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Argy – Bargy meets BLACK WALL!

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The much anticipated ‘payback’ match for New Zealand’s All Blacks against the Argentinian Pumas had finally arrived. In one of the hottest days recorded in decades, in Newcastle Sydney, the Pumas fielded a different team to their last game, with over ten changes. Probably looking for fresh legs as this was their third international in three weeks. Joe Moody the All Black number one, loose head prop was playing his 50th game in the black jersey. Akira Ioane was back in the starting XV in the number six jersey.

The Pumas’ were mourning the death of their football legend Diego Maradona and the All Blacks made a wonderful gesture before they started their Haka, in honour of their opponents. Sam Cane the skipper walked up to the Argentinian team who were facing up to the haka and laid down a black jersey with the name Maradona and the no10 on it. A very impressive move by the All Blacks and very much in keeping with the standards and behaviour that New Zealanders expect from the All Blacks! A very suitable honour for El Pibe de Ora – The Golden Boy.

The first scrum happened in the second minute and it was the All Blacks who dominated. The resulting scrum penalty was around 45 meters out and rather surprisingly, Jodie Barret was given the ball to take a shot at goal. He missed!

In the ninth minute, the All Blacks playing under a penalty advantage, well inside Puma territory saw Beauden Barret chip kick over the defence and center Lennert-Brown knocked on when collecting the ball. Usually referees play a much longer advantage but, on this occasion, and few others as the game progressed, the advantage for All Blacks was forgotten and a defensive scrum awarded to the blue and white team.

In the 12th minute a great long pass by Ritchie Muanga to Dan Coles the hooker, who has a penchant for lurking on the wing, saw him go over and score far right. Muanga converted and the Kiwis were into a 7 – 0 lead.

Aaron Smith who had a pretty average game showed some good clear, incisive thinking on this occasion, as he spotted a gap behind the Argentine line and kicked ahead gaining a lot of territory. A very kickable penalty was awarded to the All Blacks right in front of the posts and the three points were a mere formality. 10 – 0 to the New Zealand All Blacks.

The ABs were starting to dominate both in loose play and in the set pieces, particularly the scrums. However, the Argentine defence seemed impregnable and the Kiwis may even have been accused of trying too hard. Aaron Smith didn’t see a couple of opportunities to run with the ball and possibly score from five meters out and kept passing to heavily marked team members.

There were a few “pedantic” high tackle penalties awarded to the Pumas and some rough play from Argentina duly overlooked by the ref. A penalty advantage for the Blacks was also terminated rather quickly, again, but they kept their cool and refused to succumb to the mental games. There were a few uncharacteristic handling errors by the Pumas, possibly due to the high humidity levels and a greasy ball. In the 38th minute a penalty was awarded to the NZ team after many phases of dominating forward play. It was around 25 meters out and mid right, should have been an easy kick for Muanga but he struck the left upright and missed! So, the All Blacks went into half time with a 10 – 0 lead after having 76% of the possession and 77% of the territory! A tribute to the Argentinian defence. The All Blacks also missed two penalties, was this to prove costly?

The second half started with two All Blacks players crashing into each other when trying to collect the kick off from Argentina. Scott Barret and Caleb Clark both went for the ball and Clark came up with it, from what looked like a nasty clash. However, Scotty Barret sprang to his feet, but it left the spectators wondering what was going on. Akira Ioane who the referee had pinged a few times for largely imaginary offences, (one wonders if the officials earmark certain players who have reputations to watch closely during the game!) ripped the ball away for a turnover, from the Pumas during a possibly dangerous phase of loose play.

This was further emphasis of the dominance that the All Blacks had in loose play and one of the main reasons for their victory.

The Argentinian skipper was caught offside from kickable range, but the All Blacks chose to go for territory. The Argentinian defence was rock solid and it finally took a back peel from a line out, in the 52nd minute of the game, with Aardie Savea who stood at number two even though he was wearing the number eight jersey, charging through the defence to score mid left. Muanga managed the balance two points and 17 – 0 to the New Zealanders.

Sam Cane the skipper and hard-working wing forward of the All Blacks was impeccable in attack and defence. It was a treat to watch and a real lesson for an aspiring young player. He ensured the dominance in loose play and at the breakdown. From the 55th minute onwards both teams started resorting to their bench players. A couple of remarkable changes that made an impact on the score line was Sam Whitelock going off for Patrick Tuapoletu in the second row and Caleb Clark being replaced by Will Jordan in the wing.

