This weekend saw the second round of Six Nations matches which saw Ireland, England and Scotland getting wins.
Ireland cruise past Italy (Ireland 56 Italy 19)
Ireland made it two wins out of two in this year’s Six Nations when they claimed a deserved 56-19 win over Italy in Dublin on Saturday.
Joe Schmidt’s men were ruthless in the first half and went into the break leading 28-0. Despite a few defensive errors in the second, they ultimately proved too good for Conor O’Shea’s side.
After a sustained spell of pressure from the hosts, Robbie Henshaw scored the first try of the game in the 11th minute, after spotting a gap in the defence and surging through from close range.
Ireland continued to attack and only had to wait three minutes before scoring again. A magnificent pass from Jack Conan sent Conor Murray away on the left and the scrum-half finished off.
Murray turned provider in the 21st minute following an attacking lineout, which had put Ireland just short of the try-line. From there, he passed the ball to Bundee Aki, who crashed over.
14 minutes later, it was Aki’s turn to set up a try. After a clever dummy in the build-up, he passed the ball to Keith Earls, who eased over for the bonus-point try near the right touchline.
Italy shot themselves in the foot in the fourth minute of the second half, as Sergio Parisse’s sloppy pass to Tommaso Allan was intercepted by Henshaw. The centre ran through for his second try, but injured himself in the process and had to be replaced by debutant Jordan Larmour.
Captain Rory Best got in on the act in the 53rd minute, when he peeled away from a maul and crashed over for a rare try.
However, Italy hit back three minutes later, when Tommaso Castello charged through a gap in the defence and offloaded to Tommaso Allan, who scored the Azzurri’s first try.
It didn’t take long for Ireland to respond. Jacob Stockdale eased through the Azzurri defence from close range and grounded the ball near the posts in the 60th minute following another attacking lineout.
Matteo Minozzi was the catalyst for a well-worked attacking move which led to Italy’s second try. Parisse got the final pass to Edoardo Gori, who scored in the 66th minute.
However, once again, Italy proved their own worst enemies, as Stockdale intercepted a Castello pass and darted through on the left to score Ireland’s eighth try four minutes later.
Minozzi got a deserved try of his own with five minutes left on the clock after the ball was worked out left to him following an attacking lineout. Nevertheless, it was too little, too late, as Italy narrowly missed out on a bonus point.
Tries: Henshaw 2, Murray, Aki, Earls, Best, Stockdale 2
Cons: Sexton 5, Carbery 3
Tries: Allan, Gori, Minozzi
Cons: Allan 2
England claim hard-fought win over Wales (England 12 Wales 6)
England kept their Grand Slam hopes alive when they claimed a hard-fought 12-6 victory over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
In a tough and uncompromising encounter, characterised by several brutal collisions, England outscored their hosts two tries to none with Jonny May crossing for a brace in the first half.
England were made to work very hard for this win but, in the end, they did enough in the first half to secure the result as a Wales penalty was the only points after half-time. although the visitors will rue some missed opportunities on attack
The hosts made a bright start and opened the scoring as early as the third minute when May gathered a bouncing crossfield kick from Owen Farrell inside Wales’ 22 before crossing the whitewash.
Farrell missed with the conversion attempt but although Wales had a chance to narrow the gap when England infringed from the restart, Rhys Patchell pushed his penalty kick wide of the posts.
England continued to dominate as the half progressed and in the 20th minute they increased their lead courtesy of May’s second try.
Farrell threw a long pass to Joe Launchbury close to Wales’ try-line. and although the big second-row still had work to do, he did well to throw an inside pass to May, who went over untouched.
Farrell succeeded with the conversion attempt which gave his side a 12-0 lead, but Wales were soon back on the attack and were unlucky not to be awarded a try.
This, after a Patchell crossfield kick bounced off Steff Evans’ knee and Gareth Anscombe appeared to ground the ball before Anthony Watson but the Television Match Official ruled that there was insufficient evidence of the grounding.
