Best Of The Weekend: Roses Edge Past Old Rivals

Jonny May

Jonny May

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.

Discussion points

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

34 thoughts on “Best Of The Weekend: Roses Edge Past Old Rivals

  1. No question that under current laws it was a try but personally I prefer to see more obvious downward pressure as Watson applied a millisecond later. That said, no argument it was a try

  2. I think even the most myopic England supporter would agree the TMO got it wrong especially under the new grounding rules, apparently they flew this guy in from NZ to do the job …. should have flown in Stevie Wonder, he would have done a better job. Wales lost it in the first 20 mins, far too slow out of the blocks & fair play to England they took advantage, England have to be big favourites for the title now, cannot see Ireland beating them at Twickenham. BTW being completely pedantic it was Scott Williams got scragged on the line !! a game saving tackle no doubt.

    1. Not sure if everyone has since seen the video, but it was actually knocked on from Evans. So whilst I, whilst watching the game, thought we’d got lucky; it was no try.

  3. England’s perfomance – mediocre overall with some standout performances.

    Try for Wales? I thought it was a try at the time, but there definitely seems to be some reasonable doubt. Kaplan writing in the Telegraph thought it was a 50/50 call.

    Grand Slam? Could be down to the England Ireland game but reckon Wales will really test Ireland. France and Scotland don’t look like too much of a threat at the moment for England

    Scotland in contention? Not on the evidence so far. Will come fourth I think.

    Standout players:
    England – Ford, Farrell, Launchbury, Simmonds, Robshaw, Brown
    Ireland – Sexton, Murray, Henshaw, Earls
    (though think Aki and Stockdale will take confidence from the Italy game)
    Wales – Owens, Evans, Wyn Jones, Shingler, Anscombe
    Scotland – McInally, H Jones, Watson
    France – Guirado, Thomas, Machenaud
    Italy – Castello and Boni have been decent

    BTW Murray’s try was good but shame there was a clear forward pass in the build up. Thought Italy took their tries very well. Shame they can’t always play like that

    1. Launchbury continues to be (for my biased eyes) the best all round lock in the northern hemisphere. He’s not the lineout general and doesn’t normally create the headline moments of skill but goes about the ruck monkey, carrying, bread and butter work of a 2nd row better and more consistently than anyone I can think of in an England shirt (and most other shirts). Up there with Robshaw as an unsung but crucial hero of the pack.

  4. I would like to make a couple of comments on Jonny May’s second try:
    1) Farrell’s contribution hasn’t had nearly enough attention.
    He hit a brilliant line 2 phases earlier up the right, making loads of ground and enabling quick ball (which by the way was in my opinion the biggest difference between the two teams). Impressive enough, but then see how quickly the bastard got back up and into position ready to take the ball to the line and get the pass away. The long pass itself was brilliant, particularly as he’d have thrown it with full knowledge he was about to get absolutely drilled by the defender.
    2) I reckon Launchbury had enough momentum and power to get over the line by himself, so not only was that offload sublime and aesthetically pleasing, it was also utterly selfless from the big man.

  5. It was Scott Williams who Underhill scragged not Evans. Stef Evans was the winger who knocked on in the build up to the disallowed Anscombe try so I guess the TMO can still be the villain for missing that.

  6. I thought it was a good old fashioned rugby game. Farrell turn over in the second half was a game winner for England. Wales were missing too many key players and it told at fullback( Halfpenny would have definately nullified the first try and many of the attacking kicks by England) missed bigger who is one of the best kick and chase players around. For a very depleted Welsh Team I thought they played with character but unable to finish. Villains of the week EJ for his pre match comments, Brown for his grin at Scott Williams and Hartley for spitting at the Welsh player on the ground.

    1. Didn’t see Hartlety spitting. When did that happen? Surely if its on video that’s a citing and a ban.

      Brown grinning at Williams I think has to be put in the context of Williams refusing to give Brown the ball and then pushing him. Seemed to me like the petulant tit there was Williams rather than Brown.

      EJ’s comments were silly (tho’ he got Patchell spot on didn’t he?) and I don’t like this pre-match winding up of the opposition. Too many coaches do it nowadays.

      Find it a little strange that you didn’t find room in your villains to mention AWJ trying to wind up Itoje by patting him on the face or Moriarty screaming in Nowell’s face when Wales won a penalty.

      I’d suggest you were being slightly one-eyed, but i’m sure that’s not the case…

      1. I just feel as role models for youngsters coaches and players need to take responsibility. Hartley spitting I did not see but is all over youtube. Did not see AWJ incident, so would not condone his behaviour either.

        1. Nothing to see in the AWJ “incident”. He was just trying to get a rise out of Itoje and failed miserably.

        2. Hartley spitting is all over YouTube? I’ve searched all over YouTube and can’t find a single reference to this. Considering how widely disliked the bloke is I’m surprised none of his many “haters” has posted it. What is going on here? Fake news?? ?

