Autumn Nations Series 2022: Scotland v Australia

Autumn Nations Series 2022: Scotland v Australia

The Test window may not start until next weekend, but Scotland chose to kick off their Autumn Nations Series a week early with the visit of Australia. The Wallabies were welcoming back their talismanic openside Michael Hooper to the squad—though James Slipper retained the captaincy—and though the visitors appeared to have the upper hand early on, Scottish jackalling provided some crucial turnovers. However when a scrum penalty allowed the Scots to kick themselves up to just outside the Australian 22, they took advantage of their first real attacking opportunity, with some well-timed passes from Sione Tuipulotu and Blair Kinghorn unleashing fullback Ollie Smith to step 2 defenders to go over for the opening try. A Bernard Foley penalty quickly cut the deficit as he continued his return to Test rugby, but the Scottish defence and some poor control at the breakdown kept the attack in check, and when the Scots found themselves down the other end the should have made it 2tries from 2 attacks, only for Tuipulotu to fumble the wide pass with the corner at his mercy. However, a penalty gave the hosts another bite at the apple and they laid siege on the try line, only for early replacement Glen Young to find himself held up over the line. A trio of penalties in quick succession saw Scotland go from attacking the Australian 22 to defending a lineout 5m from their line, but the defence held strong and another great jackal allowed them to win back the ball and clear their lines. As the clock ticked down at the end of the first half, a failure to roll away from Dave Cherry allowed Foley to en the half with a kick at goal, which he successfully hit to put the Wallabies ahead 5-6 at the break.

The second half could not have started much better for Scotland: Foley saw the ball slip out of his hands as he tried to pass wide in a strike move, and Blair Kinghorn was able to hack it on and win the footrace to score his team’s second try, while also kicking the conversion to make it 12-6. As the visitors struggled with their discipline early in the half, the Scots were going to the corner with their penalties but failing to get the results they wanted as the Wallabies dealt with the driving maul, with Taniela Tupou winning 2 penalties in his first 10 minutes in the pitch to end 2 attacks. after a third 5m lineout maul was immediately stopped in the second half, Scotland chose to call for the tee with the next penalty and Blair Kinghorn added the 3 points to start pulling away on the scoreboard. The home team were taking over the game, and when Duhan van der Merwe beat Andrew Kellaway to Ali Price’s box kick, he broke down the wing and was stopped just short by Bernard Foley and Tate McDermott, who was then the victim of a dangerous clear-out by Glen Young, who was sent to the sin bin, with referee Luke Pearce judging that the contact being made by his bicep reduced the danger compared to contact with the shoulder. With the extra man for 10 minutes, Australia started looking for gaps and found a dangerous grubber into the in-goal well covered by van der Merwe, but the extra man and increased speed of ball with the arrival of Nic White soon made a difference as they forced an overlap to send skipper Slipper over just after the hour. An error from Tom Banks trying to take a Blair Kinghorn kick above his head in the swirling winds of Murrayfield gifted the hosts a lineout in the 22, however after setting a platform, the wide ball to captain Jamie Ritchie was just a little too high for the flanker, who was probably left wishing that he had hugged the touchline rather than coming some distance infield. Meanwhile just minutes later, an awful penalty kick to the corner from Foley was let off as van der Merwe and Smith failed to communicate and allowed the ball to bounce in between them and into touch, while a penalty off the resulting phase allowed Foley to kick the Wallabies into a 15-16 lead with 9 minutes remaining. With just 2 minutes left in the game, Tupou was penalised for not supporting his weight at the breakdown and Blair Kinghorn stepped up to kick the Scots into what should have been a late lead, only for him to pull the ball left of the posts, and with the clock in the red, the Wallabies made sure that their restart bounced into touch to secure a 15-16 victory.

Making it worse

Except for the try when down a man, Scotland’s defence looked like it had answers for the questions that Australia were posing, while the jackals were a constant menace for the Wallabies. However, Scotland were never able to truly pull away on the scoreboard, and eventually paid the price.

While part of this was down to costly handling errors and an insistence on continuing to kick to the corner (when the opposition was dealing with the 5m lineouts) rather than slowly build up a lead 3 points at a time, the manner of Scottish indiscipline is what really killed them.

