Early Jonny May tries guide England to victory
A controlled kicking game from England in the first half set up a tense victory over Wales. In that opening period, barring a controversial disallowed try for Gareth Anscombe, the hosts never allowed the Welsh in the game. A bright start was backed up with a tangible lead on the scoreboard as Owen Farrell pushed a delicious grubber through for Johnny May to gather and skid over the line. It was May who extended the lead to 12-0 when he was on the receiving end of a sumptuous Joe Launchbury offload. A subdued Rhys Patchell clawed three points back before the turnaround, but there was little for the visitors to shout about.
The second half was a different, though equally physical, beast. The Dragons were able to create more tempo as Anscombe moved to fly-half and kept England on the back foot. A few line breaks (in the midst of a lot of stalemate) for both teams occasionally got the crowd on their feet, not least of all when Sam Underhill scragged Steff Evans into touch as he was sliding in. Ancombe got a penalty with five minutes to play to make the score 12-6, but they were unable to trouble England’s defence enough in the closing stages to steal victory.
A crash back down to earth for the Welsh after last week, showing that they need to be playing in the right areas and with good ball in order to get their threatening runners going, which they were occasionally able to in the second half. As for England, another win to set them up nicely for the rest of the Six Nations, but penalty count (mainly at ruck time) and a few rare defensive lapses will be playing on their minds, but their ability to attack in the right areas at the right time will have them smiling. And surely they can’t come away with so few points from so much pressure again?
Scotland rediscover control, Italians stunt Ireland’s margin in second half
Teddy Thomas looked to have further exposed Scotland’s frailties on Sunday’s game when he carved open the defence on two occasions in the first half to establish a 20-14 lead for France at the interval. The hosts had scored two of their own through Sean Maitland and Huw Jones in that entertaining forty minutes, but were allowing the French to play too fast and loose. Fortunately for them, Greig Laidlaw was switched to fly half and Scotland were able to play a territorial kicking game, allowing them to work their way into French territory on multiple occasions and eke penalties from the French. It was enough to secure a 32-26 win and set them up nicely for their fixtures against England and Ireland, which could have a huge say in the final table.
A stunningly ruthless first half from Ireland gave them a 28-0 lead over Italy. They looked almost faultless in all facets in that period, treasuring the ball, creating many and putting away most of their opportunities, with a particularly neat effort from Connor Murray the highlight. However, regrettably for them (fortunately for England) the Italians got a foothold in the game after the break. The visitors showcased some more of their newly found flair in the wider channels to make the final score-line 56-19. Certainly far from victory for the Azzurri, but elements of progress are being seen. Ireland will be regretting not making that margin of victory even greater, with a distinct possibility of point difference deciding the championship.
Sarries close gap on Chiefs
Exeter’s surprise 6-5 loss to Worcester gave Saracens an opportunity to reduce the gap, which they did by beating Newcastle 25-3. Gloucester heaped more misery on Tigers in a key playoff battle, whilst there were also wins for Sale over London Irish, Bath over Saints and a massive one for Wasps at Quins.
Hero of the week
He may not have had the biggest impact around the field in the time he was on, but he provided the key moment in England holding on to win. Sam Underhill’s last ditch tackle on a apparently unstoppable Steff Evans was crucial. Honourable mentions to Greig Laidlaw, who was inspirational for Scotland, and Teddy Thomas and his finishing ability, which has lit up the tournament so far.
Villain of the week
It seems incredibly rare that the TMO gets it wrong, but (luckily for England) the decision not to allow Gareth Anscombe’s try was off the mark. It could have been a game decider and it was clear cut to all that saw it on the TV.
Try of the week
The second Irish try from Connor Murray was a moment of complete class. Granted, it was set up by a horror-pass from Sergio Parisse, but the way the men in green finished it off was delightful. Any school child watching would have been well educated in how simple running angles and perfectly timed draw and gives in tight spaces can create enough space for a flyer down the wing.
What were your thoughts on England’s performance?
Was it a try for Wales or not?
Will there be a Grand Slam for England or Ireland this year?
Will Scotland get back into contention?
Who have been the standout players for each team from the opening two rounds?
by Joe Large
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images