A Emiliano Boffelli crossed the whitewash in Santiago del Estero on Saturday night to earn his Argentina side a Test series victory against a sorry looking Scotland, it marked the end of the European rugby season; one that began in September.
But in Ireland’s historic series in New Zealand, England’s continued success on the shores of Australia, Wales’s plucky effort in South Africa and Scotland’s disappointment in Patagonia the series finished six-six between the northern and southern hemispheres with the aggregate points scored also level at 280-280. Here are three takeaways from the summer series.
A land Down Under
Saturday saw yet another win for England in Australia under head coach Eddie Jones, his fifth in six matches. England’s 21-17 victory at the glorious Sydney Cricket Ground rounded off a tour where the travelling party didn’t offer too much, found some stars – in the likes of Jack van Poortvielt and Henry Arundell – and won.
Some have criticised Jones for a gameplan that did not exploit the best characteristics of his players – others have called the England style outright boring – but does it matter?
Since the 2019 World Cup final loss against South Africa, England have won 60 per cent (12/20) of all matches against other top 10 sides, a record eclipsed only by Ireland (68) and France (73).
That figure of 60 per cent is higher than the 37 per cent achieved before England went on a run to the 2007 World Cup final and bettered only by the cycles up to the 2003 and 2019 World Cups.
England are there or thereabouts, and though some may demand an improved style of play, a win at the Stade de France next year in the final of the next World Cup will be all that matters to Jones as his tenure in charge winds to a close.
Ireland on a roll
The four provinces of Irish rugby completed something only three other visiting teams had done previously: win a Test series on New Zealand soil.
After being blown away 41-19 in the opening match, Ireland strung together two astonishing performances in Dunedin (23-12) and Wellington (32-22) to down the All Blacks and seal a historic series win.
Ireland are now world No1s, with New Zealand down in fourth, and sit at the summit of the rankings with good reason.
Their barnstorming ability to hound the All Blacks into making mistakes before pouncing and creating opportunities of their own was admirable.
In all three Tests, too – like England did in the 2019 World Cup semi-final – Ireland managed to score early.
Instantly putting the All Blacks on the back foot and forcing them to chase the game looks to be a move with proven results.
New Zealand have now won just 58 per cent of their matches against other top 10 sides since the last World Cup, and head coach Ian Foster might fear for his position with others – such as former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and Crusaders’ manager Scott Robertson – touted for the job.
Ireland will be over the moon with their series win, but having never won a World Cup quarter-final, it will count for nothing if they cannot get past the last eight in France next year.
The world is watching
Yes, the majority of eyes were watching how the home nations got on below the equator but that was not the only rugby to light up this summer period.
Georgia beat Italy 28-19 in front of a raucous crowd in Eastern Europe to continue posing questions to rugby chiefs over their potential inclusion in the Six Nations.
Chile beat the United States 52-51 on aggregate across two weeks to earn a spot at a World Cup for the first time in their history. The result means the US could miss out on the showpiece event despite being hosts in 2031.
Wales won their first ever match on South African soil when they beat the Springboks 13-12 in the second Test. They ultimately went on to lose the series but it’s a building block for the side who were given no chance of a win. That said, they’ll want to avoid the plucky losers tag.