Not only did Scotland concede more penalties, but the would also give them away in burst of 2 or 3. What this meant is that almost every time they gave away a penalty, they were then compounding the issue with more penalties, allowing the visitors to first clear their lines, then find an attacking position, then either kick for goal or go for the corner to put heavy pressure on the defence. As good as their defence is, if they keep allowing the opposition to get possession and territory, it is just gifting the opposition the game.

What will be even more disappointing is how many penalties were soft or stupid. Multiple times they were penalised for putting too much pressure on the Wallabies lineout, there was a lazy tackle off the ball by Pierre Schoeman, who had earlier been penalised for jumping into a tackle, and while Grant Gilchrist’s knock on meant that Glen Young’s illegal cleanout did not cost a try, it still allowed the Wallabies to clear their lines with no pressure, rather than having to win the scrum and set up a clearing kick, which would have likely given Scotland the ball around the edge of the 22.

Scotland’s defence should just theoretically get better with the return of Chris Harris next week. But until the team sorts out its discipline, much of this defending will be in vain.

The race for number 10

With a World Cup just a year away, the lack of a clear starter at 10 must be a real worry for the Wallabies. Quade Cooper looked in position to take that role, but injury has left him unavailable at a crucial time. In his absence, Noah Lolesio looked to be the obvious choice, but has struggled to keep hold of the shirt in recent years and has recently found himself playing backup to Bernard Foley.

And that in itself is a worry to me. Foley can be a great talent who can win games—just look at the victory over England at RWC2015—but he also has a long list of questionable performances in the gold shirt. Even tonight, he struggled to create anything of note, while a couple of kicks were horribly mis-hit (though he got away with one thanks to a Scottish mistake) and a handling error during a strike play led to Kinghorn’s try.

At 33, it’s likely that the World Cup will see the end of Foley’s career, and it feels like a match against Scotland would have been the right chance to increase Lolesio’sexperience as a Test starter, especially as he has generally performed well in recent outings for the Wallabies. With 4 games still to come on the tour, Dave Rennie has a big call to make. Does he stick with Foley as the starter, which will likely see Lolesio on the bubble for the World Cup squad (if Cooper is fit) and delay his development? Or does he try to give them both roughly equal playing time, which in turn reduces the time that players can gel as a combination. The selection against France next week will be telling…

rugby autumn nations series logo

Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today, I will be looking at the series Welcome to Wrexham

Key facts

Released in 2022

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, Humphrey Ker, Wrexham A.F.C.

Synopsis In September 2020, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney announced their intention to buy Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh football (or soccer to the Yanks) club playing in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. This series follows the actors’ purchase of the club, before following them through the remainder of that season and the whole of the next one, as they look to earn promotion from the National League, where they have played since their relegation from League 2 at the end of the 2007/8 season.


Sporting documentaries following a team through the year are growing in popularity following the success of series like Sunderland ‘Til I Die and Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and while Welcome to Wrexham is another in the growing list of these documentary series, it is not just that, and that is due to the main men: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

You may know Rob from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a comedy series which he created and co-developed and on which he serves as an executive producer, co-writer, and occasional director, while also playing the role of Ronald “Mac” McDonald. And Ryan Reynolds… well, enough said there. And their personalities are clearly on show throughout this series, as they will provide voice-over for the series, so even episodes that barely feature them in the story still benefit from their involvement and help to make this a series that will attract viewers who wouldn’t usually look at a sporting documentary like this. And yet while their influence on the series is huge, they don’t take over the show, allowing a number of people affiliated with the club—including manager Phil Parkinson, players, staff and local fans—to all have their own part in this show that is equally important.

And even more than that, Ryan and Rob have had the foresight to know that this show will bring in a lot of viewers, especially in the USA, who won’t understand soccer, british slang, the English football league structure or have ever heard of Wrexham, or even Wales for that matter! And so the show does a great job of explaining things like the league structure, promotion and relegation with quick, simple graphics and explanations that allow the uninitiated to get the info they need without taking too long and making die-hard fans mentally switch off, while they will also take the time to give American translations to certain British words to help avoid confusion, such as “pitch” and “quid”. But even as a Brit, these quick translation breaks don’t feel annoying as they fit the tone of the show, as we have 2 Americans who are new to soccer taking over the club, it just feels like part of their learning process, while the show actually still taught me in these moments by including the Welsh translation.

