The Reuters global sports blog
Northern hemisphere hopes are raised at the start of every November but by the end of the month it has usually become crystal clear that the Tri-Nations’ stranglehold on world rugby remains as tight as ever.
Already, after the opening exchanges produced a 3-0 sweep for the south last Saturday, the imbalance is there for all to see.
Rugby’s problem, with so few major national teams playing the game, is that it will not be long before fans just get bored with the same old same old.
New Zealand were not exactly comfortable in beating England at Twickenham but they did win by 10 points and always seemed able to add to their tally whenever the hosts drew close.
Rugby union seems to be eternally engaged in a forlorn struggle to make itself more entertaining without losing its soul.
For all the rule changes the game has undergone, many matches still turn into battles of attrition decided by penalties rather than slick hands and sidesteps.
Australia’s shock win over South Africa in Saturday’s Tri-Nations breathed new life into a series that was in real danger of fizzling out.
The Wallabies’ 21-6 win not only stalled South Africa’s seemingly unstoppable march to this year’s title but also provided some much needed entertainment.
Southern hemisphere fans might scoff at the quality of Europe’s premier rugby competition but, yet again, the Six Nations championship has proved itself unrivalled when it comes to unpredictability and excitement.
Having waited 61 years for their second grand slam, Ireland were within seconds of having it cruelly ripped from their grasp, only for Stephen Jones’s last-minute penalty to fall short in Saturday’s nail-gnawingly tense Cardiff finale.