All Blacks’ captain Kieran Read didn’t say much at the press conference following his team’s 23-13 win over South Africa.
Uruguay and Russia collected wins on the final day of the Nations Cup in Montevideo on Saturday, but it was the host nation who took out the title after defeating the Bears in their opening game.
Though edged 30-28 by Namibia midweek, Los Teros bounced back with a 28-15 defeat of Argentina B. Few fans braved the wet conditions to witness the achievement, however.
Earlier Russia, who had upset the Argentinean XV 48-40 midweek, signed off with a 20-0 shut-out of error-ridden Namibia. The Eastern Europeans showed steady improvement throughout the tournament.
Elsewhere in South America, Romania and Spain were both taken to the wire in their second and final tour games. The former, who had beaten Chile 27-11 last week, survived a late missed conversion in a 22-21 win against the fast-improving Brazilians in Jundiai. It was a strange choice of venue – an hour’s drive out of Sao Paulo – and drew a record low 231 fans.
Spain – 22-16 victors over Os Tupis a week ago – also made it two from two with a 29-22 win over Chile in Santiago. A vocal crowd of 4000 were on hand to witness a dramatic contest.
More than ten minutes of injury time were played as free kick after free kick against the visitors kept the game alive. But Los Condores were unable to capitalise, eventually losing possession in an attacking scrum.
Meanwhile in Europe, Germany suffered a shock 32-27 defeat to Portugal in Frankfurt and will be relegated from Rugby Europe’s top division for the first time in five years. 2007 World Cup qualifiers Portugal return after a three-year absence.
Germany finished second to Canada in the World Cup repechage qualifying tournament last year, and were even being talked about as a possible future addition to the Six Nations after stunning Romania 41-38 in 2017.
But a sponsorship row caused them to field an under-strength side and results took a turn for the worse. Even their appearance in the repechage tournament was only made possible by the disqualification of both Romania and Spain.
Another team involved in that event were in action on Saturday, namely Hong Kong, who were lucky to survive a huge scare against rank outsider Malaysia, holding on for a 30-24 win.
The Dragons had one hand on the Asian Top Three trophy after thumping South Korea 47-10 the previous week, but nearly paid the price for resting nine players against a team beaten 38-16 by the Koreans in the opening game.
There has been no international action in Africa lately, but much excitement over the release of the continent’s 2023 World Cup qualifying schedule, which will commence in November with a series of one-off elimination games.
The winners of these will progress to the group stages in 2020, involving four groups of three. The eight teams that would have contested this year’s Gold Cup – the tournament was abandoned after the sponsors withdrew – qualify for the group stages automatically.
Further good news for Africa is the revival of the Victoria Cup, which will kick off this coming weekend with a match between Kenya and Uganda. Zimbabwe and Zambia are also involved in the four-nation tournament, which concludes in September.
That’s it for the international scene, but there were some important games at club level over the weekend, including Sunday’s MLR final in San Diego. Defending champions Seattle Seawolves broke the hearts of the sell-out 6000 home crowd with a late try, winning 23-26. The lead changed hands several times, and the San Diego Legion were on top with just minutes to play.
The pair had eliminated expansion franchises New York and Toronto in the previous week’s semi-finals, San Diego edging the former 24-22 and Seattle overcoming the Canadians 30-17.
A much smaller crowd was on hand to witness the Western Force’s 44-28 victory over Samoa’s Kagifa in Brisbane on Saturday, with plenty of spectacular tries helped along by some fairly liberal refereeing.
The Force are unbeaten after seven games and will host Fiji’s Latui in their final encounter this coming weekend. The series is designed as a precursor to the Rapid Rugby league, expected to kick off in earnest next season.
In Fiji itself, defending champions Suva are back to defend their national title after thumping Nadi 39-15 in the semi-finals. They will face Nadroga, who edged Naitasiri 33-31 in Sigatoka.
In Samoa, Apia’s Eels progressed to that country’s final against the Chiefs from the other side of Upolu Island. The pair eliminated the Navigators 42-13 and Savaii’s Vikings 31-22 respectively in the semi-finals.