Brutal encounter at Twickenham sees Wales end on top
All those who say England were robbed can stop reading now. The same goes for all those who say Wales smashed the hosts. This was a remarkable test match, with two sides going toe-to-toe physically and on the scoreboard before it was settled by a moment of brilliance from Scott Williams. On that, there can surely be no argument.
For Wales to win despite producing their worst performance so far in this year’s championship, with Rhys Priestland enduring a horrendous afternoon with the boot, says it all about them as a side. The adage that good sides even win when they perform terribly exists for a reason. Wales were matched physically, taking as many huge hits as they dished out, yet still came out on top. In Sam Warburton they have the world’s form openside flanker. The work he did at the breakdown, along with his try-saving tackle on Manu Tuilagi, transformed the game.
As for England, oddly there will be more satisfaction in defeat than there was after victories in the first two rounds. The England team on Saturday had the balance that has been missing, not just in midfield but also in the back row. Given the number of youngster involved, they should follow Wales’ lead from their World Cup heartache and use this defeat for the greater good. Their defence was very good if not excellent. Owen Farrell’s first start at fly-half was encouraging and composed. Geoff Parling made the decision to drop Tom Palmer seem academic. To come so close to a draw at the death through Strettle’s effort, whilst painful for the moment, in the long run will stand England in good stead.
Scotland shine and frustrate in equal measure against France
The rot goes on. Scotland are now on a run of five losses, but this was their best performance for a long time against the Rugby World Cup finalists. But, they are their own worst enemy. For every inspired piece of play at the breakdown from Ross Rennie or cutting break from Stuart Hogg, there was a knock-on, or a penalty conceded at the scrum. No wonder Andy Robinson is the subject of entertaining yet painful video montages.
In fact, Scotland’s two tries for Hogg and Lee Jones were excellent, both grabbing their first scores for their country. Yet Scotland were so eager to attack France on the gain line with their supposed fast game plan that they committed the same errors over and over, forcing passes that weren’t on. Their failure to cope with Jean-Baptiste Poux and Nicolas Mas was purely down to a lack of ability. Euan Murray might not have made much of a difference.
As for France, they notched up another victory without really hitting top gear against Scotland, relying on two moments of brilliance from Wesley Fofana and Julian Malzieu for them to score the tries they needed. Their lineout has been better, but their scrum dominated all afternoon, to the point where Jonathan Davies was bemoaning its effectiveness. Ireland should be wary of it all clicking into place next week.
Irish confidence restored as Italy stutter
Regardless of the opposition, a 30 point win in the Six Nations can only do your side the world of good. Five tries and 7/8 successful kicks from the boot of Johnny Sexton saw Ireland eventually stretch away from Italy, scoring 25 unanswered points in the second half. A resounding win in the end for Ireland after their three week break will boost their confidence before heading to Paris, again, next weekend.
Try of the Weekend goes to Scott Williams. It left England, and yours truly, dumbstruck. The speed of ripping the ball from Courtney Lawes, which didn’t seem physically possible, before the excellent kick, bounce of the ball and dive over the line was truly outstanding. Unbelievable score.
Williams should probably have the Hero award as well, but we’ll give that to Stuart Hogg. The youngest try scorer in the competition since Neil Jenkins in 1991, Hogg is Scotland’s shining light in the backs and barring injury could play at full back for over a decade.
As for a Villain, Steve Walsh and Wayne Barnes both received plenty of wrath from fans over the weekend, so vote away below for the winner!
by Ben Coles