In retrospect it was rather obvious that these players, particularly Jordan had been sent on to look for attacking opportunities as it was essential to win this game with a bonus point to have a better chance of securing the silverware at the end of the tournament.

Sure enough Will Jordan picked up a wild pass to nowhere by the Pumas, scythed his way through the defence and scored under the posts in the 68th minute, 24 – 0 to the All Blacks. This in the view of all New Zealanders was more like it.

In the 69th minute Jordan again intercepted an Argentine pass and ran around 35 meters to score far left. The replay showed Jordan out of position for defence as the Pumas were attacking, he was looking for the intercept! Muanga was back in kicking form and slotted it brilliantly, 31 – 0, bonus point under control and a fine clinical and professional performance from the New Zealanders.

In the 80th minute, after the hooter had gone, Ricco Ioane went over the line, but the try was disallowed as Lomax was pinged by the TV referee for a foul and yellow carded. I wonder when he will serve his time in the sin bin? As the rugby season is over. Maybe by eating his Christmas dinner 10 minutes late!!

The Pumas could have ended the match at this stage, but they chose to continue in a desperate attempt to cross their opponents line at least once. There was a penalty awarded when Sam Cane was cleaned out in what could even be deemed as a spear tackle. Cane got up bleeding from a gash on his right eye and this was too much for some of his team mates who went for the Argies. The penalty was promptly reversed in the mindless interpretation of the rules which has begun to characterise and degrade this game we love. However, the All Blacks were having none of this and found enough in the engine room to set replacement number four Patrick Tuapoletu off on a 20-meter run to score mid right. Insult to Injury for the Pumas with the final score 38 – 0 to the All Blacks.

All in all, a very ‘satisfying’ (in the words of Sam Cane) assertion of the quality of All Black rugby. Full kudos for sending Will Jordan on with the brief he had and the ability to ‘pick up the plums’ (in the words of the Coach). Respect your opponents by all means but beat them convincingly by playing professional rugby football. That is what this great game is all about.



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Will Smeed hits the Hundred’s first hundred to get Birmingham Phoenix off the mark

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Will Smeed hit the first hundred in the Hundred as Birmingham Phoenix thrashed reigning champions Southern Brave by 53 runs in a sun-soaked Second City.On NHS Heroes Night at Edgbaston, with NHS workers and support staff invited along as a thank you for their brilliant work, a 14,000 crowd was royally entertained as Smeed socked an unbeaten 101 off 50 balls to lift his side to 176 for 4.Brave replied with a paltry 123 all out as Henry Brookes enjoyed a dream debut on the ground he has always called home. The Edgbaston product took 5 for 25 and two excellent catches in the outfield as Phoenix banked their first victory of the campaign and handed James Vince’s side their first defeat in nine matches.

After Phoenix were put in, they leaned heavily on Smeed after Chris Benjamin, promoted to open, and Moeen Ali each raced to 17 but then perished. Benjamin sent up a skier off Marcus Stoinis before Moeen, having lifted George Garton deep into the crowd at midwicket, chopped James Fuller’s first ball on to his stumps.Smeed galloped to a 25-ball half-century, reached with six over long off off Jake Lintott in a stand of 80 in 44 balls with Liam Livingstone. Livingstone was the top six-hitter in last year’s Hundred, but this time never really hit his stride, scoring just two from his first seven balls and 21 from 20 before lifting Lintott to extra cover.

Into the last ten balls, the big question was whether Smeed could complete his first professional hundred. He needed five runs from the last three, and a four and a two took him to the landmark from 49 balls.Phoenix set about defending their total with an increasingly depleted seam attack, Adam Milne (Achilles) having joined Matt Fisher, Chris Woakes and Olly Stone on the absentee list. But Kane Richardson soon stepped up, bowling Vince with his first ball after the Brave captain had smote Moeen for 16 in three balls in the first set.

Richardson conceded just a single from his first five balls and Phoenix struck again when Stoinis was brilliantly caught by Brookes at short fine leg off Tom Helm.Brookes followed that up in sensational style by striking with his second, tenth, 13th, 15th and 17th balls. Quinton de Kock sent back a return catch, Tim David lifted to deep square leg, Alex Davies was bowled through an attempted scoop and Fuller and Garton were pinned lbw. Who needs Milne, Fisher, Woakes and Stone?

