It was another action-packed weekend of test rugby as the Autumn Nations Series and November internationals continued.
Although South Africa beat Wales in Cardiff, New Zealand retained their place at the top of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, while there were also victories for England, Fiji, France, Ireland, Scotland and Portugal.
Having digested all of that, here is what we learned…
Ashman makes a splash on Scotland debut
Followers of U20 international rugby would have been aware of Ewan Ashman’s scoring ability prior to Scotland’s 15-13 defeat of Australia at Murrayfield on Sunday.
The Sale Sharks hooker scored seven tries in five matches at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Rosario in 2019 and followed that up with three in five in the following year’s U20 Six Nations.
But it seems that Ashman saved his best finish for his test debut. Having received the ball from Pierre Schoeman five metres from the goal line, the 21-year-old was ushered towards touch by Izaia Perese but somehow managed to keep himself airborne and in play while touching the ball down.
It was a finish worthy of a world-class winger and edged the hosts closer to their third successive victory against the Wallabies.
The try also capped a fine first appearance for the senior Scotland team for Ashman, who replaced George Turner early on and never looked out of place as the home side secured a famous win.
Cokayne leads England to another emphatic win
England consolidated their place at the top of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini with a second record win over the Black Ferns in seven days.
The hosts had expected a backlash from New Zealand but instead England overpowered their visitors to run in eight tries and seal a 56-15 victory.
Like in Exeter last month, England dominated the set-piece at Franklin’s Gardens with the main beneficiary being Amy Cokayne, who claimed a hat-trick of tries within 44 minutes.
It was fitting reward for a player of the match performance from Cokayne, who was a willing carrier and constant presence on both sides of the ball during her 57 minutes on the pitch in Northampton.
That her replacement Lark Davies came off the bench to add another try only served to highlight the strength of depth at coach Simon Middleton’s disposal.
Following the match, though, Middleton insisted England “will have to be better” to win Rugby World Cup 2021 next year. The Red Roses’ rivals have been warned.
Metronomic Jaminet key to French success
Melvyn Jaminet continued his impressive start to life in test rugby as he kicked France to a 29-20 victory against Argentina on Saturday night.
Eyes were understandably drawn to the Antoine Dupont-Matthieu Jalibert-Romain Ntamack axis when the France team to face Argentina was announced last week.
But, although there were glimpses of the attacking rugby it could produce, not least when Dupont went over for a disallowed try, it was the unerring accuracy of Jaminet’s boot that proved decisive.
The Perpignan full-back kicked 19 points at the Stade de France, converting both his side’s tries and adding five penalties, the last of which ended any hopes of a comeback from Los Pumas.
Since Jaminet came into the team during the tour of Australia in July, he has missed only two of the 24 kicks he has attempted at goal. It is a useful weapon for Les Bleus coach Fabien Galthié to have in his arsenal.
Joyce picks up for Wales where she left off in sevens
Having spent the past few months carving up defences at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the World Rugby Fast Four tournaments in Canada, Jasmine Joyce reminded everyone she is just as prolific in 15s.
❝ It’s so good to be back out here, especially in front of the crowd.❞— Welsh Rugby Union 🏉 (@WelshRugbyUnion) November 7, 2021
Double try scorer @joyce_jaz gives her thoughts after beating Japan in front of an excited crowd at Cardiff Arms Park. pic.twitter.com/py1mXCl5Fz
Joyce scored two second half tries as Wales secured their first win in almost two years with a 23-5 defeat of Japan at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday.
Her first score was classic Joyce as the Bristol Bears flyer stepped inside one attempted tackle from a defender who had over-committed before handing off another and sprinting to the line.
The second was somewhat simpler but still needed finishing as the full-back displayed impressive lower body strength to burrow over from close range.
In between her two tries Joyce proved there is more to her game than scoring when she put in a tackle on opposite number Ria Anoku that stopped the Japan full-back in her tracks. Wales and Joyce will now face South Africa and Canada in buoyant mood.
Portugal stretch unbeaten run with historic win over Canada
Arguably the result of the weekend came in Lisbon where Portugal claimed a first-ever win over Canada, beating Kingsley Jones’ side 20-17.
Canada had looked to be heading to victory when Corey Thomas scored his second try of the match and Rob Povey converted to make it 17-15 to the visitors with 10 minutes left.
However, with time ticking towards the 80-minute mark, Manuel Cardoso Pinto raced onto a perfectly weighted kick to dot the ball down just before it went dead.
Pinto’s intervention created history for the steadily improving Portuguese, who currently sit second in the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 table and are very much in contention for a place at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Portugal are now on a four-test winning run and have suffered only narrow defeats to Georgia and Romania since REC 2021 began in March. They will measure those recent improvements against RWC 2019 quarter-finalists Japan next Saturday.