Sunday, 18 November 2018

2021 World Cup Qualifiers - Americas

This is the largest qualification for the Americas ever, OK only four teams but even that was unthinkable a year ago. In fact, had they been held a year later, more possibly would have been able to enter. As it is the two North American sides (USA and Canada) are joined the Caribbean Jamaica team and a country that has come from nowhere to this in two years, Chile.

The matches were played as double headers in Jacksonville.

November 13th:

Jamaica 38-8 Canada.

The first half was a close affair, with the Jamaican defence proving effective in keeping Canada at bay. The half time score was 12-4 to Jamaica. As the second half progressed, the Reggae Warriors pulled away to what became a comfortable victory.

November 14th:

USA 62-0 Chile

Chile have only recently started playing the game and it has grown quickly. They have been rewarded with a qualifying place. However, this can be seen as a learning experience for them. That's how it transpired and after an initial period of pressure applied by Chile, once the US got possession it was one way traffic. The half time score was 34-0 as the rain starting falling heavily. The second half continued with the US having too much for the gallant Chilean side.

November 17th:

Losers -

Canada 62-12 Chile

After some early cut and thrust Canada took control and looked to be cruising but Chile scored late in the half and it was 28-6 at the break. The second period started quite evenly but as the half progressed Chile tired and the scoreline blew out.

Winners -

Jamaica 16-10 USA

The first half was tight but the Reggae Warriors looked the more polished and took a 16-0 lead but before the hooter sounded, two quick tries had the USA back in it. The second half was a real arm wrestle, tense and exciting. A little more composure from both sides would have been helpful but due to what was at stake, entirely understandable. Jamaica held on to make their first ever WC. The USA goes to a repechage play-off in 2019.

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Baskerville Shield : 2018

Albert Baskerville was a New Zealander who was instrumental in bringing RL to Australasia. A brief summary of how he managed that can be read by clicking here. The strenuous efforts of playing and running an arduous tour took its toll and he died before making it home. This series is named after this pioneer of RL tours. Here is a summary of the three match series in England.

27th October, Hull, England:

England 18-16 New Zealand

The Kiwis came into the game confident after having deservedly defeated Australia just before departure to the UK. Both sides were missing players, England especially. The jumped out of the blocks with a try in 3 minutes which was converted. The Kiwis soon responded in kind after 30 minutes were now ahead 12-6. England were then awarded a penalty try on half time to square it up at the break.

In the second half, the sides kick penalty goals to have the NZ slightly ahead but a fine try with 12 minutes to puts England on top and that was how it remained. England lead the series 1-0. 

3rd November, Liverpool, England:

England 20-14 New Zealand

A must win game for the Kiwis to keep the series alive. The hosts went ahead early with a penalty, with NZ taking the lead with a converted try then Makinson got his first try for England just before the interval  to level it up 6-6.

Five minutes after resumption, the Kiwis took the lead again and after 50 minutes extended that with a penalty goal for a 14-6 advantage. Then England scored three unanswered tries (making up a hat trick for Makinson) and a sound win. The Baskerville Shield is retained by England with one game to play.

Makinson scoring one of three tries . Picture source BBC.

11th November, Leeds, England:

England 0-34 New Zealand

After outplaying Australia prior to coming to the UK, much was expected of the Kiwis. England was missing key players and that grew as the series progressed. However, NZ didn't play that well and England were professional in taking the first two games. Would England be complacent going into match three? Would the player deflections hurt them? Had the scoreline been close, one would say yes, but it wasn't.

In the first half, the Kiwis scored three tries while England had two disallowed by the video referee. In that sense the 18-0 half time score could be explained. The reality was the second half remained scoreless for the hosts while the NZ side continued to widen its lead.

So the Kiwis saved their best for last while it was probably England's worst game of the series. England are now a solid unit, although this game belied that. The Kiwis continue their 'have a good game, then a couple of average ones' reputation. The series went to England, as does the Baskerville Shield. If the first two games made them feel on top of the world, the last game was a wake up call.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

2021 World Cup Qualifiers - Europe A

The fixtures below are all in 2018, involving four nations and each side played three games. They involve Group A ranked countries and a full list of the groups can be found by clicking here. The top two go through and the other two go into a play-off series, involving six sides with four going on to the 20121 WC.

Round One:

27th October, Carcassonne, France:

France 54-18

Wales put a team out with few heritage players which would test their depth of local talent. France has a team that looks the best they've had for some time. They soon took a 14-0 lead in as many minutes and led 26-0 after half an hour. Wales came back to trail 12-26 at the turn around. France then showed their class in the second period and pulled away for a comfortable victory.

27th October, Dublin, Ireland:

Ireland 36-10 Scotland

Scotland have been over achieving for some years now so it was interesting to see how they would perform here. The answer was swift as Ireland hit the ground running and established a 20-0 buffer by the break. The second half was more even but the damage had been done from Scotland's perspective.

France v Wales. Pic source RLEF.

Round Two:

3rd November, Galashiels, Scotland:

Scotland 12-50 Wales

Scotland hit the ground running and raced to an early 12-0 lead. Wales then stemmed the tide and fought back to be behind 8-12 at the break. It the second period it was all Wales, scoring nine tries in all and scoring 50 unanswered points.

3rd November, Dublin, Ireland:

Ireland 10-24 France

In an absorbing first half, France showed their class by shutting down Ireland which running in three tries to lead 18-0 at the break. Ireland scored early and late in the second half but also conceded one try so while Ireland tried hard, it was reasonably safe for France. France now qualify for the WC, and Ireland need to win against Wales to avoid the repecharge route.

Round Three:

10th November, Carcassonne, France:

France 28-10 Scotland

In a scrappy game, France showed their greater experience and class in taking a 14-4 half time lead. The second period, France went to a 28-4 lead before a late score gave the scoreline a more respectable look from the visitors point of view. The result handed France the Group A title, going through the three games undefeated.

11th November, Wrexham, Wales:

Wales 40-8 Ireland

The match had much riding on i, as was mentioned above. I expected a close encounter but it wasn't the case. The Welsh side took control from the outset and were a more effective team. They went to a 20-0 lead and by half time it was 20-4. The second half proved the first performance by the hosts wasn't a fluke and went on to take the encounter 40-8.

Wales are off to the 2021 WC and Ireland have some more games to play to make it there also. Scotland will join Ireland in the repecharge route.