Rugby World Cup finals

On Friday night New Zealand beat Wales 40-17 to finish the Rugby World Cup with the bronze medals. The All Blacks played very well generally, bouncing back from their disappointing performance against a fired up and focussed England team in the semi-final. Wales played well at times, scoring two tries, but looked like they had run out of steam, and had lost some key players through injury.

Some of the players that missed out on the semi-final squad stepped up in their final game for the All Blacks, Ben Smith in particular who had been a surprise omission from the big games. And Sam Cane showed why he should have started the game last week. Selection mistakes may or may not have been costly against England – they played so well last week any All Bl;ack line-up would have struggled.

Last night in the final South Africa wore down England. It was a bit of a kick fest for most of the match, but they scored two very good tries in the last quarter with both wings touching down to win the final and their third world cup, beating England 32-12. They had an easier path through the play offs and had enough energy left.

England were warned they may have played their ‘final’ last week and that’s how it looked, they couldn’t lift themselves to the same heights last night. That’s not a surprise, near perfect performances usually don’t happen very often in any team sport.

England coach Eddie Jones was hailed as a hero last week, but couldn’t get his team over the final hurdle.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus wins the plaudits this time, having turned a struggling team around in a year to take the big four yearly prize.

So congratulations to South Africa, who clearly deserved their win, and became the first team to lose a pool match and go on the win the final. The draw may have helped, but that’s sport.

Women’s rugby world cup final

This deserves a post of it’s own, the highlights of the women’s rugby world cup final, with the Black Ferns beating England 35-29.

All Blacks and Black Ferns

Last night in Dunedin the All Blacks had a shocking first 15 minutes with Australia scoring 3 tries, one within a minute of the kick off through an AB mistake and leading 17-0,

The All Blacks played their way back into the game and took the lead mid way through the second half. Australia snatched the lead back with a late try, but the AB responded with a superb try under pressure to win by 35-29.

It was a very good come back by Australia from their performance last week, and it was great to have an exciting game down to the wire.

Black Ferns

The Black Ferns are currently playing England in the final of the women’s world cup. England led 17-10 at half time.

England seem to be tiring and the Black Ferns have put the after burners on, to jump out to a 41-25 lead late in the second half.

A late try to England but it looks to be too late for them to come back now.

The Black Ferns have won 41-32!

An electrifying end to the match captured here:

Crusaders win Super final

The Crusaders travelled to South Africa and defeated the Lions in the Super Rugby final.

(Someone mentioned this earlier but I was avoiding it as much as possible, I have just been able to watch it).

The Lions started well but lost the ball hard on attack and the Crusaders opened the score with a try at the other end.

The Crusaders then applied pressure and eventually got another try to open a handy lead.

A Lions player was red carded after a Crusader had a dangerous fall after jumping to catch a kick, unfortunate but the only option to the referee.

The Crusaders gradually stretched their lead, and while the Lions came back with two tries the Crusaders defence was too good for them to get close.

The Lions were unbeaten all season until the final, beating the Hurricanes last week in the semi.

The Crusaders were the other dominant team. The Hurricanes beat them in the final round, and the Highlanders went very close twice, but the Crusaders were just too good through the season and in the final.

Americas Cup final

The start of the finals series in the Americas Cup between Oracle USA and Team NZ started in Bermuda this morning NZ time.

Oracle need to win 7 races to win, Team NZ need to win 8 (they incurred a penalty due to an odd heats rule and started the final on -1).

I couldn’t avoid seeing the results of the first two races on Twitter but I’m watching delayed coverage on Prime now.

The first race looks like a rout. Oracle won the start but received a penalty and Team NZ took over the race from there.

Team NZ started well in the second race, lost all of a large lead on one leg, then raced away after a poor gybe by Oracle.

After day 1 it is 1-0 to Team NZ.

Super final – Hurricanes v Lions

The Hurricanes play the Lions in the Super final tonight. Both teams deserve to be there, having played impressively in the quarter finals and semi finals.

As a neutral-ish observer it will be a fascinating game, with both teams very good in both defence and on attack from anywhere on the field.

The weather may play a part. It is currently 5.1 degrees and wet in Wellington with a strong south easterly averaging 43 km/h gusting to 67 km/h and the forecast is for more wind and ‘occasional showers’.

