better than New Zealand. But the fawning over them seems to be failing to take into account one crucial factor – New Zealand were pants. I said in my preview that they needed direction but they completely failed to get it from Benji Marshall and Thomas Leuluai. Australia were merely extremely efficient, but that was all they needed to be to tear apart the Kiwis.

The ‘roos obviously had many positives to take from this game. They won handsomely against the side who have been their nearest challengers in the past few seasons, and they did so in a dominating fashion. The much vanted centre pairing of Israel Folau and Greg Inglis both had good games and fended off nearly every attempted tackle on them, and Folau finished with two tries. In particular they were always threatening down the flanks and were very good at switching play from one side to the other. They threatened to look awesome, but merely came across as really good. In particular they had a habit of dropping the ball as they looked to score, something that will probably be eliminated from their game as they develop cohesion. Also, they will not be happy that the two times the Kiwis really pressured them, it resulted in a walk-in try and a wrongly-disallowed try. ‘Efficient’ is the word to describe their performance; they weren’t flawless by any means, but they did more than enough to win and can take heart from their performance.

This is more than the Kiwis can take. For a side who have a reputation as brutal hitters, there was something lacking in the forward play of New Zealand. They gave away too many penalties and tried too many cheap shots. Even so, the Aussies completely dominated them in the tackle and the Kiwis barely had any momentum all night. Leuluai and Marshall were fairly anonymous, which was really frustrating because the few times Marshall took on the ‘roos on their try-line coincided with the few times the Kiwis looked threatening. They really need to buck up their ideas, and fast. They are lucky they didn’t play Papua New Guinea this weekend, because the Kumuls looked far more impressive in defeat than the Kiwis did. Adrain Lam will seriously be thinking about beating them next Saturday, and if the Kiwis play like that again then it’s a very real possibility.

As a final whine, what the hell was the video ref playing at disallowing Matai’s try at the end? Slide tackles from the full-back are dangerous at the best of times, never mind the fact that it clearly stripped the ball from Matai as he was scoring. Granted, it didn’t affect the result, and the try would have been more than the Kiwis deserved, but it sets a worrying prescedent as there is ample room for one of these challenges to cause serious harm. For the video referee to claim that the foot was not involved in Matai knocking the ball on was also just plain stupid. I don’t like to bag on refs, but it was obvious to anyone with basic vision that the foot knocked out the ball. It was the most questionable thing to come out of a night which didn’t really answer all that much.

Aftermath: France vs Scotland

October 27, 2008

I’ll have to keep this one quick, as it should have been done earlier (my bad). France won an exciting game against Scotland, but the Bravehearts can be pleased with their performance.Both teams scored some wonderful tries and put on a real handling clinic. However, both teams need to sort out their discipline. If France in particular can do that, then they will be a real force to be reckoned with.

All the halves on show had pretty good games, which usually leads to exciting affairs. In particular Thomas Bosc put on some fantastic kicks and he really should kick on in this tournament. Danny Brough started off slow but once he found his rythmn he was influential for Scotland and led them around the park in a proper captain’s knock.

One person who didn’t come out of the game with an enhanced reputation was Michael Robertson. Considering he was supposedly on the brink of Kangaroos selection he came across as rather ordinary. He made a nice run with his first kick-return, only to drop the ball and give France good field position. It’s possible that Scotland should think of moving him back to the wing, as they did appear to like spreading it wide.

In the end the real difference was the French bench. James Wynne had an influential game once he came on, and he and Julien Rinaldi form a dangerous dummy-half combo. They also had slightly more fire down the middle, and they will need it against Fiji. They will also need to cut out the mistakes and avoid giving up field position. Overall though, both sides have positives they can take out of the game, although France take away the most important one of all: the win.

LIVE: Ireland vs Tonga

October 27, 2008

Christ! Only just got up in time for this! Teams:

Ireland: Michael Platt, Damien Blanch, Sean Gleeson, Stuart Littler, Pat Richards, Scott Grix [c], Karl Fitzpatrick, Eamon O’Carroll Bob Beswick Ryan Tandy, Ben Harrison, Lee Doran, Simon Finnigan

Interchange: Michael McIlorum, Liam Finn, Gareth Haggerty, Mick Cassidy

Tonga: Fetuli Talanoa, Cooper Vuna, Michael Jennings, Etuate Uasisele, Esikeli Tonga, Feleti Mateo, Joel Taufa’ao, Antonio Kaufusi, Tevita Latu, Awen Guttenbeil, Lopini Paea (c), Richard Fa’aoso, Willie Manu

Interchange: Tony Williams, Sam Moa, Epalahame Lauaki, Kimi Uasi

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LIVE: Australia vs New Zealand

October 26, 2008

note: please keep refreshing this page every so often, using the button at the top of your browser, or by pressing F5 [too late now].

