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Author Archive for Michael Aylwin at Twickenham

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‘He’s obsessed with getting better’: Eddie Jones hails May’s finishing ability

‘He’s a great role model for all the players in the team’May now joint-second on all-time England try-scorers listEddie Jones has hailed England’s match-winner Jonny May as among the best finishers he has seen. May’s two tries, the second an individual…

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Welsh flair falls short in the face of England’s ferocity despite late surge | Michael Aylwin

Wales were seeking an upset but snatched at their chances and left knowing they were flattered by three-point defeatThey are easier to like these days: brave against all odds and more interested in attack than the defence that has defined them for so l…

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Telusa Veainu completes Leicester’s comeback for draw against Harlequins

• Harlequins 30-30 Leicester • Tigers rescue match after trailing by 14 pointsTwo teams played here as if they had forgotten how to win. In the end, they forgot how to lose as well. A 30-30 cliffhanger might suggest rather more quality than was on show…

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England’s attacking edge too sharp for Wales but defence remains a concern | Michael Aylwin

Eddie Jones’s creative chaos appears to be working well in World Cup buildup as experimental team end grand slam winners’ record unbeaten runThese World Cup warmup games mean nothing, of course, but it does not stop us searching for significance. No on…

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Saracens show off power and glorious weapons of Premiership at its best | Michael Aylwin

Twickenham showpiece thrills time and again, and it helped that this one featured one of the teams of this or any ageOnce again this grand-final concept repays. There are still those who grumble about it – and there is no doubt the idea of a nine-month…

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Saracens show off power and glorious weapons of Premiership at its best | Michael Aylwin

Twickenham showpiece thrills time and again, and it helped that this one featured one of the teams of this or any ageOnce again this grand-final concept repays. There are still those who grumble about it – and there is no doubt the idea of a nine-month…

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England taking their foot off the gas is a recurring theme, admits Eddie Jones

• Coach says lessons will be learned in time for World Cup• ‘We need to get the right people in to help us sort it out’Eddie Jones has conceded England have a mental block to work through, with no more competitive games before the World Cup.Having romp…

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England salvage Six Nations draw after Scotland’s spectacular comeback

• England 38-38 Scotland• England lead 31-0 in first half and crumble in the secondThe championship may have been decided but the drama had scarcely begun. Scotland, looking utterly bereft at Twickenham once again, resurrected themselves from a 31-0 de…

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France switch between implosion and height of accomplishment | Michael Aylwin

France may shrug and move on, but at Twickenham their senior players let the side down allowing England to dominate proceedings from the startThe temptation is to throw arms skywards, to pronounce the death of a once-mighty rugby nation, but the truth …

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Exeter come up short on the day but the future is theirs to shape | Michael Aylwin

The Chiefs’ defence could not cope with the variety of Saracens’ attacks but the future is rosy for Rob Baxter’s well-run clubThe English champions have been toppled might be one way of looking at this. Another is that Saracens have simply reiterated t…

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Eddie Jones a happy man as Jamie George keeps Dylan Hartley on his toes

England drop their intensity a notch but still prove too much for Samoa to handle as they complete a perfect autumn series with a 48-14 victoryPrecious little generosity off the pitch for Samoa; precious little on it. England duly completed their autum…

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Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

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Schalk Brits to savour final season with Saracens before retirement

• Club persuaded front-row forward to play another year
• Brits played starring role in demolition of Northampton

Schalk Brits, all 36 years of him, looked as if he could carry on doing this well into his 50s. Nevertheless, after a typically mesmerising performance in the Twickenham sunshine, where Saracens thrashed Northampton, he revealed how near he came to retiring at the end of last season.

“I was very close,” he said. “I did accountancy in Stellenbosch and I spoke to Cambridge and Oxford about doing an MBA. The plan was to stop playing professional rugby and play one year of varsity. My wife was not that excited about me going back to be a full-time student, with three little ones, but now I am studying part time.”

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Blair Cowan rattles Harlequins to give London Irish a winning return

• London Irish 39-29 Harlequins
• Exiles’ power game seals bonus-point victory against disappointing Quins

It hardly needs saying that there are no easy games in the Premiership, but London Irish have given notice that the old saw will ring truer than ever this season. Not only did they beat Harlequins with a performance of some brutality at the breakdown and just as much wit in the spaces behind, but a bonus-point try at the death gives them the perfect start to their return season.