So a slight advantage to the Hurricanes perhaps, at home and in familiar weather conditions.

Dane Coles is expected to play.

Wet and windy but not that many mistakes being made.

One miracle catch by Cory Jane of a low kick resulting in a try was the difference in a tight first half. Hurricanes 10, Lions 3.

A dour game based on defence. Too many mistakes by the Lions, a couple of them costly with a try scored off a fluffed lineout.

Hurricanes too good and deserved winners, 20-3. When did they last concede a try?

Congratulations Hurricanes.


New Zealand 34 -Australia 17 – Rugby World Cup Final 2015

Half time New Zealand 16, Australia 3.

The two best teams in the tournament are contesting the final.

I hope that it’s a game worthy of the occasion and the winner is worthy of the title.

UPDATE AT FINAL WHISTLE: that was a great game worthy of the occasion and the All Blacks are worthy winners, but a lot of credit to Australia who looked down and out but came back to close the score right up. But the All Blacks finished too strongly.

A great finale to some great careers, including Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Mana Nonu.

And a very commendable effort from Australian coach Michael Cheika – if he coaches the Wallabies through to the 2019 World Cup in Japan the Wallabies could be formidable.

Rugby World Cup prediction

I’ve been thinking about the chances of an All Black win in the world cup. They must be clear favourites and I rate them a 70% chance of winning.

They have a number of advantages over Australia:

  • world cup final experience
  • record over the last four years
  • less injuries and attrition and through this tournament
  • fitness (the Wallabies looked jaded in the second half against Argentina)
  • pressure on David Pocock (smart tactic building him up as essential for Aus win)
  • Wallabies have had to play all their cards, All Blacks have something up their sleeves
  • All Black versatility (winning a run away quarter final and a close hard fought semi)
  • captaincy
  • coaching (although the Australian coach Michael Cheika has transformed the Wallabies)

Of course Australia still have the goods and the chance to win, but i think it will be harder for them and less likely.

A prediction breakdown :

  • 30% – a 11+ win to New Zealand
  • 40% – a 1-10 point win to New Zealand
  • 20% a 1-10 point win to Australia
  • 10% – a 11+ win to Australia

Sorry Aussies, I may be biased but I think that’s a fair reflection of their respective merits. But both teams are obviously in with a good chance.

A tribute to John Armstrong’s last column

John Armstrong’s last column is presumably in the Herald today, and online John Armstrong: A Farewell to all that.

No journalist is always at their best but I have usually read John’s columns, insights and political reporting with interest.

Image result for john armstrong

Best columnist 2013

His last column is headed with an explanation:

John Armstrong has worked in Parliament’s press gallery for nearly three decades. For a good chunk of that time he led the Herald’s coverage of politics. Ill health has forced him to quit the job he loves. In this final assignment – which he set himself – one of New Zealand’s most astute political observers reflects on the politicians he’s encountered.

Then John writes his last political commentary.

Here is a message to the anonymous Herald reader who was so angry with a column I had written that he offered to drive me to the airport on condition I left the country.

Save yourself the bother, mate. I’m out of here. I’m on my bike (or at least, would be if I could get on a bike).

For the past 16 of the nearly 30 years I have been in Parliament’s press gallery, I have been locked in what is inevitably a losing battle with the ravages of Parkinson’s disease.

There will only be one winner. And it won’t be me who stands on the victory dais. Things have reached the sorry stage that this has to be the last regular political column I will be writing for the Weekend Herald.

He then recalls some of his most memorable political events and people. It’s a longer than normal column and is very interesting.

He then gets to our current Prime Minister and our last Prime Minister.

That leaves Helen Clark and John Key. They are head and shoulders above the rest.

Both had the array of attributes that are needed in a prime minister. Like a great all-rounder in cricket, the role demands one to be as lethal with the ball as the bat. Key may just outscore Clark as a consensus builder, but she had more intestinal fortitude when it came to pushing unpopular causes. But we’re talking at the margins here. You can argue which is the best until the cows have not only come home but are back in the far paddock again.

Both were faced with the most difficult decision a prime minister has to make — whether to send military personnel into a war zone. Clark did so in Afghanistan. Key has done so in Iraq. Neither ducked for cover.