And this is what I really came to love as the show went on. It is clear that Rob and Ryan respect the community and don’t just see this as a way to earn some extra clout, and that comes through as we see Rob learning Welsh, while the Welsh translations being included lead to an episode mid-way through the series that puts the sporting narrative on hold and instead takes 30 minutes to teach the audience about Welsh history and culture. This show isn’t just gaining Wrexham A.F.C. more fans, it’s putting Wrexham and Wales on the world map.

Of course in all this, I haven’t really mentioned much about the sport side of things, and some die-hards may sometimes wish that we got a bit more of a sporting focus, but that is not the aim of this series, as it instead shows just what goes into owning a club, while I’m sure that season 2 may start to focus on the sporting side a little more now that the team and players have been introduced to the masses. But that is not to say that those stories are not there in season 1. We see the pressure Phil Parkinson is under after early struggles, we see the impact of star striker Paul Mullen, the loss of star defender Aaron Hayden and keeper Rob Lainton to injury. We see a cup run that ends in Wembley heartbreak and a league campaign that ends in crazy fashion. And yet we still have time to look at the role of hooliganism in football after an incident following a game, the role that football can have in male relationships, and even does a great job of finding the right tone to address one of the players going through the heartbreak of his son being stillborn.

This is a show not to be missed, and it says a lot that in a month where there were so many major shows coming out on streaming, I was equally excited for new episodes of this as I was for House of the Dragon and Andor, and more so than She-Hulk and Rings of Power—something that I would never have expected ahead of time as I am such a massive geek!

My highlight of the series: Phil Parkinson’s “enthusiasm counter” during his team talks.

What did you think of Welcome to Wrexham? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Top 5: Blindside Flankers

Top 5: Blindside Flankers

Welcome back to my “Top 5” rugby series. This 13-article series has been inspired by countless conversations among friends or other fans over the years and will see me selecting my top 5 men’s rugby players who are currently playing at each position.

With all of these lists, I am picking who I feel are the best 5 at each position, so there may be some surprises in there as I select the players who I feel are most appropriate to the position despite there being multiple ways to play many positions. I try to watch rugby from a broad range of leagues as well as plenty (or too much, depending how you ask) of Test matches, but I appreciate that I still have some blind spots, while a list like this is subjective; so while the majority of each article will be my list, I also set my good friend and occasional collaborator Phil the challenge to select his top 5, which I will include below. I’d also love to hear your picks, so go ahead and post them in the comments!

With the tight five now covered, today we move ontot he back row, starting with blindside flankers.

Top 5

So before I start this one, I just wanted to address a few things. Blindside flanker is probably the position that I found hardest to fill, simply because there are so many different ways you can go tactically at the position. You can be a physical enforcer, a dynamic ball-carrier, a reliable tackler, or an extra lineout option. And as such, there are so many players who can fill the 6 shirt, including some more dynamic locks like Courtney Lawes, Tadhg Beirne and Franco Mostert, though I have avoided selecting any of them here as I feel that they are still better at lock. Similarly, a number of teams may choose to play a second openside at the position, to the point that some 7s have become something of a 6.5, a threat at the breakdown that must be accounted for like a 7, but also playing a role more like a traditional blindside.

Pablo Matera

In my opinion one of the best back rows in the world. Capable of playing at either 6 or 8, the former Pumas captain carries with strength, but is far from a crash ball, being a real threat if given a little space, and with the handling (and kicking) skills to keep a break going. But he is not just a man for the attack, being a super-reliable tackler and also a threat at the breakdown. One of the few real all-rounders who excels at this position.

Pieter-Steph du Toit

I must be honest, recent performances have not been to the same level I am used to seeing on here, but I will give him one more shot on the strength of his career and past performances. With the size and skills to also play lock, du Toit may wear 7 but that is only due to the South African numbering system that has the 6 and 7 shirts the opposite way around from the rest of the world. A dynamic carrier when given a chance, his main role is to help solidify the set piece and to be a reliable tackler, while he covers the pitch with ease from minute 1 to 80.

Sam Underhill

Originally a 7, he has spent a lot of his career, especially at Test level, in the number 6 shirt due to the options available in the England back row. Always a danger at the breakdown, Underhill has moulded his game to be reminiscent of Dan Lydiate: a super-tackler who will deliver the big hit if it is on, but will prioritise making sure the tackle is completed, while his ability as a carrier is often underlooked due to England’s style of play under Eddie Jones.

