Rugby Championship openers bring defeat for England's autumn opponents

August 23, 2017

England's opponents in the Old Mutual Wealth Autumn International Championships endured a torrid first weekend of the Rugby Championship as the annual southern hemisphere tournament got underway.

This autumn will see Australia, Argentina and Samoa coming to Twickenham in November and December and while Samoa are not part of the four-nation southern hemisphere elite, the other two got their Championship campaigns underway against New Zealand and South Africa respectively.

Australia have been in New Zealand's shadow for years and having lost to them in the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, they have been on the receiving end from the All Blacks ever since. 

Nothing changed on Saturday (August 19th) when New Zealand triumphed 54-34 in Sydney. Both sides went all out on the attack, but in such a contest there was only ever going to be one winner. 

Australia tore into their opponents from the off and Bernard Foley kicked the first points of the match, but they were soon overwhelmed by the visitors, who launched wave after wave of deadly raids. Both Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty picked up a brace of tries, while Liam Squire and Sonny Bill Williams also crossed the line as the All Blacks stormed into a 40-6 lead by the break, the first time Australia have conceded 40 first-half points at home against their neighbours. 

The start of the second half saw more New Zealand domination as Damien McKenzie and Ben Smith added further tries to stretch the lead to 54-6.

To their credit, the Aussies did not throw in the towel. Curtis Rona, a player English fans coming to the match at Twickenham may have to watch out for, marked his Wallabies debut with a try in the 51st minute and there were further tries from Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau. 

However, while that gave the final scoreline some gloss, Australia's late rally only came after All Blacks coach Steve Hansen rang the changes. 

Much of the attention in Australia has been on Folau. Before the game, he was being hyped in the media as the in-form man who could bring Australia victory. Beale added to this before the match by saying of the full-back: "He's been incredible in the June series. He's been on fire."

In the event, the heat has been on Folau, outclassed like his team-mates and telling Fairfax media the defeat was "quite shocking". He admitted several errors of his own contributed to the loss.

With the two sides crossing the Tasman to meet again next weekend in the Bledisloe Cup, Australia have much to do to frighten England, and the same may be said of Argentina.

The Pumas had beaten South Africa 26-24 in Salta the previous time the sides met, but this time the Springboks prevailed 37-15 in Port Elizabeth.

Although Argentina scored the first try of the match through Martin Landajo, they were already trailing to two Elton Jantjies penalties by then, and Courtnall Skosan soon scored a try for the Springboks as they raced into a 23-8 lead by half-time. 

The home side scored three more tries in the second half through Raymond Rhule, Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph Du Toit, against one by Emiliano Boffelli.

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