Ireland lift the Six Nations trophy, England and Wales cut loose
Brian O’Driscoll rightfully stole the headlines on Saturday, but Ireland’s overall performance in Paris should not go unappreciated, as the men in green hung on to grab a very impressive 22-20 victory against the French, and take home the Six Nations trophy. Andrew Trimble and Jonathan Sexton both played sublimely, and scored deserved tries, whilst the leadership and experience of O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell proved invaluable in the dying minutes, as the visitors defended with a resilience they can only wish they had shown last autumn against New Zealand. France performed equally well too, perhaps doing just enough to save Philippe Saint-André’s job, but ultimately Ireland’s greater composure shone through, and they were able to pick up a rare win in Paris, sending O’Driscoll off in glorious fashion.
England arrived in Rome knowing that the odds were stacked against them erasing Ireland’s considerable points difference advantage, but they certainly came close, as they recorded their highest points tally in Rome since 2000, beating Italy 52-11. Mike Brown was once more in sensational form, picking up two tries and constantly threatening the Italian defence with his dangerous running, whilst Owen Farrell distributed well and made 100% of his kicks for the second consecutive week. Putting Italy to the sword wraps up another successful Six Nations campaign for England, who have now lost just one game in the Six Nations in each of the last three years, and although the Grand Slam continues to elude them, they will head to New Zealand this summer in high spirits and ready to shock the All Blacks.
Wales did their best to put a disappointing and inconsistent Six Nations behind them, ending their campaign with a 51-3 victory over Scotland at the Millennium Stadium. Scotland were extremely lacklustre, and played 60 minutes of the game with just 14 men, after a moment of ill-discipline resulted in a red card for Stuart Hogg. George North and Jamie Roberts both collected braces as the Welsh back line played their biggest role in the 2014 campaign, and generally linked-up extremely well all game long. The result had little bearing on the Six Nations table, but does give Wales a much-needed confidence boost ahead of their tour to South Africa, whilst Scotland will be counting the days till incoming coach Vern Cotter arrives.
Hurricanes thrill, Lions roar, Brumbies resolute
The Hurricanes stole the headlines in Super Rugby, as they tore apart a bereft looking Cheetahs side, 60-27, in Wellington. The game really encapsulated the highs and lows of Super Rugby, as both sides displayed some scintillating and clinical attacking rugby, but were also guilty of extremely sloppy defending at times, both of which contributed to a scoring rate of over a point a minute. Fly-half Beauden Barrett particularly impressed with a personal points haul of 23, but all of the Hurricanes’ backs deserve credit for a highly cohesive and efficient performance.
The Lions continued their impressive start to the Super Rugby season, picking up their third win in five games, beating a star-studded Blues team 39-36, in Johannesburg, with Marnitz Boshoff accounting for a pivotal 24 points. Another compelling match saw the Brumbies beat the Waratahs 28-23 in Canberra, and as a result, leapfrog their rivals to the top of the Australian conference. Jesse Mogg and Nic White led a dynamic Brumbies performance, and although tries from Michael Hooper and Israel Folau almost sparked a Waratah comeback, the Brumbies defended manfully to hold on to a potentially priceless win.
Exeter end 143 years of waiting
The Exeter Chiefs concluded a vintage weekend of rugby by securing their first major trophy in the club’s history, as they beat Northampton Saints 15-8 in the final of the LV Cup. Chris Whitehead and Dean Mumm both crossed the try line for Exeter, but it was their unrelenting defence which ultimately won them the game, as they repulsed attack after attack from the Saints. Samu Manoa managed to pull back a try for Northampton, but it was too little too late, as the Chiefs added the first piece of silverware from the club season to their trophy room. Ulster and he Scarlets were also in action over the weekend, as the Irish side cruised to a 26-13 victory at Ravenhill, ensuring they keep pace with Leinster and Munster at the top of the RaboDirect Pro12.
Israel Folau picks up the Try of the Week for his effort against the Brumbies. The Waratah broke tackle after tackle, before turning on the afterburners and beating the last defender on the outside. What’s even more impressive? Folau did it with such consummate ease, that it never looked like he was doing anything more than jogging through the Brumbies’ defence. Jamie Roberts’ second try for Wales, which was the product of a brilliant teamwork and went the length of the Millennium Stadium, came very close to stealing it.
This was never in doubt. Brian O’Driscoll is the Hero of the Week. It’s impossible to sum up what he’s given to rugby in one short paragraph, but he undoubtedly now joins international rugby’s pantheon of greats. His accolades are endless, but the commitment and passion he never failed to show whilst playing for Ireland, regardless of opposition, are the greatest qualities of perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game. Farewell Brian, international rugby will miss you.
Stuart Hogg is the Villain of the Week for his red card against Wales. Replays showed his late collision with Dan Biggar to be deliberate and dangerous, and although the game had no real championship implications, he put his side in a hole for the remaining 60 minutes of the match.
by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images