RBS Six Nations 2017: Round Two Review
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The second weekend of the RBS Six Nations was to feature a game once again decided by the last minute cavalry charge, one team’s tournament stuttering yet explosive when the clock ticks past 70. England: the team that you should never write off no matter the foe, time or score line.
Wales 16 – England 21
At the Principality Stadium and the roar of ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ from the Welsh fans Wales looked ready to usurp the English; ending their unbeaten streak would be a mighty prize. With this in mind Wales started well, aggressive in the breakdown, Wales’ forwards (particularly the back row) impressing upon England early on led to an early Leigh Halfpenny penalty.
The game was frenetic at times, but England settled, scoring a penalty and an excellent team try finished by Ben Youngs. With the first 20 minutes done the score was 8-6 to England. But that was it for England’s first half effort. Wales dominated, 2 tries went begging until Liam Williams crossed the line, 13-8 at half time to Wales.
The second half was nervy: England knew what they were up against, Owen Farrell and Halfpenny exchanging penalties as the game shifted from 22 to 22. Here came the cavalry, with 20 left England trailed by five points and the substitutes came on, their mission, save the day. England’s scrum rallied, earning a crucial penalty and then Wasps’ Elliot Daly, thanks to the disruptive work of the likes of Ben Te’o, crossed the line with Farrel taking the extras.
The final score did not reflect Wales’ effort but for England this was the biggest test of their unbeaten streak, 16 games is testament to an England side full of talent and drive.
Italy 10 – Ireland 63
Following the defeat at Murrayfield Ireland needed to start their tournament and where better to do so than in Rome, the sun shining over a perfect display of rugby (albeit by only one team).
Ireland’s attacking display came from all angles; Italy could only stroll around the pitch desperately hoping for an Irish mistake and even when it came it was Simon Zebo of Ireland dropping the ball as he flew over the try line. Once the acrobatics were done Ireland put the hammer down, Keith Earls opening up proceedings with a try. 20 minutes in Ireland led 14-3.
Brief Italian respite came with a penalty to the corner, Sergio Parisse rallying the forwards in a driving maul of the lineout that, when dragged down illegally, resulted in a penalty try and sin binning for Donnacha Ryan. Ireland retaliated with a try that secured them the first bonus point for 4 tries scored in the tournaments history.
After the break flanker CJ Stander secured a hattrick as well as replacement Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson in total scoring 9 conversions. Ireland then secured their first away win in the tournament since 2015 and put Italy to the gallows, their tournament in tatters with a daunting away game against England next.
Below: Ireland's 2009, 2014 and 2015 Six Nations wins will feel like a distant memory after their disappointing opening loss to Scotland. They showed signs of rebuilding against Itlay but have a lot more work to do.
France 22 – Scotland 16
Scotland came seeking their first win in Paris since 1999, their form clearly on the up whilst France looked tenacious but shaky; against England they were dominant and at times ‘dopey’.
Early on, despite a France penalty, Stuart Hogg’s try gave Scotland the impetus but in the Stade Francais France were bustling, their growing confidence following the try rewarded. Gael Fickou on the half hour mark crossed the line, the boot of Cammille Lopez picking up the extras and a penalty giving France a 13-5 lead.
Finn Russell added two Scotland penalties, half time the score then at 13-11. For Scotland the first half brought their worst nightmares to life, captain Greig Laidlaw limping off to later discover his tournament was over.
A fast start in the second half gave Scotland another try through Tim Swinson but no conversion followed, Russell rushing to avoid a TMO call of No Try. However, the tale of the half would be the punishing boot of Lopez deciding things. Scotland at the breakdown gifted France 3 penalties. In the end France pulled through, Scotland could not muster anymore magic after an exhausting 80 minutes.
The 3rd round of the 2017 RBS Six Nations comes in two weeks following a rest weekend. For England the chance to rack up points against Italy is mouth-watering. Scotland can look forward to a home match against Wales, confidence the key to that fixture. Meanwhile in Dublin, France take on Ireland in what is sure to be a highly physical and competitive match.