Courtney Lawes received good reviews for his performance against New Zealand © Getty Images
Rugby News Drama and disappointment for international Saints
Four games of international rugby this weekend featured players from Franklin’s Gardens, and there was drama, disappointment and elation in equal measure.
The weekend started in Suva, where Kahn Fotuali’i and George Pisi were hoping to help Samoa beat Fiji and come top of the Pacific Conference of the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC).
As with their previous weekend’s win over Italy, Samoa relied on one of the other Pisis to keep the score board ticking over, fly half Tusi landing all 18 of his side’s points.
Fiji dominated long periods, scoring the game’s only two tries, but their poor discipline let them down, and Samoa’s defence defied the loss of two players to the sin bin to hold out in the final few minutes to record a first win in Suva since 1998.
Another losing streak was snapped in the final game of the day in a dramatic clash between the USA and Canada in Sacramento, California. Although there was just pride at stake between the two rivals – Japan having already secured top spot in the PNC’s North America Conference – nothing was held back on the field.
Samu Manoa put in a typically physical performance, making several eye-catching tackles and carrying the ball over the gain line repeatedly. And it was Manoa’s Eagles who made the early running, building up an 18-7 lead.
However crucial mistakes allowed Canada into the match, and four unanswered converted tries either side of half-time allowed the visitors to go 35-18 in front. But the Americans, cheered on by vociferous supporters in sweltering heat, fought back, scoring 20 points of their own to take a 38-35 lead into the final few minutes.
Canada turned down two kickable penalties after the 80-minute mark had been passed, but the Eagles’ defence held to give them a first win over the Canucks in five years.
Highlights and full reports of both games can be found on the IRB website – CLICK HERE
One losing streak which continues is England’s record in New Zealand. Three Saints – Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes – started the third test in Hamilton, but they found the All Blacks in irrepressible form in the first half.
New Zealand’s four first half tries put the world champions firmly in the driving seat, and while the introduction of Luther Burrell helped shore up the midfield all England could muster was a second half try in a 36-13 defeat. Lee Dickson also saw action in the game, coming off the bench as a second half replacement.
However this loss was nothing in comparison to the heartbreak that George North and the Wales squad will be feeling on their way home from South Africa.
Wales had not beaten the Springboks in South Africa, but when they led 30-17 with 10 minutes to play in Nelspruit history looked in the making. However the hosts had other ideas, and once they scored one converted try they had the momentum to get the second they needed with 90 seconds to play and win 31-30.
With the international rugby now done and dusted attention the countdown can start in earnest to the 2014/15 season, which starts on Friday, August 1st with the Northampton leg of the Premiership Rugby Sevens Series.
The Saints will take on Saracens, London Wasps and Harlequins in an evening of top quality action, and tickets can be booked now for £10 (adults) and £5 (juniors).
CLICK HERE to order tickets online 24 hours a day, and Season Ticket Holders can save 50 percent on their orders by using the code 2014PR7S at the point of booking!