Best of the Weekend: Cruise control for Ireland, England and France


Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes boosted with win over the champions

Welsh hopes of a Grand Slam died in Dublin this weekend, and the defending champions were dealt a hammer blow to their chances of retaining the title, as Ireland cruised to a 26-3 victory at the Aviva Stadium. Ireland imposed their game on Wales right from the off, and Warren Gatland’s side lacked both the intensity of their opponents, and the tactical nous. Tries from Chris Henry and Paddy Jackson, as well as a proficient kicking display from Jonathan Sexton, were enough to consign Wales to their first away defeat in the Six Nations since 2011.

Wales did not match the defensive intensity of their opponents throughout the game, which was characterised by their poor defence of the driving mauls which set up both Irish tries, whilst the speed of Ireland’s line meant they were able to effectively cut off Welsh attacks at source, and prevent Wales’ dangerous wide men from getting their hands on the ball. The breakdown was another area that Wales struggled in, with the usually highly-effective duo of Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton overpowered by their dynamic opposite numbers, Peter O’Mahony and Henry.

England cruise to comfortable victory at Murrayfield

Murrayfield played host to a fairly unspectacular encounter on Saturday, as England retained the Calcutta Cup with a 20-0 victory over Scotland. The terrible state of the pitch arguably made the headlines more than England’s victory or Scotland’s dire performance, and the planned hybrid pitch really cannot come soon enough. Luther Burrell scored England’s first try of the game, his second in as many weeks, and a second half try from Mike Brown ended any hopes Scotland had of pulling off an unlikely comeback.

It was a case of ‘job done’ for England, who were the better side in all facets of the game, but will be slightly frustrated they weren’t able to turn that dominance into a bigger lead. The pitch conditions obviously played a significant part in limiting the winning margin, but there were also unconverted half chances that coach Stuart Lancaster could come to rue in a closer match. Scotland meanwhile were just not at the races, and if it wasn’t for the carrying of David Denton, and the defensive work of Alex Dunbar, the score line could have ended up even more one-sided.

France reclaim the Garibaldi Trophy in convincing fashion

The Six Nations action was wrapped up in Paris, as France reclaimed the Garibaldi Trophy with an emphatic 30-10 victory against Italy. The home side took the game away from Italy early in the second half, as Louis Picamoles and Wesley Fofana both went over for tries in the space of two minutes, as Les Bleus established a 20-point lead. The French were not finished however, and a try for debutant Hugo Bonneval further extended the home side’s lead, after great work from Fofana and Yoann Huget in the build-up.

Tempers flared late on with Michele Rizzo and Rabah Slimani both being shown red cards for headbutts, but by this point the result was well and truly sealed, and their antics had no effect on the outcome of the game. The win keeps France in the hunt for a Grand Slam, and will have to contend with an under-performing Welsh side in the next round, whilst Italy will welcome Scotland to Rome, and should be very confident of their chances of keeping Scotland’s 2014 campaign winless in the Eternal City.

Spectacles aplenty in the Aviva and Rabo

Attention may have been focused on the Six Nations this weekend, but there were a number of eye-catching performances in the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12, some of which had real title implications. A tight 17-16 victory for Northampton Saints away to Exeter Chiefs was enough to move them top of the Premiership, thanks to London Irish upsetting Saracens at Allianz Park, 22-13. Leicester were also pushed extremely close by a Chris Pennell-inspired Worcester side, but the Tigers ultimately proved victorious, winning 23-22 at Sixways.

Munster strengthened their grasp on the top spot in the PRO12 with a six try, 54-13 demolition of Cardiff, which included a try for Simon Zebo, who will consider himself very unlucky to not have been playing in the green of Ireland this weekend, rather than the red of Munster. The Scarlets certainly treated their travelling fans to a real show as they beat Treviso 41-33, despite the score line being just 13-9 to the Welsh side at the interval. The other match of note was Ulster’s 10-7 win over the Ospreys, as the result saw the Irish province leapfrog the Welsh side into third place in the PRO12.

Try of the Week goes to Hugo Bonneval for his effort on debut against Italy. The move started with a Fofana intercept, and the centre went on a lung-bursting run, before finding Huget in support, and although the winger didn’t quite have the legs to make it to the try line, he showed his composure with a superb offload to Bonneval, and the debutant was able to dive over the line.

Nematodes, and the general state of the pitch at Murrayfield, were the clear Villain of the Week. The pitch may have not adversely affected the result of the Calcutta Cup, but it was certainly the worst I’ve seen at test level since the advent of professionalism.

Hero of the Week goes to Peter O’Mahony for his highly impressive all-round performance in Dublin. With Henry alongside him, O’Mahony comprehensively outplayed Warburton and Lydiate, and his individual performance must already be in contention for the best of the tournament.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

14 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Cruise control for Ireland, England and France

  1. Scarlets are not Cardiff. Picky point but one that will be picked up.

    Agree wholeheartedly with hero of the week. Epic performance slowed welsh ball, created turnovers and bossed the rucks.

  2. Villain of the week for me is Scott Johnson, epitomised by this comment:

    “I got a sore neck looking down one end of the pitch for the entire second-half.”

    Although I’d have thought that would have been nullified by him looking the other way for the entire first half.. Regardless, it all seems like it’s one big joke to him.