          1. Just looked on Facebook but the post has been removed but comments on there. Not sure why it’s deleted. Take a look. I apologise if it’s fake sick joke

            1. Lots of this type of stuff seems to be thrown at “the usual suspects” pretty much any time England play an international and to be honest it gets pretty irritating. Hartley has, for Northampton, had some widely publicised lapses in behaviour. He has been consistently controlled when playing for England under Jones. Brown is an aggressive, spiky, arse of a man that, if I weren’t English, I probably wouldn’t like. He is the man I would want from the current choices at fullback for England and it’s ridiculous that he’s getting this kind of nonsense for dealing with williams’ petulance with a reasonably measured attitude. When I play at a (ridiculously) low level, Williams would be the one being levelled. If he weren’t built like an outhouse.

    2. “Hartley for spitting at the Welsh player on the ground.”


      Really!? Did he? I didn’t see it and haven’t heard anything about it since. Absolutely outrageous if that happened.

      Agree on Brown – I missed my tackle completely, but my buddy Underhill got you, so here’s a mouthful of footballery verbal abuse for you. Now I am a fan of Brown and I thought he had a cracking game, (don’t agree with the MoM award though), however he does grind my gears with his footballer-style chat and attitude.

      Agree on your making Eddie Jones a villain too, much as I totally admire the bastard. We always hear about how brilliant Mourinho is at deflecting media attention from the players, and you could argue that Eddie achieved exactly that this week, but I hate it and wish we could leave that sort of bullshit to football, where it belongs.

      1. Except that isn’t what happened with Brown. He went to get the ball, Williams wouldn’t give it to him and then pushed him, following which Brown uinderstandably said a few words that I’m sure were somewhat rude.
        Not sure I can blame Brown for that.

        Brown is the kind of spiky b*stard that everyone hates – if they’re on the opposition team.

        1. Yeah, fair enough, just watching it again and that is a good description. Still, as Nigel Owens would say (and did say to him and Huget that time), they were both acting a bit immature, if you ask me.

        2. Think there is a lot of bias here to single out Brown and Eddie when AWJ/Moriaty/Evans/Gatland have all acted very similarly to try and get a reaction from an opposition player/coach.
          Reading a BBC article of an interview with welsh lock Emyr Lewis and how he thinks Eddie is bringing the game into disrepute with his pre-game interviews and comments. I think it is incredibly ironic for a ex-Wales player to be making these kinds of statements, when Gatland has been using this tactic for years now. I find it even more amusing that some Welsh players such as Biggar and Webb have done more to bring the game into disrepute, with their incessant whining and challenging of the referee, than anyone else in recent memory.

          1. Yeah. It is a dangerous topic to point fingers on, as at some point almost every side has done this:. Without research or backing (so just my potentially faulty memory):
            Gatland has a name for it, and singled out Hartley a few years back.
            Eddie is as bad.
            Vern Cotter did it at times.
            Farrell Snr has done it on occasion.

            Bigger, Farrell, Haskell, AWJ, Sexton, every scrum half generally give too much lip to the ref.

            And I haven’t touched on the SH sides/coaches.

            I hate it when the ref allows the players to chat. The best refs cut down on it very quickly.

            From coaches, I don’t have much problem with “mindgames”. Respect to me would mean that they don’t pick on a player on their debut. But after that… these guys are professionals and internationals, they should be able to deal with it. And most ex-players seem to think that the players generally ignore the press coverage during the week before.

    1. World Rugby have just confirmed that the TMO made a mistake & the try should have stood ( BBC website ) , I think they have more sway than rugbyonslaught so THAT should end the debate.

      1. They may have more sway but that is not the same as getting things right. World Rugby brought this on themselves by amending law 8(2) to say that the ball should be grounded when it previously insisted on the application of downward pressure. Unfortunately nowhere on their website does it define what grounding means. To me it implies an element of control which Anscombe did not have. Anywhere else on the field his touch would have been regarded as a clear knock on under Law 3(1).

        1. Law 21 covers it and from my reading there are two differing circumstances. As I understand it, If the ball is taken over goal line by the player in hand, then they merely need to brush a blade of grass (no downward pressure required), if the ball travels over by itself (i.e. not carried by the attacking player), then downward pressure is required (law 21.1 a and b)

      2. Irrespective of “sway”, if there is an infringement that precedes the grounding surely that means anything happening after this point is irrelevant.
        If the TMO was “wrong” in deciding who grounded the ball first, then he is also wrong in deciding that Evans didn’t knock the ball on.
        But ultimately all of this is irrelevant…England won.

        1. Quite Jake. But worth noting that World Rugby didn’t look at anything beyond the grounding.

          Also, as with Scotland v Aus in the World Cup, does anyone else think World Rugby should butt the hell out and stop publicly undermining their referees?

          1. Agreed on WR, this whole culture of blaming officials for results is really starting to degrade the image of rugby, down to the level of football. Referees should not be immune from criticism but to blame them in this manner is something else.

            I understand the Scottish reaction to that game in parts, but Joubert must have felt like he had been thrown under the bus by World Rugby with their post match comments, despite the fact he had followed laws of the game.

            Analysing anything post game is futile as, firstly, the result cannot be changed. Secondly, there are added stresses on officials such as time limitation, and added pressure, which make the decision making process far harder. Fans would no doubt bemoan officials taking longer to make a decision, even if it were correct.
            Finally, where does this review of a referees decisions stop? Should every incorrect/missed knock-on or offside call be brought up as all ultimately have some impact on the game.

            I also think it happens quite a bit where one side (not exclusively Wales) will bemoan one decision, whilst completely ignoring another factor, in this instance the previous knock-on.


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