Referee Jérôme Garcès came back for an England infringement on defence and Patchell slotted the resulting penalty to open the visitors’ account.
There were several tense moments over the next 15 minutes but Patchell’s penalty was the final points of the half and although England held a nine-point lead, the game was evenly poised as the teams changed sides at the interval.
The second half was a tight affair and although the two teams spent time inside their opponents’ half, they kept each other at bay with solid defensive efforts.
Wales finished stronger, however, and did most of the attacking during the final quarter.
Just after the hour-mark, Ken Owens and George North combined brilliantly before North offloaded to Scott Williams inside England’s 22. Williams was in the clear and sailed towards the try-line from five metres out but Sam Underhill did saved the day for the hosts with a brilliant cover tackle which took Williams into touch at the corner flag.
Wales continued to attack but had nothing to show for their efforts although they secured a losing bonus-point, three minutes before full-time, when Anscombe slotted a penalty.
Tries: May 2
Pens: Patchell, Anscombe
Laidlaw boot secure Scots win over France (Scotland 32 France 26)
Greig Laidlaw kicked six second half penalties as Scotland got their Six Nations campaign back on track following a 32-26 triumph over France.
The first half was a wonderfully free-flowing encounter with the sides scoring two tries apiece. Teddy Thomas touched down twice for the French – his second taking them 17-7 clear – but Sean Maitland and Huw Jones crossed the whitewash for the hosts to leave it finely poised.
Although the second period was slightly more attritional, with three penalties from Laidlaw to two from Baptiste Serin the only scores in the third quarter, it was still an enthralling contest going into the final 20 minutes.
Laidlaw then levelled proceedings before the half-back added two more from the tee to condemn France to a second consecutive defeat.
It was a thrilling affair – quite comfortably the best game of the championship – and the early passage of play set the tone.
With conditions far more conducive for attacking rugby than in France’s narrow defeat to Ireland last weekend, the visitors looked to move the ball wider and enjoyed plenty of success.
Once again, Thomas, after his wonderful individual score in round one, was particularly prominent and he repeated that effort in the opening 10 minutes.
The wing virtually produced a carbon copy of that try as he picked up the ball on the right, weaved outside Finn Russell and then stepped inside Stuart Hogg for another magnificent individual touchdown.
Jacques Brunel’s men were on the front foot and Maxime Machenaud followed up converting Thomas’ score by adding a penalty.
Scotland hit back, however. Against Wales, where they conceded early and duly folded, Gregor Townsend’s men could have gone the same way at Murrayfield but, to their credit, the hosts found their composure and, more importantly, their physicality.
Both Hamish Watson and Jonny Gray had surges which dented the opposition rearguard before the ball was shifted wide and Maitland crossed the whitewash unopposed.
Townsend’s side were playing much better but so were Les Bleus and another piece of Thomas brilliance saw them restore their 10-point buffer. The hosts were exposed on the right once more and the Frenchman sprinted down the wing, kicked ahead and touched down.
Unperturbed, Scotland reduced the arrears when Jones took a brilliant line, but a second Machenaud three-pointer gave the visitors a 20-14 advantage at the interval.
Discipline was an issue in the second period with Laidlaw and replacement Serin, who came on at half-time, trading three-pointers. The kickers then repeated the trick as Brunel’s side went into the final quarter 26-20 in front.
France were beginning to make errors, however, and they started to infringe more consistently. Two of those were in kickable positions and Scotland’s scrum-half was in no mood to miss, adding a brace of penalties.
The home team sensed that their opponents were wilting and searched for the decisive breakthrough. Townsend’s men were on the front foot and the pressure eventually yielded an opportunity for their sharp-shooter, which he converted.
Scotland maintained their intensity and Laidlaw made sure that they erased memories of their woeful performance against Wales.
Tries: Maitland, Jones
Cons: Laidlaw 2
Pens: Laidlaw 6
Tries: Thomas 2
Cons: Machenaud 2
Pens: Machenaud 2, Serin 2