Six Nations Week 3 | Highlights
27th February 2017
Scotland vs Wales
What a terrific test match to start our weekend off. The contest between Scotland and Wales at BT Murrayfield in the Saturday game pitted a rejuvenated Scotland against a Wales team struggling to find true consistency. This was a truly brilliant performance from this Scottish side who set out with a specific gameplan to beat this Wales team, and stuck to it for the whole 80 minutes. A strategic win for both the players and outgoing head coach, Vern Cotter, as they ground down the Welsh to record an emphatic end result.
It took great patience and resolve to stick to their game plan with the Welsh dominating the first half. Wales will be frustrated that they only took a 13-9 lead into halftime courtesy of a Liam Williams try and Leigh Halfpenny’s boot. The second half read a very different tale though as Scotland’s plan came to fruition and they scored 20 unanswered points. Scotland came through to dominate the game in possession, territory, the breakdown and ultimately the scoreboard.
This match epitomised the age old saying that the forwards will win the game and the backs decide by how much, as they Scottish pack really put it to Wales and the backs scored some wonderfully finished tries. The first was the pick of them, with a lovely dummy line creating a 3 on 2 down the touchline ending up with Tommy Seymour powering over the line despite the attentions of Scott Williams. This victory puts Scotland on course for their first triple crown since 1990 and reignites their challenge for this year’s Six Nations title. A big contest in a fortnight’s time as they head down to Twickenham to try and capture the Calcutta Cup.
Wales will be disappointed with their performance this weekend, especially to not register a single point in the second half. The defence in the outer channels that leaked the two Scotland tries will be worrying, with credit to the Scottish hands, there were some poor missed tackles allowing for the scores. They will move onto the final two weekends of the tournament to try and be party poopers for Ireland, whilst also focusing heavily on and improvement in their playing structures.
Ireland vs France
Ireland improve their record in this tournament to 2 from 3 with a what turned out to be a solid win although for Ireland fans they will have blown a sigh of relief when the final whistle went. This win keeps Ireland on course to setup the mouthwatering clash against England in Dublin on the 18th of March that everyone had targeted prior to the tournament beginning. This was, however, Ireland’s biggest winning margin over France in the Five/Six Nations since 1975.
The Irish performance seemed to ebb and flow with Johnny Sexton as he shook off the cobwebs and settled into the game. They started off much slower than France who looked dangerous with young scrum half, Serin, making a searing break leaving Rob Kearney scrambling in defence. They went into a 6 – 0 lead, which could have been more had Gael Ficou not knocked on whilst trying to find the final pass to Lamerat, Ireland saved by the TMO. Then as Sexton started to become more prominent the Irish really came into the game and man of the match, Conor Murray, powered over for a try before half time. The half time whistle came with Ireland hounding the French line and the omens were good for Ireland, despite only leading by a single point, 7 – 6.
Ireland found their feet in the second half and without really taking off, quietly went about their business to stretch the scoreline to a comfortable 19 – 9 . France will lament that another positive performance wasn’t turned into more points, especially after their win in Paris against Scotland only two weeks ago.
Both teams will be looking to continue their progress throughout the tournament with Ireland travelling to Cardiff in a fortnight for a big clash against Wales, who they will hope to overcome in order to setup a final day, winner takes all, game against England in Dublin. France will travel to Italy next time out and will be wary of the scare then they gave England this weekend.
England vs Italy 36 – 15
The third round of this Six Nations was the round Italy finally came out and really gave someone a shock, something you know they always have up their sleeve. The most controversial aspect of the whole weekend was their tactics at the breakdown. They found a loophole in the current rules and employed a brilliant tactical idea to try and stifle the England attack, and for 40 minutes it certainly worked. Their tactic was so left field it seemed to baffle everyone; players, pundits and coaches. The question that may stand on Monday morning, should they have changed their tactics again at half time?
Italy rode their luck in the first half, but will feel they needed to capitalise on their early dominance, they had 75% territory and 67% possession. Unfortunately late on in the second half they ran out of steam as England really came into their own to finish the game strongly. One of the stars of the game was Michele Campagnaro, who was like a wrecking ball in the Italian midfield, continuing on from his form in the Premiership for Exeter.
The final result again highlights the strength of Eddie Jones’ ‘finishers’ who came on and ended up ensuring the win for England. They changed the attack structure for England and they managed to adjust to the Italians breakdown tactic. Another strong performance for Daly on the wing and Nowell when he came on. Lanchbury, Itoje and Lawes continue to have a fine tournament in the back row/second row.
England keep their quest for back to back Grand Slams on track as they head back to Twickenham in two weeks time to host Scotland for a hugely exciting edition of the Calcutta Cup. Italy host France in Rome, and will look to build again from this hugely positive performance.