Peter O’Mahony

I must admit that the Munster flanker was not on my top 5 when i first created my list, however 2022 has seen O’Mahony in the form of his life, which has catapulted him up this list. An experienced operator at the lineout, O’Mahony is a reliable tackler, but an absolute nuisance (to put it nicely) at the breakdown, and a leader on the pitch.

Jamie Ritchie

One of the younger players on this list, Ritchie has become something of an ever-present in the Scottish squad when available. Like Matera, he is somewhat of a jack of all trades, though maybe not with quite the same distribution skills. Able to put in a big hit and take advantage of a gap, he does a great job of shoring up the Scottish defence and can even get over the ball to win turnovers, when he isn’t setting up teammate Hamish Watson for the steal.

Phil’s top 5: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Michael Leitch, Pablo Matera, Peter O’Mahony, Courtney Lawes

Who makes your top 5?

Don’t cry because it’s over…

Don’t cry because it’s over…

“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”

– Dr Seuss

This weekend as the end of an era. With the release of it’s season-ending event, Schmoedown Spectacular 7, the Movie Trivia Schmoedown came to an end. What started with a chance for Schmoes Know crew members JTE and Christian “Cobbster” Ruvalcaba to get bragging rights became something so much bigger, with weekly matches, multiple divisions, live events in front of sell-out crowds, player drafts, and even international and celebrity competitors.

I was lucky enough to find the show in its fourth season, and despite not being a movie buff, a fan of wrestling (the Schmoedown was very heavily based on WWE, and included kayfabe) or even knowing many of the competitors beyond some of the Schmoes and Collider regulars, I was almost instantly hooked! I would watch every match as well as the Schmoedown Rundown, the official aftershow, and went back to see all those that came before my discovery, so that I completely understood the history and the storylines. And eventually I was so hooked that it became a part of this site, which then led to me being invited by the creator himself to write for the show’s official website for the year that it existed—an incredible year that saw me actually having my writing published somewhere other than my own WordPress, while I had competitor William “The Beast” Bibbiani as my managing editor, someone who was always so supportive and great to work with.

But more than that, it gave me new communities. Not just the overall Schmoedown community, but also smaller communities that surrounded the individual competitors and introduced me to their work outside of the show, allowing me experiences such as a trip to London to see a live taping of Top 10’s podcast, which saw me meet the pair (and another Schmoedown star in Jeannine “The Machine”, make new friends in person and spend the night chatting with Matt Knost in a local bar, while I will always and forever be a member of the Action Army! The Schmoedown may be over, but the fans and the communities will remain.And it has changed my life even further too, as I now find myself watching more movies—and a much wider variety—and while I am nowhere near as obsessed as many in the community, I now find myself much more appreciative and paying more attention.

And so while it is a sad time, it is one where we should instead be celebrating an amazing show that gave us so many incredible characters and inspirational competitors. The show may be over, but that just means that we have more time to look back over the 9 years of extraordinary fun, so don’t be surprised to see articles still appearing on here about the show!

So thank you to Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis for creating such an incredible show! Thank you to all the competitors, announcers, interviewers, writers, crew and everyone else who helped to make the product the success it was. And thank you to all the fans for creating a community to be proud of.

feat MTS Movie Trivia Schmoedown finale Schmoedown Spectacular 7 Kristian Harloff Jenn Sterger Mark Ellis

2022 Rugby Championship: Team of the Tournament

2022 Rugby Championship: Team of the Tournament

It’s been a thrilling (and sometimes controversial) couple of months, but the 2022 Rugby Championship is now in the rearview mirror. In one of the closest tournaments to date, arguably the worst performing All Blacks team in years managed to come away with a win that will now surely keep Ian Foster in his job through to the end of the Rugby World Cup (sorry kiwis).

And now all that remains is for me to pick my Team of the Tournament. While I may use some stats to help me decide and sometimes back up my argument, this is largely done of feel from how the games went. I’d love to hear your own selections to, so let me know in the comments! And so without further ado, my Team of the Tournament is…

1) Ethan de Groot: Honestly, I’m shocked at how long Ian Foster stuck with George Bower’s awful defensive performances when de Groot was looking by far the more reliable player, but he was given the start in Round 2 and quickly solidified his place in the team with a series of reliable performances, while also helping to make the New Zealand scrum a formidable weapon.

