Safe to say that was a rather unique weekend of Six Nations rugby. With a match called off for the first time in a decade, plus rugby in the snow in Rome, witnessing a normal green pitch at the Millennium Stadium was a touch boring. That being said, it produced the best half of the weekend.
Frightful performance in the snow sees England go two from two
As pretty as the Scotland game, with the same outcome, England may have won but their improvement was marginal. Overall, the longer the match progressed the more the different parts of their game improved. Creaking in the scrum early on, Alex Corbisiero and Dan Cole both improved with each engagement, putting in impressive shifts around the paddock as well. The lineout stuttered with Dylan Hartley struggling to find his man, but improved with Geoff Parling’s introduction late on. England’s bench played a major role in picking up the tempo in the second half.
No two players were more important in that tempo increase than Ben Morgan and Lee Dickson. Within seconds of being on the Scarlets number 8 had made the rare line break England had been looking for. With Dickson in control, England’s attack was transformed, and both must now start in two weeks time against Wales at Twickenham. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was Owen Farrell’s temperament. Battered and bloodied, his composure to land all of his five kicks is a superb omen for the future.
Farce in Paris sees the Stade de France beaten by the cold
It would take the cruelest soul to not feel sorry for all those who travelled all the way over to Paris for Saturday’s match, to have sat in their seats waiting patiently before being told the game was off. The Stade de France’s foundations prevent any undersoil heating from being installed, but sadly however no amount of covers or heaters were enough to keep the game on. Safety comes first, and if Dave Pearson was unhappy with the pitch, so be it. An earlier decision though would have no doubt diffused the uproar from players and fans alike.
Scottish heartbreak continues as Welsh ‘Grand Slam’ whispers gather pace
Oh Scotland. What are you doing to Andy Robinson’s health? The highlights reel that captured every single moment of Robinson’s anguish was excruciating viewing. To come so close to taking the lead in the first half, before the capitulation that came on the back of the two sin-binnings of Nick de Luca and Rory Lamont. With their lineout fixed after a stuttering first half, Wales suddenly grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
Three tries in 16 minutes sowed this game up. Leigh Halfpenny, without question his side’s best kicker, racked up an impressive 22 points scoring two tries. Sunday afternoon proved that to beat Wales you must starve them of possession, and unlike Scotland, ensure that all kicks find touch and do not fall into Halfpenny’s waiting hands. In an absurdly physical match, Dan Lydiate’s Man of the Match reward was deserved as he, Toby Faletau and Jamie Roberts were huge in defence for the men in red, whilst Jim Hamilton undoubtedly put in the hit of the weekend on George North in the first half. Wales’ new superstar’s departure was unpleasant viewing, with the winger’s ankle taking a nasty knock.
Samoa win Las Vegas 7s thanks to injury-time thriller
Finally over in sunny Las Vegas, Samoa pulled off a stunning win in the main final by pipping World Series leaders New Zealand 26-19 thanks to a try in overtime from Alafoti Faosiliva.
Try of the Weekend goes to that man Leigh Halfpenny for his second effort. Welsh dominance both numerically and in possession told as Faletau broke left off a 5 metre scrum, feeding Mike Phillips who offloaded to Leigh Halfpenny coming round the corner.
This weekend’s Hero is Owen Farrell. Battered and bloodied, the image of Farrell at the end could become iconic. Closely followed by the Ireland team for attempting to entertain the crowd with a game of touch rugby at the Stade de France.
As for a Villain, not Dave Pearson, or the French authorities, but the cold snap that prevented Saturday night’s match in Paris.
by Ben Coles