Class from Cuthbert sees Wales taste Slam success once more
A moment of inspiration from Alex Cuthbert saw Wales clinch a third Grand Slam success in seven years by defeating France in Cardiff. A superb turnover on the French captain Thierry Dusautoir by Alun Wyn Jones led to Cuthbert receiving a pass from Rhys Priestland, stepping past the hapless Julien Bonnaire before leaving Alexis Palisson frozen as he scorched through to score the game’s only try.
France were much better than in previous weeks though. Dusautoir may have been crucially turned over but the defence was outstanding, their leader setting the example once again. They may not have crossed the whitewash but their attack showed promise, Imanol Harinordoquy failing to spot an open Louis Picamoles in what could have been a simple score. They failed to give William Servat and Bonnaire the send-off their Test careers have deserved, and will reflect heavily on both tactics and selection ahead of their Tests this summer.
But this match was all about Wales. There could have been no greater tribute to the late ‘Merv the Swerve’ Davies than Grand Slam success, even if it might not have been accomplished with the same flair that became so celebrated with the sides of the 1970s. This victory will go someway to healing the anguish of last year’s Rugby World Cup defeat, as well as providing the foundation for what should be plenty of future Welsh success.
Irish scrum splintered and crushed as England win four from five
It was safe to say that after winning Paris, many felt Stuart Lancaster had done enough to take on the England job full time. As enthusiastic as he has been critical, for the interim Head Coach to describe his side as “outstanding in every department” against Ireland is high praise indeed. The positive vibes swirling around his presence in this setup feel impossible to ignore. He is a coach with the strong backing of the fans, his fellow coaches and most importantly, every single one of his players. His future after Ireland should really be without question, though the idea suggested by Kyran Bracken that Sir Clive Woodward should be brought back into the fold in a management context is a good one.
Where England enjoyed so much dominance against Ireland was in the scrum, in a huge second half performance. Credit to Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley and Dan Cole for producing a performance that will have had Graham Rowntree drooling. Ireland simply could not cope, an ironic twist given the way their pack had been so brilliant against Australia at the Rugby World Cup just six months before to the day. What a mixed tournament this Six Nations has been for them, with the continued excellence of Rob Kearney let down by defensive lapses and set-piece problems.
Robinson on the brink as Scotland take Wooden Spoon
A fifth loss in seven visits to Rome for Scotland coincidentally was their seventh loss in a row, dating back to the Rugby World Cup defeat against Argentina. Persistent ill-discipline with a grand total of 13 penalties led to their downfall, combined with a strong burst under the posts from Giovanbattista Vendetti which clinched a first victory for new Italian coach Jacques Brunel. What Andy Robinson would pay to buy one right now.
The endless positive for Scotland is that the talent keeps emerging. With a new spine of Stuart Hogg, Duncan Weir, David Denton and Richie Gray they have the foundations in place for a successful side. The big question is however, should Robinson be the man to oversee their development?
Try of the Weekend goes to Alex Cuthbert. George North may have started this Six Nations with a bang, but it his fellow winger who has ended it with fireworks in the last two weeks. His finish against the French was special.
This weekend’s Hero is the English front row, for their superb collective effort against Ireland.
As for a Villain, the currently anonymous English player who allegedly took a bite at the finger of Stephen Ferris should expect a severe punishment.
by Ben Coles