2) Samisoni Taukei’aho: The decline of Codie Taylor and Dane Coles has been all too clear in 2022, but luckily for the All Blacks, it has coincided with the rise of Taukei’aho. The Chiefs hooker does not have the same pace as those who came before him, but makes up for that with great power and maximum effort around the park, and ended as the tournament’s top try scorer with 5, which helps him just beat out Malcolm Marx for a spot in this team.

3) Tyrel Lomax: Completing and all-New Zealand front row is Tyrel Lomax. Like de Groot on the other side of the scrum, he was given the chance to start in Round 2 and looks to have secured the number 3 shirt with a series of solid performances, making the scruma weapon while also providing a dynamic carrying option in the loose

4 & 5) Eben Etzebeth & Matías Alemanno: One of the most experienced and consistent locks in the world, Etzebeth consistently just goes about his business in both attack and defence and rarely gets the plaudits he deserves. Likewise Alemanno, who is so reliable both in defence and the set piece and does so much good without ever really standing out in highlight reels.

6) Juan Martín González: One of the breakout stars of 2022. The 21-year-old London Irish flanker has secured himself in the Pumas’ first choice back row in place of more recognisable names, and it’s understandable why, as he always seems to be in the right pace at the right time, ending the tournament with 4 tries (beaten only by Taukei’aho) and video footage of a sidestep on Willie le Roux that will be appearing in YouTube compilations for years to come.

7) Fraser McReight: Marcos Kremer is unlucky to miss out on a spot here, but McReight had the unenviable task of coming in at the eleventh hour to take the spot of talismanic captain Michael Hooper, and despite his lack of international experience, he performed with aplomb until being inexplicably dropped for the matches against New Zealand, ending with 3 tries.

8) Ardie Savea: Jasper Wiese is unlucky to miss out on a spot here, but he was playing for a team generally on the front foot, whereas Ardie Savea was often one of the best players on the pitch even when the rest of the New Zealand performance would be described as (to put it nicely) dire. Despite missing Round 5, he still finished joint-1ˢᵗ for carries, 1ˢᵗ for offloads and 2ⁿᵈ among forwards for metres carried.

9) Jaden Hendrikse: Who had Faf de Klerk losing the Springboks 9 jersey to a 22-year-old who started the season with just a handful of caps in their predictions for 2022. Such has been the form of Hendrikse though. Provides quick ball as the Boks try to play a more open game, but also puts in the inch-perfect kicks when South Africa went to their territory game.

10) Richie Mo’unga: Almost wins the spot by default as Santiago Carreras gets used to the position while Australia and South Africa chopped and changed at the position. But that’s not to say Mo’unga played poorly. Controlled games well and his goal kicking kept the scoreboard turning over, while he looked better as the team around him began to improve following Joe Schmidt’s arrival.

11) Marika Koroibete: A consistent performer while the Wallabies’ team performances fluctuate wildly, but still had some performances where he was near-unplayable. His workrate in some games was incredible, but arguably lucky not to be penalised for that try-saver on Makazole Mapimpi.

12) Damian de Allende: Maybe struggled at times with his decision making as the ball went wide on attack, but so reliable with his direct carries and his defence, while also had to take on more responsibility with the loss of midfield partner Lukhanyo Am midway through the tournament and the chopping and changing of players at flyhalf.

13) Len Ikitau: Lukhanyo Am almost earned the spot despite missing half of the tournament, while Matías Moroni’s chances were harmed by Argentina’s inconsistency. However in a Wallabies backline that was constantly changing through injuries, Len Ikitau did a solid job of providing some consistency at a key position.

14) Emiliano Boffelli: Always a danger in the air and arguably not targeted enough in some games, what was most noticeable was how Boffelli’s kicking percentages off the tee were much better as he became the main kicker, leading to him equalling Richie Mo’unga’s points haul a the top of the stats sheet.

15) Jordie Barrett: An argument could certainly be made that his best game came at 12, but was also highly reliable at fullback. Finished the tournament in the top 10 for points scored, offloads, carries, metres carried and defenders beaten.