We now seem firmly in the musical-chairs era of Premiership rugby, whereby 13 teams of Premiership strength must circle round 12 places. If Bristol were not quite of that standard last season, one senses they will be next. London Irish were the ones obliged to sit out last season’s edition, languishing in the Championship, but the more established Premiership sides – and the Exiles are certainly one of those – do not waste their time down there, invariably returning stronger. And angry.

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Michael Cheika’s Wallabies slip behind as England have last laugh | Michael Aylwin

It looks as if it’s Michael Cheika’s shout after round four of a rivalry that has been as intense off the field as on it again goes the way of Eddie Jones’s England

If they ever met for that beer afterwards, Michael Cheika no doubt told his old mate to enjoy this while it lasts. Not that his friendship with Eddie Jones, which stretches way back to their playing days at Randwick, has looked particularly solid this year. It looked strained during the summer, but seemed to fall apart altogether in the buildup to this, the fourth instalment of the Eddie and Mikey show. Let’s hope they did meet for that beer. Rugby’s too trivial a thing to fall out over.

Still, that the scoreline reads 4-0 to Eddie will hurt. Jones has managed to transform an England side that Cheika had plunged into the depths of despair little more than a year ago, having just performed a miracle job himself on a Wallaby outfit in chaos. Cheika must have wondered on more than a few occasions this year what happened to the powers of regeneration that brought him the World Rugby coach-of-the-year gong in 2015.

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England 27-14 Argentina: how the players rated at Twickenham

Jonny May produced an inspired display and got through a tremendous amount of work after Eliot Daly’s sending-off, earning himself 8 out of 10

Mike Brown, Full-Back 7/10 If only he’d consummated his performance with the try it deserved. Could have been two, as would have finished the penalty try. Rock solid and metres galore. Great battle with Cordero.

Jonny May, Wing 8/10 England’s best player in our opinion. When his mate went off he had twice the work and did it. Defence remarkable, pace and support lines deadly. Well-deserved try. He’s back. And better.

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England’s Danielle Waterman stars in seven-try romp against Canada

• England Women 39-6 Canada Women
• Waterman’s brilliant solo try captured the mood of a rampant England win

The recent history between these two is colourful, but the team in white emerge from the latest instalment with as decisive a victory as any. After the men had dispatched Argentina, England’s women romped to a seven-try win over the team they beat in the World Cup final two years ago but who smashed them a few months ago.

Related: New Zealand fight back after England threaten famous upset at the Stoop

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South Africa’s thin confidence popped by farcical ‘Charlie Chaplin’ try for England | Michael Aylwin

The Springboks came to bully England but the scars inflicted by All Blacks thrashing were brutally exposed by a moment of slapstick at Twickenham

So, South Africa remained unbeaten against England for a week shy of 10 years, a run of 12 matches. It was an impressive record. It is something to cling to. And they will take anything just now.

This was a dispiriting prick of the balloon – and balloon-thick is South Africa’s confidence at the moment. Now they must add the 37 points conceded here to the 57 they shipped last time out a month ago to the All Blacks – at home in Durban. Lob in a host of other indignities over the last couple of years – to Argentina, Japan and Ireland, among others – and you begin to wonder how they managed that 10-year unbeaten run against England.

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England 37-21 South Africa: player ratings from Twickenham

Ben Youngs burst into bloom for England at Twickenham setting up two tries with superb breaks, while South Africa’s Francois Venter struggled in defence

Mike Brown, full-back, 6/10 Usual solidity at the back, first defender beaten on the counter and assists for tries. His assist for the game-breaking second won’t feature on a highlights reel, but they all count.

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Saracens make their experience count to expose young Chiefs of Exeter | Michael Aylwin

The experience gained in Sarries’ two losing finals of 2014 proved invaluable with Billy Vunipola to the fore but Exeter will be better for this reverse

They looked exhausted at times in the second half, the demands of a double-chasing campaign taking their toll, but Saracens have joined an elite that numbers Leicester and Wasps in the English game – and only them and Toulouse and Toulon in the wider European one.

They came close to joining them two years ago but the demands proved too much. How valuable have those two losing finals in 2014 proved, invaluable in sharpening the desire, developing the experience?

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