Brookes hadn’t quite finished. At 108 for 7, Brave’s one sliver of remaining hope lay in some pyrotechnics from the big-hitting Ross Whiteley, but when he hoiked Benny Howell to long leg who was waiting underneath the ball? Brookes made no mistake and Phoenix closed out a victory which owed everything to the precocious talent of two young Englishmen.Birmingham Phoenix 176 for 4 (Will Smeed 101*) beat Southern Brave 123 (Alex Davies 33, Henry Brookes 5-25, Kane Richardson 3-19) by 53 runs

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Niroshan Dickwella stars in Greens 8-run win over Reds

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Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella hammered an unbeaten 76 off 56 balls packed with 8 boundaries as Team Greens defeated Team Reds by 8 runs to register back to back wins in the SLC Skyexchange Invitational T20 League 2022 at the R. Premadasa International Stadium yesterday. Batting first the Greens ran up 161 for 6 off 20 overs with Dickwella dominating the innings. Skipper Dasun Shanaka struck 21 off 12 hitting 3 boundaries before getting run out followed by Dhananjaya de Silva 19 off 12 with 3 boundaries and Ramesh Mendis 11 off 8 (1×4).

The Reds did make a match out of it making 153 for 5 but lacked the final charge to make it despite having enough wickets in hand. Bhanuka Rajapaksa top scored with 34 off 28 with 2 boundaries while skipper Kusal Mendis made 30 off 28 with 3 boundaries and Kamindu Mendis 24 off 22 hitting a six.Upfront opening batsman Lasith Croospulle struck 31 off 24 inclusive of 3 boundaries for the Reds. Dickwella was adjudged Player of the Match.

CHIEF SCORES:

Team Greens 161/6 (20 Overs) (Niroshan Dickwella n.o. 76, Dasun Shanaka 21, Dhananjaya de Silva 19,.Dinesh Chandimal 15, Ramesh Mendis 11, Asitha Fernando 2/32, Sahan Arachchige 1/13, Matheesha Pathirana 1/25, Wanindu Hasaranga 1/30).

Team Reds

153/5 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 34, Lasith Croospulle 31, Kusal Mendis 30, Kamindu Mendis 24, Sahan Arachchige n.o. 19, Ramesh Mendis 1/22, Nimesh Vimukthi 1/23, Nuwan Thushara 1/32, Dhananjaya Lakshan 1/39).

(SLC)

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New Zealand juggernaut rolls on with another all-round win

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Odean Smith’s all-round show went in vain as West Indies’ batting once again did not manage to come to the party. Chasing 186, West Indies fell 13 runs short in the opening T20I in Jamaica as New Zealand’s juggernaut rolled on.

New Zealand had their returning skipper Kane Williamson put up a solid 47 off 33, and with Devon Conway’s 29-ball 43, the pair gave New Zealand a solid foundation to pile on the runs. There was a rain interruption in the 12th over for almost two hours, and although New Zealand lost momentum, briefly then, they recovered pretty quickly. Glenn Phillips and Daryl Mitchell got starts but couldn’t convert them. It was, however, Jimmy Neesham’s 15-ball 33 in the end that propelled New Zealand towards the finish they wanted. Odean Smith finished with a career-best 3-32, striking at vital junctures to dismiss New Zealand’s top three; else the West Indies could’ve been chasing a lot more.

Tim Southee struck in the second over to dismiss Kyle Mayers, but West Indies would take heart from Shamarh Brooks’s fighting 42 off 43 while wickets fell at the other end as all of New Zealand’s bowlers cashed in. West Indies were reduced to 114/7 with the inevitable end drawing closer, but resistance came, albeit late, of 50 off 23 balls from the eighth-wicket stand Smith and Romario Shepherd.

Smith smashed four boundaries and a six in his unbeaten 27 off 12, while Shepherd struck three sixes and a four in his 31 not out off 16 balls. New Zealand’s spinners shone through once again on a wicket that assisted them, returning four wickets. Santner was the pick with 3-19 in his four leading New Zealand’s defence, making the most of the knowledge gained from his CPL experience.

Brief scores:New Zealand 185/5 in 20 overs (Kane Williamson 47, Devon Conway 43; Odean Smith 3-32) beat West Indies 172/7 in 20 overs (Shamarh Brooks 42; Mitchell Santner 3-19) by 13 runs.

(Cricbuzz)

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