- Wales 19-10 France
- Italy 20-36 Scotland
- England 21-10 Ireland
By Ros Satar
The tournament looks finely poised as England and Wales emerge as the sides to beat in the final two rounds of the RBS 6 Nations.
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Wales 19-10 France
Comedy value of the George North try aside, Wales extended their winning streak against Les Bleus to five – no laughing matter for the French!
Deemed an outdoor event after the roof of the stadium refused to close, it was actually a slow start for Wales, before Dan Biggar finally made good on a couple of penalties to open up a narrow lead, with Jules Plisson begging them back shortly before the end of the first half.
In a game which had commentators howling about endless scrum resets, Wales had to come out with a little more verve with Biggar finding the mark with a third penalty before comedy gold struck as North chased down a Jonathan Davies’ kick but his fumbled attempt to connect was redeemed when Plisson miskicked his attempt to clear, and this time North made no mistake to out Wales comfortably ahead.
France tried to pick themselves up, and gave Wales reason for pause with a good couple of attempts, putting the Welsh defence under pressure, before a very nifty North interception and the boot of Biggar freed Wales up.
Les Bleus managed a late consolation try from French caption, Guilhem Guirado to save their blushes and at least get them into double figures, but it was not enough to save Guy Novès from his first defeat.
Italy 20-36 Scotland
What a way to snap an RBS 6 Nations losing streak – Nine matches without a win and a must-win game for either side who had yet to get a win on the score sheet. The hosts went ahead first with a simple slotted penalty for Kelly Haimona but the Scottish set pieces came into their own.
A swift break for Stuart Hogg and a smart offload to the cantering John Barclay put Scotland in the ascendency with Greig Laidlaw’s conversion. In a matter of minutes John Hardie joined his team-mates on the scoreboards with Scotland’s second try, with Laidlaw racking up on the way to 21 points kicked throughout the match.
The Azzurri, playing in white at home were in no mood for surrender, with Leonardo Ghiraldini barging his way over the line to get Italy a score back, with Haimona kicking the conversion to leave the hosts within reach.
Although the Scotland skipper put Scotland ahead with a couple of quick penalties, Italy had a little more fire about them as they mounted their advances. With Scotland getting a little scrappy, resulting in Finn Russell being sent to the sin bin, finally the hosts pushed over for Marco Fuser to score his first try for Italy.
At 20-26 and with Russell still in the sin bin, Italy gave away a penalty to put Scotland nine points ahead. Even as Russell came back, only for WP Nel to sit out the remainder of the game for another yellow card, Hogg was instrumental for final flurry by Tommy Seymour, pushing Italy down to the bottom of the table.
England 21-10 Ireland
With a lot of ‘spirited’ talk before the match, perhaps it was inevitable that the men in green would answer some of Eddie Jones jibes with rightfully punishing some early England indiscipline with Jonathan Sexton providing the penalty kick.
But England turned the screw, with some impressive periods of possession and a nation screaming for them to get over the line as Irish defenced held firm, denying Dylan Hartley a score, citing double movement, with England making do with taking the lead from penalties at the break.
The visitors got the first score, rendering the Twickenham crowd a little more subdued for a spell, as the hosts conceded their first try this tournament, with Ireland leading 10-6 after a successful Sexton conversion.
With England down to 14 men Owen Farrell’s third penalty kept England in contention, and as Irish legs began to tire, Anthony Watson found himself clear to get the score England needed to rouse the crowd. Although Farrell kicked the conversion wide, Jones was throwing in replacement with fresher legs to buoy up England as Mike Brown joined the scoring throng.
Ireland were game right up to the end, with Robbie Henshaw pushing hard for a consolation score, but for the tackling skills of Jack Nowell.
Up next for England, and at home again is the also unbeaten Wales and the championship could well be tied up in the next round.
Play resumes in the RBS 6 Nations on Saturday 12 March.