England drew 14-all with South Africa, to be the only northern touring side not to fall to a three-nil whitewash.
Ireland lost three-nil to New Zealand and Wales three-nil to Australia.
Despite the southern hemisphere continuing its dominance, the revival of three-Test tours during June has been successful.
Both England and Wales could have won, but for fate. Ireland should have beaten New Zealand in the second Test.
The results aside, the tours captured the imagination of the public, particularly in the rugby heartlands of South Africa and New Zealand.
The England touring party is said to have formed a close-knit bond and enjoyed the warm South African hospitality. This is a welcome contrast to last year’s headline-grabbing world-cup campaign.
England took South Africa where they are strongest, in the forwards. And won that moral victory.
In New Zealand, the Ireland series has been over-shadowed by the 60-0 score in the final game on Saturday.
The 60 points attests to the All Black dominance; the nil points attest to their defence.
Injured flyhalf Dan Carter was replaced by Aaron Cruden, who was composed and dazzling, combining perfectly with inside-centre Sonny Bill Williams. Williams has grown as a player with New Zealand, but is off contact at the end of the year. He has been linked with the Sydney Roosters league side. Though he has made a decision, he has sworn New Zealand rugby to secrecy.
Legendary Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll was embarrassed by the score, while coach Declan Kidney responded to a question about positives by saying that would be “clutching at straws”.
Cruden went off injured in the 24th minute, replaced by debutante Beauden Barrett, 21, who played well.
The seemingly irreplaceable players in the All Blacks are flyhalf Carter and open-side flanker Ritchie McCaw. This Test showed that able replacements are in the wings for both. With injury to Kieran Read, McCaw was at the back of the scrum, allowing Sam Cane, 20, to play open-side. Cane was one of the dominant players, both contesting the ball and in general play.
In Sydney, the Wallabies found impressive discipline to beat Wales 20-19. Flyhalf Berrick Barnes kicked a penalty five minutes from full-time to take the lead and the Wallabies controlled the game from there.
Barnes brings a discipline that may suit coach Robbie Deans, who has usual flyhalf Quade Cooper returning from injury. One year ago, Barnes considered quitting rugby after being sidelined with repeated concussions.
Wales could feel that the stop-start refereeing by Craig Jourbert worked against them. Deans, too, was dissatisfied with the refereeing, saying his captain, open-side flanker David Pocock was systematically impeded off the ball.
In the first two Tests, Pocock dominated contested ball, which was a crucial aspect of the victories. In the third Test, Wales obstructed him off the ball. That illegal tactic shows how both sides sought every advantage in this riveting series.
The inconsistent Australian forwards were dominated by Wales, committing seven scrum infringements.
Deans summed the game up saying it was a commendable victory considering the “dysfunctional” forward play.
With the Tests over, the Super 15 lurches back into life this weekend. All games were stopped for three weeks for the Tests. In home derbies, the bosom friends of last week’s Test sides become foes, fighting for crucial Super 15 points.
Team Nation P W L D Ttl
1 Chiefs NZ 13 11 2 0 58
2 Stormers SA 13 11 2 0 54
3 Brumbies AU 13 8 5 0 49
Wild card teams
4 Crusaders NZ 13 9 4 0 51
5 Bulls SA 13 8 5 0 49
6 Hurricanes NZ 14 8 6 0 45
7 Sharks SA 14 8 6 0 45
8 Highlanders NZ 14 9 5 0 44
9 Reds AU 13 8 5 0 44
10 Cheetahs SA 13 5 8 0 36
11 Waratahs AU 14 4 10 0 30
12 Rebels AU 13 4 9 0 29
13 Western Force AU 13 3 10 0 27
14 Lions SA 13 2 11 0 20
15 Blues NZ 14 2 12 0 19
In South Africa, New Zealand-born Lions coach John Mitchell has been suspended, following player complaints about his coaching and management style.
In Australia, the current champion, the Queensland Reds, takes on the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne. Talented Welsh forward Gareth Delve has re-signed with the Rebels for next season.
In New Zealand, the ever-strong Crusaders take on the young Hurricanes from Wellington. The Crusaders will be at home, but will be without three stars, all injured in the Tests against Ireland. They are fullback Israel Dagg, Carter and Read.
Peter Lalanabarvi has over 30 years experience as a rugby writer.
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