By James Malleson
- England on for the Grand Slam after 36-15 win, but not before making things difficult for themselves.
- Ireland and Scotland keep their hopes alive
RBS SIX NATIONS – Round up and key highlights as Ireland, Scotland and England record wins.
A Tale of Two Halves
England won convincingly in the end but it was not without hard work. In the first half, Italy dominated with some surging runs forcing England to give away penalties. However, Tammaso Allan could not make them pay.
In fact it was England who put a number on the score sheet first with Dan Cole scoring a try after a good charge down from Maro Itoje. Italy were not to be disheartened as Allan scored a drop kick to make it 5-3 in England’s favour.
They were further encouraged, as the Italian’s penalty kick hit the left post and rebounded for Giovanbattista Venditti to score a try, giving Italy a well deserved half time lead as Allan shotbetween the posts.
The second half was a more dominate display from England, as Danny Care and Elliot Daly both score successive tries. Italy were not finished however, as Michele Campagnaro gave Italy their second try and closer to England.
However, Italy tired and England soon prospered with Jack Nowell and Ben Te’o on his first start for England, finished along with a conversion from Owen Farrell. Nowell added his second try right at the end as England put a glaze on a good second half.
England look to be in a favourable position heading into the rest of the fixtures, if they can prevail in matches like these.
Ireland shake off the Blues
If it was a wet day at the Aviva stadium, it certainly wasn’t a wet performance from the men in Green. The Irish were men possessed, dominating the French with a total of 64% possession. Eventually winning 19-9, although not a particularly high scoring game, was certainly exciting. France took a deserved lead 0-6 after two assured penalty kicks from the boot of Camille Lopez, continuing on from his impressive form of the last time he played.
Although the Irish team started poorly, it was not to last, the ever assured Conor Murray, scoring past the line for 5, and followed up with a kick between the posts from Johnny Sexton – all within the first thirty minutes. The first half ended as a scrappy affair.
After the resumption of the break, Ireland continued their success with a penalty kick scored by who else, Sexton after a pull back committed on Murray. Sexton continued with flair and creativity, as his inventive drop kick put the greens ahead by seven points as the game progressed into the 50th minute.
Ireland would just not rest and the pressure paid with France guilty of conceding another penalty, for not binding. After seventy minutes had elapsed, the brilliant Sexton left to an ovation as Paddy Jackson took to the field.
The French showed a bit more spirit and were still willing to fight until the end as Lopez scored another penalty. However that was all, as the No 22 replacement (Jackson), showed us why his kicking in this competition has seen him miss only 8%, as he duly scored his penalty kick , four minutes from time.
A roar erupted as the final whistle blew. Ireland will head to the Millennium Stadium with renewed hopes of repeating their Six Nations success of 2015.
Scotland creativity is the key to success
If Scotland had six key players missing from the start of this match including their talisman Greig Laidlaw, you certainly could not tell from the performance they produced at Murrayfield.
John Barclay captained his side superbly as Scotland were a threat to Wales in the early exchanges of the match. The pressure soon told, as Wales conceded a penalty- Finn Russell making no mistake, calmly slotting through the uprights. Another penalty on the eleventh minute but this time awarded to Wales, with Leigh Halfpenny scoring off the tee.
This sparked Wales into life. Quick exchanges between Halfpenny and Rhys Webb, and a superb run from Liam Williams gave the team their sole try. After a succession of penalties awarded to both teams, the score at half-time was 9-13 in Wales’ favour. The eight penalties conceded by Scotland to Wales’ five being the key stat in the first half, however Scotland with the more possession.
A quick start for Scotland, and an even quicker run from Tommy Seymour, allowed him to score a fine margin try, as Russell duly converted. Scotland with a renewed spark, started to become more creative. As they drew Wales’ into their trap, gaining another penalty. Wales tried to fight back and nearly did, but for Webb’s left foot, disallowing the try.
Further creative play from Scotland unlocked the Welsh defence again, with the ever impressive Russell converting. He would then score again, this time from a penalty, as the ball whistled past the inside of the right post.
If the first half was a close affair, the second certainly wasn’t and with it, Scotland ended Wales’ nine game, ten year winning streak.
Sexton – Ireland’s game-changer?
Johnny Sexton was a man on a mission during Ireland’s win over France. He was the figurehead leading the men in green. If he had previously been out injured, you would not have known it. Scorer of a conversion, two penalties and a drop goal he was at the centre of everything good Ireland did.
With a raucous crowd behind him, he did not disappoint. His powerful surging runs and quick incisive passes helped an invigorated Ireland. His composure during penalty kicks was also notable.
If Sexton was the star man, Murray was hot on his heels, as the 27 year-old, from Limerick capped a fine performance too. Scorer of the only try of the game, his darting run and finish was not to be sneered at.
The try came after sustained pressure from the sprightly greens, and this man scored his tenth try in 56 appearances. Even on the defense, Murray was there most notably clearing the ball within one inch of the corner flag to gain Irish territory.
Russell at the Forefront
This relatively young man played a perfect match and deserves high praise indeed. He pushed Scotland into a much needed win, contributing to their total by 19. It wasn’t just his composure from the penalty or conversion spots that stood out.
His constant forward kicks allowed Scotland to gain territory and with it further success. The crowd helped too with the passion flowing throughout the stadium, enabling Scotland as a team to perform superbly, pushing them and Finn to the finish line.
It wasn’t just Russell though. There were plenty of standout performers in this cast with other names popping up such as Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour managing to score a nifty try.
Scotland came together as a unit, and flying Finn scorer of all seven of his kicks, led them.
Results & Next Round
|Scotland 29-13 Wales|
|Ireland 19-9 France|
|England 36-15 Italy|
|Wales v Ireland||Friday 10 March 20:00|
|Italy v France||Saturday 11 March 13:30|
|England v Scotland||Saturday 11 March 16:00|
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