France U20 30-29 Scotland U20
At the beginning of the day we were all talking about Wales Under 20s and New Zealand (The Baby Blacks) U20s, and at the end of the day talk returned to that topic as Wales improbably overturned an 92-0 thrashing to beat the junior Kiwis for the first time ever at the Junior World Championships. That’s not just Wales beating them, that’s anyone beating them, apparently.
The earlier discussion saw myself and a few of the folk over on Twitter railing against the establishment (well, Sky Sports) for grabbing the most comprehensive coverage ever for an age grade tournament – every match is being covered by the host broadcaster – and then cherry picking the ones they like the look of. This while demanding exclusivity of coverage in this country so that those of us who get stiffed for footage (Scotland fans) cannot actually access the legal feeds from the IRB website available to most of the rest of the world.
My point was, why not show the Scotland game, which was far more likely to be a close affair than the Wales game when they were going to get gubbed by the Junior ABs? Given Sky have often made such decisions at the expense of Scottish pro-teams in Europe, it seemed only fair.
Of course as it turns out, Wales weren’t going to roll over, so I suppose Sky made (for them) the right call.
Unfortunately I think rights for these tournaments are negotiated as a package rather than by Union. The SRU having some sort of buy-back clause whereby they can sell on (or stream themselves) footage of any of their games left un-televised could undoubtedly help awareness of the game grow in this country. After all, Sky have no such responsibility – hence why if it comes down to a choice (I realise Sky can’t show everything) we as a second class rugby nation continually get overlooked in favour of the “box-office”. The only way to turn this around, I suppose, would be to become a major rugby power in terms of performances (win a Grand Slam or World Cup!) or viewing numbers so that broadcasters have to take note.
There’s always a way to fix these things though, and while we won’t go into that, I was able to catch most of the Under 20s game against a very physical French team. A few highlights:
- Jamie Farndale and Harry Leonard both had great games. Really looking forward to seeing them get a chance for Edinburgh this season. Farndale was tireless in his kick chase and Leonard’s kicking from hand and the tee was very good (he also bagged a try) Perhaps one key mistake was kicking possession with basically the last play in a bid for territory. Luckily Scotland regained the ball shortly thereafter but still, those seconds were valuable in a game as close as this.
- Mark Bennett had a quieter game but he popped up later on when ball was going through the hands more regularly. Still seems able to break through gaps with ease.
- France had some massive units including a 130kg prop, so Scotland did well to match or at least halt them physically. They also looked pretty handy playing at pace, but ultimately their discipline or concentration let them down.
- Scotland were weak in the scrum though that is to be expected against a hefty French pack filled with names that suggested either East European or Pacific Island heritage. They did get done for an early engage quite a lot though, which is a problem Scots packs have often suffered from.
- Irish-born ref (representing the RFU) JP Doyle had a good game too, fearlessly awarding the penalty try for a high tackle on Will Bordill who had read a misthrown French lineout and made it to the try-line. He communicated clearly and often with both sets of players in English and French. Pundits who don’t like talkers wouldn’t like him, but everyone knew where they stood.
- Scotland were competing blow for blow and every time France scored a try Scotland would creep back with a penalty kick or two, or a try of their own. Given an extra 3 or 4 minutes of time on the clock Scotland could easily have dropped a goal or a penalty to win this one.
If you want to know (just about) everything else that happened, then take a look back over my Twitter feed for the day, apologies if yours got clogged up as a result. I may look for an alternative broadcast method in future, but it seems to work.
France Under-20s – 30
Tries Fickou (2, 28), Kazubek (55), Taofifenua (77)
Cons Otazo (3), Selponi (57)
Pens Selponi (37, 46)
Scotland Under-20s – 29
Tries Penalty try (39), Leonard (64), Farndale (72)
Cons Leonard (39)
Pens Leonard (12, 20, 34, 59)
Needless to say, Scotland’s final pool game on Tuesday won’t be on Sky. While Wales missed out on coverage during the first round of matches, it’s not some sort of round robin of equity as England and Wales will be the choices again on Tuesday, despite Argentina having turned Australia over this afternoon to go top of Pool C and as I type this England on the verge of getting beaten by Ireland.