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6 Nations Round Up | Week 1 highlights

5th February 2017

Saturday

Scotland v Ireland

The first weekend of the Six Nations has come to a close. Two results have gone as many would have expected and one result that certainly could be classed as shocking. This was, the Scotland vs. Ireland game at Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon. Leading into the tournament many would have predicted a possible Grand Slam for this Irish team – as the November series would have led them to believe.

A first ever win against the all conquering All Blacks, and completing the calendar clean sweep over the Southern Hemisphere Big 3 with a further win against the Australians, all boded well for a strong assault on this year’s six nations. Unfortunately, they turned up at Murrayfield on Saturday and were second best for so much of the game, especially in that first half. Credit to the Scottish team, as they turned up with a great fire. Smashing the Irish runners backwards on several occasions, with Stuart Hogg showing he is a deadly finisher when afforded the space to have a go.

With two early tries, Scotland were sitting very comfortably in front at half time, but then the Irish comeback began. Some tries were scored, some were blundered with poor decision making in the final third, but eventually they forced their way into the lead. The Scottish then went on to show great resolve working a penalty, which the nerveless Captain Greg Laidlaw split the posts with. The Scots held on from here, even spending much of the final few minutes camped on the Irish line.

A brilliant win for the Scots as it was only their second opening day win for them in the history of the Six Nations, and a very disappointing result for this Ireland team who set themselves higher standards than they achieved at the weekend. The Scots will go on to Paris next week looking to build on their performance, and the Irish will look to utilise the opportunity that this Six Nation’s bonus point system may provide.

 

England v France

Next up this weekend was the reigning Six Nations Champions, England, who came into the tournament off the back of an unbeaten year in 2016. Alongside Ireland, heavily tipped to win this Championship and have a good crack at becoming one of only a handful of teams to win back to back Grand Slams in Six and Five Nations history. They were up against a resurgent French side who, with new head coach Guy Noves and some promising performances against the All Blacks and Australia in the November series, are a team to be very wary of.

The French were quite brass in their selection and were going to try and out muscle this England team through the selection of Antonio, the 23 stone prop, and three No. 8’s in the back row. This will not come as a surprise to most as it is often, this year, the platform most of the French Top 14 sides have employed in the Champions Cup. The game started as expected as a slug fest between two big packs, as both sides tried to feel each other out. Johnny May was shown an unfortunate yellow card, but I certainly feel a just one with the stricter marshalling of these incidents in recent months.

One may feel that a big moment for the English was the scrum penalty won just before half time, which the cannon boot of Elliot Daly smashed through the uprights, to make it 9 – 9 at the break. This was followed up brilliantly just after half time through a searing Owen Farrell break and the release of Daly down the wing who’s boot, just brushing the touch line, ruled out what would have been a fantastic try. Later on, with 20 minutes of the game to go, the French power plays paid off and after a number of sublime offloads, the replacement prop Slimani crashed over France.

Then came the changes for the English, who all came on and had a big impact on the game – big Ben Te’o coming on to score the winning try. Disappointment for the French after giving it a good crack at Twickenham, and more proof of how difficult it will be to beat this English team.

 

Sunday

Italy v Wales

Wales travelled to Italy to start their tournament. The first half hour was littered with errors until the Italians were able to smash their way over the line at the half hour mark. Thereafter for the next 30 minutes, Wales were able to kick their way into the lead through the ever dependable boot of Leigh Halfpenny. For the next 20 minutes, the Welsh went through the gears against a spirited Italian defence to score a further two tries. It seems like job half done for the Welsh as they avoided any slip ups against the Italians, who are always good value on the opening weekend. The Italians will be annoyed they couldn’t build on their early score with the game finishing 33 – 7.

 

Still to come…

 

We head onto the second week of fixtures with Ireland heading for Rome, and Wales hosting England, which will be a tantalising fixture at the Millennium Stadium and go a long way to giving us an idea of who’ll be eventual winners of this year’s tournament. Finally, the French will host Scotland in Paris. With no standout side in the first weekend, the tournament is still on a knife edge, and the effect of the bonus point will still waiting to show its effect on the standings.

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