So why quibble. The trophy for best prime minister is shared. History, anyway, may judge them by the massive contributions of their respective finance ministers, Michael Cullen and Bill English. Two formidable partnerships, for sure.

Not everyone at Kiwiblog and The Standard will agree with John’s non-partisan accolades for both Clark and Key but I think he has made a fair judgement here.

He thinks out democracy is stronger now:

There is another question that deserves attention. To twist an old Robert Muldoon quip, is New Zealand’s democratic fabric stronger now than when I first arrived at Parliament? Arguably, yes. MMP has made Parliament not only more representative of New Zealand society but also less tolerant of ministerial mistakes and mischief. Ministerial resignations are much more common.

It’s far from a perfect democracy, but as the saying goes it’s better than all the alternatives.

What is worrying is the decline in voter turnout, especially among the young.

The best way of improving our democracy is to improve engagement of the people, so this is a worry. But for those who do want to engage in politics in New Zealand in some way it has never been easier.

John waves for a new flag.

A parting shot. It was never my role to express personal opinion. But speaking as someone of English nationality, for heaven’s sake, let’s change the flag. While New Zealand is a young country, it now has a much greater self-confidence.

It is time to express that confidence and the nation’s separate identity by coming out from under the shadow of what is now an irrelevant foreign ensign otherwise known as the Union Jack.

But seeing how contentious some have tried to make a relatively simple flag change process his last shot does seem to have justified despair.

And while we are about it, it is long past time New Zealand became a republic. Unfortunately, I’m whistling in the wind on that one.

And he ends with his future:

As for me, there may be a lot more tweeting and even, God forbid, a blog, and maybe even the occasional contribution to the Herald. Otherwise it’s time for fresh voices from a new generation to issue the verdicts on our politicians.

Thanks John. Your columns have long been printed in the Otago Daily Times as well as the Herald so I have read a lot of your work. Your balance and insight have been laudable.

You have helped interest me in politics. And despite what the bitter and twisted at The Standard and The Daily Blog have said about you because you didn’t emulate Pravda I’ve enjoyed and benefited from what you have shared with New Zealand.



The Hurricanes had a great Super 15 season, but they weren’t quite great enough when it really mattered, in the final, and that matters.

The Highlanders had a very good season and played a great final finishing off the best, beating the two most recent champions through the play offs and beating the best overall team in the final.  so they are worthy champions.


Congratulations to a job well done. A warm glow of pride spread over the south last night, and it will remain in place today when the team returns to Dunedin.

The Hurricanes tried repeating their usual and it didn’t quite work for them in a few ways. They missed their first three kicks at goal, they didn’t succeed with the devastating breaks they are renowned and feared for, and they couldn’t quite finish off a frenetic game.

The Highlanders weren’t perfect either, especially during a wobbly period mid second half when the Hurricanes closed the gap to four points.

But they dug in and held on, finishing strongly enough to deny the Hurricanes.

There was an air of ‘we deserve this’ about the Hurricanes – they deserved to win because they had been clearly the top team so far, they deserved to win because of Jerry Collins, they deserved to win because it was the final match for stalwarts like Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

But thinking you might deserve something is not always enough.

The Highlanders, a team of mostly unknowns, played like a team, a team determined to do whatever they could to win.

They had built up some very good skills and a wide range of tactics through the season.

And when it mattered they had the guts, the fitness, the nous and the determination to get over the final line first.

So they are deserving winners.


And here in the south we will celebrate probably the best and most satisfying southern team win I’ve experienced for quite some time. We’ve got a year to feel like champions.

Planet Rugby has the details: Highlanders stun ‘Canes in thriller

A report with some video: Highlanders upset Hurricanes to claim first Super Rugby title in Wellington
(I’m sure some Hurricanes players and supporters are upset but the result was hardly a shock if you had seen what the Highlanders had proven capable of).

The Highlanders had knocked off the Chiefs in Dunedin, then bamboozled the Waratahs in Sydney before jetting into Wellington, but few thought they could beat the regular season champions on their home patch. However, within the Highlanders’ camp there was no doubt according to co-captain Ben Smith.

“We knew from the start we had something special and along the way other people started to believe too. We talk about brotherhood and being good mates and you’ve seen that over the past few weeks,” he said.

And they showed that in the final last night.