Best of the Weekend: RBS Six Nations off to a flyer

Controversy and power dominate a thriller in Dublin

Far and away the best game of the weekend, Ireland and Wales produced a Six Nations classic in Dublin to really get the tournament up and running. The first half felt like a tale of Welsh frustration with Ireland essentially clinging on, before the second exploded after half-time.

Wales started out the blocks with a bang, controlling the game deep in Irish territory and making sure they committed numerous defenders through their powerful runners in Toby Faletau and Jamie Roberts. For all of their superiority, except a well taken try from Jonathan Davies following a beautiful Rhys Priestland offload, Wales failed to make the most of their chances, either through stray shots at goal from the Scarlets fly-half that cost them points or small handling errors. Eyebrows were understandably raised when it was Ireland who went in ahead at half-time after Rory Best went over unopposed.

But, Wales proved that they have enough spirit and fight to produce not just one comeback, but two. It seems wrong to single out individuals, but the performances of George North and Leigh Halfpenny made the difference. North’s raw strength created the space for Jonathan Davies to burst through and finish an excellent try, whilst Halfpenny’s boot starting landing the points that Priestland was missing. Ireland looked to have the game in their pocket after Tommy Bowe’s late try, but North had other ideas, barging through Rob Kearney to score in the corner.

That left Wales trailing by one, before Stephen Ferris tip tackled Ian Evans. By the letter of the law, it was a penalty and a yellow card, but compared to the recklessness of Bradley Davies’ earlier infringement, it didn’t even register. Halfpenny nailed the shot to win the game, and Wales’ Six Nations campaign is underway.

Careless Scotland throw the game away against England

No one cranked up the pressure more on Scotland than themselves, with their Calcutta Cup winners t-shirt along with firm words from Andy Robinson setting them up for a fall. Ironically, no one is in any doubt that Scotland should have beaten England on Saturday, but forgetting the contentious TMO decision that arguably saw Greig Laidlaw robbed of a try by his fingertips, Ross Rennie should still be cursing himself for failing to pass inside during a three on one against Ben Foden.

England though could only play what was in front of them though, and despite the defensive lapses they also made an impressive 73 tackles in the first half and another 69 in the second half, including 13 for Brad Barritt on debut. Every single player in an England shirt made their fair share of tackles, and their hard work and commitment was evident not just towards the opposition but to working together for each other. Additional work will be needed at the breakdown, where England struggled with the physicality of Dave Denton and Richie Gray, but it’s a good start for Stuart Lancaster, if not a spectacular one.

Four try France see off Italy in second half

Despite some early miscommunications and difficulty handling a feisty Italian side at the breakdown, France managed to get their wires straight and once they had established a connection between 8-9-10-12, the passes started to go to hand and the result looked more and more comfortable.

No side has had less training time together than the favourites, France, yet with their four tries from Aurélien Rougerie, Julien Malzieu, Vincent Clerc and debutant Wesley Fofana, their win in the end was a comfortable one, finishing half-chances without ever really moving out of third gear. What will have pleased new coach Phillippe Saint-André was the way his mixture of Clermont and Toulouse backs combined so well. Ominous signs for everyone else, because France have bigger and better performances within them.

Try of the Weekend goes to Julien Malzieu. Making his first start since 2010, Malzieu ran a strong support line as Louis Picamoles charged away from the base of the scrum, collecting the offload and fending off Giovanbatista Vendetti to race down the wing, before cutting inside Andrea Masi for the try.

This weekend’s Hero is Charlie Hodgson. Having received a fair amount of stick over the years for performances in a white shirt, Hodgson played well against Scotland, defending bravely and scoring a well-earned try after he charged down Dan Parks kick.

As for a Villain, let’s vote on it below. Your candidates are Bradley Davies, Dan Parks, Geoff Warren (TMO – Scotland v England) and Wayne Barnes. Go.

by Ben Coles

11 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: RBS Six Nations off to a flyer

  1. Bottle Job Barnes no question villain of the week.

    Dan Parks close. Why he didn’t kick sooner baffled me.

    Bradley Davies was stupid and will now sit out for four weeks.

    Geoff Warren had limited views and there wasn’t any clear cut shot that showed laidlaw touching down.

  2. Great weekend of rugby!

    As a neutral it was refreshing to be excited by an England team. There was a hunger that has been absent for too long.

    Villain of the week was surely Dan Parks. He cost Scotland that match with poor vision, poor service, poor kicking and that charge down. On the other hand, David Denton was a revelation!

    Great match between Ireland and Wales. Looking forward to the weeks ahead!

  3. Official match stats say that England made 142 tackles…not sure where 73 came from?!

    Still gutted about the result yesterday. It was a cracking match, but really wanted Ireland to close it out. It could have gone either way all afternoon, but the manner of defeat with those stupid ‘tip tackles’ and sin binnings left a slightly bitter taste.

    Brad Davies most certainly the villain and he will be cited – but credit to Gatland for calling a spade a spade in the post-match interview.

    Cracking weekend. Roll on Round 2!

  4. An amazing match yesterday. Fair appraisal in this blog as well.

    Scotland only have themselves to blame for losing so my villain is Parks and therefore also Robinson for picking him. Why is he picking a player villified by his own Cardiff Blues fans when he could choose one from Edinburgh or Glasgow, both of whom have been scoring tries all season in the HC?

    As Guscott (not a man I usually agree with) summed up, the only thing England can take from that match is the win. I don’t buy all the “new team gelling” nonsense – lots of experienced and feted rugby players on show there, they should have been capable of showing more in attack than they did.

    George North was the undoubted star of the weekend, breathtaking and he is only nineteen.

  5. Davies has to be the Villain, what was the linesman on about, a yellow card!! I thought North was excellent as was Denton for Scotland. England were lucky to win but thats how it goes and ultimately i thought we deserved the win. Slightly dissapointed by Dowson, i was rather hoping for more.

  6. The highlight of the weekend was the Wales v. Ireland game, with out a doubt. Because of how poorly Scotland played i think England deserved the win. Italy kept it close and it was some french magic that got them those trys, (also unfit Italians).

    My fathers welsh and I’m a welsh fan through and through but I have to say even though it pains me, that Bradly Davies was the villain of the weekend.

    For more on the opening round of the 2012 6 nations follow me at my blog at welshrugbytruth.wordpress.com

    Cheers

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