Wins for Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland on banner day for Home Unions
All four Home Unions won their final November Tests with England, Wales and Scotland beating significant Southern Hemisphere rivals and Ireland overcoming a spirited challenge for the USA.
The results mean Ireland and Wales both finish the window with four wins from four while England will ponder what might have been having come within a hotly debated TMO call of beating New Zealand. Had Sam Underhill’s try stood they might well have finished their series with wins over South Africa, Australia and the All Blacks.
Scotland got the day underway with a gritty 14-9 victory over Argentina.
Open, offload-driven play and superb tries have characterised Scotland’s play under Gregor Townsend.
Critics had questioned their capacity to win an tight, defensive game and they certainly showed they could do that in this one. The two sides largely cancelled eachother out under persistent rain but one moment of Scottish quality proved key.
The try, when it came, was remarkable for its simplicity – full-back Stuart Hogg making a quick dart down the right before releasing a neat pass to Sean Maitland on the wing. The 2013 Lions tourist had positioned himself cleverly and duly did the rest, sliding over for the key score.
Greig Laidlaw’s boot provided the rest of the points and ensured the BT Murrayfield faithful had a win to celebrate.
In the 3pm kick-off England were impressive in overcoming Australia with a barrage of second-half tries.
They got off to the ideal start, Ben Youngs chargedown yielding a five-metre scrum on the Australian line. Kyle Sinckler and his tight-five colleagues maintained the pressure, forcing the Australian eight backwards. Rather than wait for the inevitable penalty, number eight Mark Wilson pulled the ball from the base, and passed to Youngs, who in turn fed Jonny May who dotted down neatly in the corner.
Owen Farrell landed the extras from out on the touchline.
Australia had largely been dominated before Israel Folau provided a moment of true quality to get his side back in the game, flashing through two layers of English defence on a glorious line and dotting down under the posts for a try which Matt Toomua converted. A truly spectacular intervention.
An Australian penalty just before the half-time whistle meant the sides went in level.
Despite playing most of the rugby, England would effectively have to start from scratch.
They took to the task with relish, getting the half off to a dream start as Daly raced Farrell’s offload had the speed to run it in from long range.
Joe Cokanasiga landed the next blow, shrugging off Dane Haylett-Petty’s tackle attempt and showing remarkable acceleration from a standing start to cut back against the grain of the Australian defence and claim a brilliant score of his own.
Farrell and Folau got late tries and in the end England were deserving of a margin of victory that could have been even wider.
Wales’ victory over South Africa was achieved in a tighter affair in Cardiff. The South Africans have proved themselves difficult opponents on their tour of Europe and this one was in the balance right to the end.
Wales opened up a 14-3 lead by half-time courtesy of tries from Tomas Francis and Liam Williams.
But the Boks came back strongly, Handre Pollard landing a penalty before Jesse Kriel took a chance created by the brilliance of Willie Le Roux.
Elton Jantjies reduced their arrears further but two clutch penalties from replacement Dan Biggar saw Wales home. The result means Wales have now won nine in a row and will face into 2019 believing they have every chance of achieving something special in either the Six Nations or the Rugby World Cup.
Coming off the high of beating New Zealand Ireland faced a challenge of a different kind against the USA. As expected it wasn’t all plain sailing to begin with as the sides ended up locked at 14-14 after 25 minutes.
A slew of tries extended that lead out quickly as a tiring USA side struggled to contain Ireland’s attackers and ultimately Ireland ran out 57-14 victors.
That concluded a fantastic window for Home Nations rugby with packed houses in Dublin, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff witnessing 13 wins in 16 matches. Three of the four are ranked in the top four in the world while Scotland are just a shade behind Australia in seventh.