A drudging, a drubbing, a thriller and a timely reminder that New Zealand still reign supreme after a fascinating weekend to kick off the Autumn Internationals.
What were the biggest stories to come out of this weekend? What, if any, lessons have we learned not just for this series, but to take forward into future international games?
Beaten, bankrupt but brilliant – Samoa show their class after a hugely difficult week
After the Samoa Rugby Union admitted they were ‘bankrupt’ in midweek, few expected them to cause Scotland any problems, especially given the year Scotland have had.
And after a try less than 90 seconds in, many would have expected a thumping.
But four second half tries showed that Samoa still have plenty of fight left in them, even if they did ultimately go down 44-38 in the eleven-try thriller at Murrayfield.
Good start for Gregor, but much more needed to test the All Blacks
Gregor Townsend sought a fast attacking performance from his Scotland side, and they delivered, scoring six excellent tries.
But as good as they were in attack, they must close those gaps if they’re to improve. As they were, they’ll be crushed by better teams.
None more so than New Zealand, who ran in five tries against France this weekend. They are Scotland’s next opponents, so much improvement is needed and plenty needs to be looked at in the next week.
Wales really are looking to evolve, but go down to a clinical Australian side.
Wales looked much more dynamic and ambitious in attack. While it costs them a few chances and gave Australia opportunities (which they took) it was hugely refreshing to see given the way they’ve played in the last few years.
They played with pace, looked to offload, looked to go wide and with a lot of players out, they came close to beating a settled, strong Australian side.
Australia were clinical, but they were tested in the second half and will look to improve if they are to end their four-game losing run against England at Twickenham.
England need to improve themselves after a dire game at Twickenham
A lot of English fans have been annoyed by the criticism directed at England, given the fact they recorded a convincing win against a decent side, but Argentina were poor in attack and missed 14 points from the tee.
Add those points and England are beaten. They may have handed out some debuts and tried some different things out, but if England want to be world beaters, they need to do better.
It was the more experienced players, like Dan Cole and Dylan Hartley whose performances were concerning, not the debutants.
These players, and the rest of the team for that matter, have plenty of room for improvement and will look to make sure that happens heading into next week.
Rock solid Ireland thump South Africa to send a message to the world
Ireland’s performance wasn’t the prettiest either, as they wore down their South African counterparts. But three late tries gave them their biggest ever win against South Africa and with Fiji and Argentina to come, you would put your house on them repeating their 2014 feat of a clean sweep in the Autumn Internationals.
The gap between Ireland and South Africa for fourth spot in the World Rankings was previously just 0.36 points (the gap between New Zealand and England is 3.67 for top spot).
That gap is likely to greatly increase as Ireland solidify their spot in the top four in the World Rankings.
Fiji are missing their exiles
Fiji suffered a defeat to Italy this weekend, with the Azzurri snapping their nine-match losing streak with nine unanswered second half points.
Meanwhile, Fijians playing for other nations scored four tries. Nathan Hughes and Semesa Rokoduguni were the only scorers for England, while Waisake Naholo popped up with two key tries for New Zealand against France.
This weekend has been a stark reminder of the massive benefits the residency rule gives the world’s best, and the negative impact they have on the Tier 2 nations, particularly those from the Pacific Islands.
Nick Powell, Pundit Arena
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