First off we start in Stade Francais, where a determined French side over came an Irish side looking to register their first win and to defend their two consecutive Six Nations titles. Unfortunately for the Irish, they struggled with injuries early on, ultimately costing them the game as the French subs had the edge over the tired Irishmen, final score 10-9. If there’s one thing to say of this match, it was far from vintage. The game consisted of nineteen scrums, twenty-one penalties (many of which came from the scrums) and sixty seven errors in total according to the Stats page of the Six Nations. There was only one try in the game, a first phase score off the back of a five metre scrum.
This game was at its best, a dull game. If there were calls following the World Cup for the Northern Hemisphere to play a more open game, they certainly weren’t heard inside the Stade this weekend. That said, conditions looked torrential, which of course never lends itself to fast and flowing rugby.
One thing that has been said many times before, it seems as though Ireland still rely on Johnny Sexton. I fully agree that Ian Madigan has huge potential and that he should be given more of a chance, but unfortunately when Sexton went off, it was apparent in the play. On a few occasions the Irish attack lost ground, as opposed to gaining it. Madigan’s passing looked a little shaky and he made a few errors when Ireland were going forward. He needs more game time with the Ireland set up, as he could provide a solid plan B. That said, Paddy Jackson has been playing out of his skin of late and in my eyes is due another crack at the 10 shirt, even if it does come from the bench. However, I fear that Madigan may forever be seen as the ‘utility man’ as he can cover multiple positions in the backline.
Now we move to what was another heartbreaking day at the office for the Scots, but in my eyes, the game of the championship so far. Five tries and fifty points as I believe Andy Nicol predicted before the game. With the roof closed on the Mill.. Principality Stadium, both sides got the opportunity to play fast running rugby.
After conceding a controversial, early Gareth Davies try, Scotland responded in the perfect way, Laidlaw sniping and bringing the Scots into the twenty-two, taking it phase by phase. It was then finished of with a chip through by Russell, finished off by Tommy Seymour scoring his 12th try in 24 test matches. With Wales never looking that threatening after the initial try, Scotland deservingly had the edge at half time, 10-13.
The second half was where they let it slip. Wales played themselves into the game and following a seventy metre sprint down the wing by Wales’ lost winger, Tom James, Jamie Roberts bruised his way over the line to start things off. This was soon followed by an excellent line run by George North who cut against the grain leaving the Scotland defence flat footed and unable to stop him.
The Scots did come back and following his try saving tackle on Tom James, Duncan Taylor was let loose by Ruaridh Jackson and went on to beat Gareth Anscombe to score an excellent try. Wales will be happy to have got their Six Nations on the road and Scotland will be happier with the performance. However, it’s another one that got away for Scotland. It’s the second game in two weeks that they could’ve won, but didn’t. When they learn how to close out games, they could be a dangerous side, but until then it’s the same old story. On a side note, I also hope Stuart Hogg’s injury isn’t too serious.
To the final game of the weekend, England VS Italy. England certainly gave Italy ‘a good hiding’ in Eddie Jones’ words, with the final score standing at 40-9. However, as often happens with Italy, it was the final twenty where they let it slip. It was most likely an active decision by Jones to weather the Italian storm then strike, but I felt as if England started very flat. They were sloppy, giving away silly penalties.
A moment the encapsulates this for me was in the first half. Despite the Italian’s not contesting, England still attempted the driving maul. Anyone who has watched any amount of rugby in the last two years knows that you will often end up giving away a penalty for obstruction- exactly as England did.
However, once they got rid of Mike Brown (after a quiet day at the office) for Alex Goode, brought on Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford and Danny Care, England gave glimpses of the force they could grow to become. Ford went better than last week and took his try well, although still made some simple errors. I thought Farrell and Joseph both went very well in the centre’s. For me, the young guns showed the old dogs how to do it for England today.
Italy did of course have moments. Carlo Canna looked good again and rectified his poor kicking which costed them against the French and Michele Campagnaro looks to have beefed up and made a physical impact, but is still able to deploy his deceptive footwork.
Looking ahead, I’m excited to see England when they play France. Both sides have given glimpses of the threat they have out wide and defended very well. I have a feeling England will take the game, but both under new coaches, it could be a very interesting game in a few weeks time.
Highlights from all of the games can be found here.
As usual, thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your thoughts/criticism!
The Scribbler, February 14th, 2016