It was a tough opening weekend for the Northern Hemisphere sides in their autumn international campaigns, as their Tri Nations opponents recorded a whitewash of victories.
Ireland 21-23 South Africa
A dramatic fight-back by Ireland at the new Aviva Stadium was one of the highlights of a disappointing round of fixtures.
World Champions South Africa held the early control in Dublin but Ireland, who were in search of their fourth successive victory over the Boks clawed their way back into the game with tries from Lions Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney.
Fly-half Morne Steyn opened the scoring with a penalty before converting an early Juan Smith try. Flanker Smith intercepted a lose Eoin Reddan pass and raced clear to score in the corner.
Steyn and Jonny Sexton exchanged penalties to take the scores to 13-6 at the break.
The second half began as the first ended with the fly-half’s swapping penalties before Zane Kirchner and Gio Aplon linked up on the touchline and the full back raced clear to extend the visitors advantage.
Bowe collected replacement Ronan O’Gara’s chip through to score and O’Gara celebrated his 100th appearance by slotting the conversion.
Jamie Heaslip started a sweeping move which Kearney rounded off by touching down, but O’Gara failed his conversion attempt which would have levelled the scores and South Africa hung on for the win.
England 16-26 New Zealand
England could never recover from a powerful and clinical start by the visitors but showed promise with their dedication at Twickenham.
The Kiwi’s arrived in London smarting from their defeat to rivals Australia in Hong Kong last weekend and got the ideal start, with Dan Carter converting two early tries from Hosea Gear and Kieran Read to put them 14-0 up.
Carter and his opposite number Toby Flood added two penalties apiece and the scores sat at 20-6 at half time.
The England scrum gave them a platform to work from and Dylan Hartley narrowed the deficit after the break but Carter added two penalties to keep the All Blacks out of reach.
The hosts were left still looking for their first win over New Zealand since 2003 and now must regroup as Australia are next up and in confident mood after their victory over Wales.
Wales 16-25 Australia
Australia carried on from where they left off in Hong Kong last weekend and deservedily ran out winners in Cardiff.
A clinical display by the exciting backline was the difference as Quade Cooper orchestrated his troops.
David Pocock scored an early try which was converted by Cooper before Stephen Jones fought back for Wales with two first half penalties.
While Australia had the upper hand out-wide in the tight, the Welsh forwards were dominant.
The visitors could not live with the power of the tight five and conceded seven penalties at the scrum and Wales used their pack well to create point scoring chances.
Wales were without a host of Lions stars including Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Ryan Jones but have a lot to take from the game ahead of South Africa’s visit to the Millennium Stadium next Saturday.
Man-of-the-match Kurtley Beale scored one of Australia’s two second half tries, with prop Ben Alexander collecting the other 5-pointer.
Replacement Richard Rees scored with 10 minutes remaining to give the hosts a glimpse of victory but it was not to be, James O’Connor kicking a late penalty to seal the win.