Hmmm, weetabix. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the opening ceremony game between two of the favourites for the title. I’m really looking forward to this, as I think the Kiwis should be over that little spell of mediocrity they had last year.

Teams:

Australia (from): Billy Slater, Joel Monaghan, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Brent Tate, Darren Lockyer (captain), Jonathan Thurston, Petero Civoniceva, Cameron Smith, Steve Price, Glenn Stewart, Anthony Laffranchi, Paul Gallen.

Replacements: Brent Kite, Josh Perry, Anthony Tupou, Kurt Gidley.

New Zealand: Lance Hohaia, Sam Perrett, Steve Matai, Jerome Ropati, Manu Vatuvei, Benji Marshall, Thomas Leuluai, Nathan Cayless (captain), Nathan Fien, Adam Blair, Simon Mannering, Sika Manu, Jeremy Smith.

Replacements: Dene Halatau, Greg Eastwood, Setaimata Sa, Sam Rapira.

Of course, we have the opening ceremony to navigate through first. *sigh*

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LIVE: France vs Scotland

October 26, 2008

note: please keep refreshing this page every so often, using the button at the top of your browser, or by pressing F5

Gnnnnhhhh… what time is it? Why am I up?

Teams:

France: Jared Taylor; Justin Murphy, John Wilson, Sebastien Raguin, Teddy Sadaoui; Thomas Bosc, Maxime Greseque; Adel Fellous, Julien Rinaldi, Olivier Elima; Jerome Guisset, Eric Anselme; Gregory Mounis.

Replacements: James Wynne, Remi Casty,  Jamal Fakir, Christophe Moly, Laurent Carrasco. (one to be omitted)

Scotland: Michael Robertson; Dean Colton, Dean Cowan, Kevin Henderson, Jon Steel; John Duffy, Danny Brough (c); Scott Logan, Ian Henderson, Paul Jackson; Iain Morrison, Duncan MacGillivray; Lee Patterson.

Replacements: Oliver Wilkes, Chris Armit, Mick Nanyn, Andrew Henderson

God, the Scots should have taken singing lessons…

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Family tragedy strikes for Johnathan Thurston

October 25, 2008

Man, the horrible news involving Rugby League players this week keeps rolling in as it is reported that Johnathan Thurston’s uncle was beaten to death in Brisbane yesterday. Thurston will apparently still be playing tomorrow for Australia against New Zealand at the Opening Ceremony game, but the timing of this could not really be worse. My sympathies go out to those affected by this.

Teamsheets: France vs Scotland

October 25, 2008

In all the craziness of getting the group previews done last night and watching the game today, I haven’t had time to put this up yet:

FRANCE vs SCOTLAND

France: Jared Taylor; Justin Murphy, John Wilson, Sebastien Raguin, Teddy Sadaoui; Thomas Bosc, Maxime Greseque; Adel Fellous, Julien Rinaldi, Olivier Elima; Jerome Guisset, Eric Anselme; Gregory Mounis.

Replacements: James Wynne, Remi Casty,  Jamal Fakir, Christophe Moly, Laurent Carrasco. (one to be omitted)

Scotland: Michael Robertson; Dean Colton, Dean Cowan, Kevin Henderson, Jon Steel; John Duffy, Danny Brough (c); Scott Logan, Ian Henderson, Paul Jackson; Iain Morrison, Duncan MacGillivray; Lee Patterson.

Replacements: Oliver Wilkes, Chris Armit, Mick Nanyn, Andrew Henderson

Brief Thoughts:

  • I assume putting Michael Robertson at full-back is a ploy to get him more involved. Could be a smart move.
  • France have a monster pack, with all of the starting forwards coming off the back of good Super League seasons (except Anselme, and even he did well in his short stint at Leeds)
  • Danny Brough may have to pull out an extra-special game for this match, although between him and Ian Henderson at hooker the Bravehearts should have plenty of smarts.
  • With Sebastian Raguin in the centres for France, there’s a rather brutish edge to their back-line (not that he’s lacking in ball skills)
  • Fakir running off the bench into a tired Scottish pack could be fun

I hope to be live-scoring for this game as well, but I make no promises.