    Frightening for Scottish rugby to think they’ve appointed him director of rugby too.

    1. To be fair to him what else could he do but make a joke of it. Scotland were comprehensively outplayed in all aspects. Doesn’t mean that I rate him though!

      Interesting to see how many Welsh people will be wanting England to beat Ireland in two weeks time. Obviously not out loud though!

      1. All of us I imagine Staggy!

        We can’t do anything about the Ireland result now so we need help from Eng/Fra there. Neither of which are easy games for Ireland.

        I’m hoping for an England/Wales win next time out (It seems unlikely for Wales, but we managed it in Paris last year under similar circumstances, although France are looking much better this time around). That puts the four of us all on 1 loss each (albeit Wales will almost certainly have the worse points difference).

        If we can pull the above off, we then have the small matter of England in Twickenham… While Ireland travel to France..

        Rounds 3 and 4 have the potential to be crackers!

        1. Anarky – I did chuckle at this response as I never thought I’d get much enthusiasm! Yes and we will also be cheering on Wales when playing France! This temporary suspension of hostilities will inevitably be called off for the Twickenham game in round 4!

      2. “Interesting to see how many Welsh people will be wanting England to beat Ireland in two weeks time. Obviously not out loud though!” – Guilty as charged, though I’ve felt that way for a number of years now, providing England are not challenging us for the title at the time. This year I can want England to win for two reasons, one of them being that an English win could, if miracles happen (I’m discounting nothing after last year) still leave us with a shout at the title.

        1. (I’m discounting nothing after last year) –

          Think you were in a better mental place after the loss to Ireland last year! It would be some miracle if you nabbed the title this year.


          1. Yep, a much bigger miracle. I think the 2nd half “comeback” last year was more of a fillip than I realised; you are right that no such boost this year.

            I think we’ll beat France though – I think they still look a little sketchy and unfit so we can take that game on a Fri night in Cardiff. I think England will pip Ireland in Twickenham, by a tiny margin. So we’re all sitting there on same wins but obvs our points difference is low. Usually I’d say then we were stuffed as we’ve already played Italy BUT this year our last game is in Cardiff against Scotland and right now I reckon if we needed 20-30 points to take it I could see it’s at least feasible against the worst Scottish side I’ve seen for years. Obviously it’s 99% certain it couldn’t happen but I would never have thought we’d win by 27 points in our last match last year. Nobody would have thought that.

            Notice I am delib leaving out the Twickenham result prediction as I have no idea there…

  3. Has there ever been a 6 nations week where the losing teams scored less than 13 points? That’s as one sided as i can remember.

  4. Can I vote for O’Mahoney to be villain of the week as well as hero please?

    A fantastic performance from him spoilt by his constant carping at the ref.

    Barnes totally lost control of both him and Phillips by discussing things with them – both should have been warned once, then penalised by being sent back 10 and then a yellow card if they continued.

    This needs to be stamped on hard by the refs or it will get out of control

  5. Wales were abject on Saturday. Gats played too many non-fit boys – Gethin down on one knee after the very first phase, his leg strapped like a mummies, was all the warning we needed. Not at the races in the breakdown which was all Ireland needed.

    I’m assuming it was a poor game for the neutrals? Sexton should have been MOTM – kicked Ireland exactly where they needed to be, two rolling mauls and it’s all over. Neither side played anything expansive but one side (Wales) needed to as we didn’t have the rolling maul or lineout that Ireland had. Wayne Barnes was infuriating – not biased, had nothing to do with end result, just confusingly inconsistent for both sides – was hard to explain to non-rugby watchers in the pub exactly what was going on some of the time.

    Scotland, well, I guess they’ve now found out, in the same hard manner we did, just how short Scott Johnson’s attention span is. Abject, totally abject.

    PS. I am also an Arsenal fan so Saturday was one horrendous day…

    1. Really enjoyed it as a neutral actually, but then I am a sad rugby fan. I just enjoyed the tactical brilliance of sexton.
      By the time he had chipped the ball over Liam Williams into the corner for the 4th time, I assume he was just taking the piss. But it was awesome to watch!
      And as I can’t stand mike philips it was also good to see him lose.
      But as a real (not as oppose to fake but as oppose to having a life :P ) fan I actually thought the game was really good to watch

  6. Round 3 will be a cracker.
    With two weeks either side of a home game against a (still) misfiring France, it could be the perfect time for Wales to reinvigorate their title prospects, it’s also a big chance to stop the French GS run. I expect pretty much every home nation supporter will be backing Wales here.
    Possibly the two best packs of the tourney will collide at Twickenham. Although Wales seemed to take their place in the last two years, Ireland were our 6 nations “Achilles heel” for years, winning 7 out of 8 matches between 2004-11, 3 of which were at Twickenham. Haven’t beaten us since then though.
    Then there’s the wooden spoon decider which seems to be Scotland’s only hope of salvaging some points, some pride and avoiding last place. Italy have looked much more competitive and should dominate the Scottish set piece but if the conditions are good then the Scots could easily punish the over numerous Italian mistakes and give us an entertaining match.

    Literally cannot wait, will be hoping for Wales, England and Scotland wins, but they’re all tight games.

Comments are closed.