6 Nations 2014: Going out on a highPosted: March 16, 2014
The last day of the Six Nations Championship is always quite good fun for rugby fans with three games back to back and lots left to be decided. This year going into the last round there were three countries still in contention for the title, and two of the games were vitally important to the outcome.
Italy vs England
England traveled to Rome needing a solid win to keep hope alive that the result in Paris would give them the title. England had been impressive throughout the tournament, unlucky losers against France they’d bounced back and scored three back to back victories in a convincing manner.
Italy had been handed a few big defeats and been denied at the death against Scotland.
From the off it was clear that England would win, but could they eat into Ireland’s impressive points margin?
By half-time the game was all but over, England having torn the Italian defence apart. Especially impressive was Mike Brown, their star of the tournament, who repeatedly burst through the lines and seemed effortlessly comfortable in possession. He bagged a brace of tries before the break.
Another stand out performance came from Owen Farrell, who kicked with cool headed precision and grabbed a try of his own.
Italy looked done in and after the break England built on their 24-6 lead. Leonardo Sarto grabbed a consolation try for the home side but England were rampant. Manu Tuilagi came off the bench and lent immense power to the attack, crashing through on numerous occasions and getting a late try.
Vunipola, Robshaw and Nowell all touched down for England as well.
England won 52 to 11, and were left with a tense wait and having to hope that France could defeat Ireland.
Wales vs Scotland
This match was basically for pride. Wales had let themselves down badly against the Irish and English, and in front of a home crowd would want a good ending to their series. Scotland had been consistently poor, their only shining moment coming as they snatched a late victory against Italy.
Scotland had a mountain to climb, coming to Cardiff being a daunting task and against a bigger, stronger and despite their failings, more impressive Welsh team.
They took an early lead with a Greig Laidlaw penalty after 3 minutes, but after that it was all Wales.
Dan Biggar, starting in place of Priestland (Thank the gods!) kicked a penalty to tie the scores and converted after a well taken try from Liam Williams, who replaced the injured Leigh Halfpenny.
Scotland were already adrift when things got even worse for them. Stuart Hogg went in very late and floored Biggar and was shown yellow, however, the replay showed just how bad a hit it was. Not only late, Hogg smashed shoulder first into Biggar’s face and it looked like Biggar’s game might be over. However, he recovered.
The referee, having seen the offence on the big screen changed his mind and showed a red card. Scotland would have to play the rest of the match a man down.
Wales didn’t waste much time in capitalizing on the advantage and the backs blazed through time and time again. George North and Jason Roberts touched down and Scotland were reeling by the interval, where they went in 27-3 down.
As a Welshman it was a great watch, with Wales playing fast, free flowing rugby and destroying Scotland. After a frustrating tournament, this last day provided a chance for sheer joy and optimism for the Welsh fans.
It didn’t take too long after the break for the boys to extend their lead. North powered over for his second within a minute of the restart and Roberts followed on 47 minutes. Five minutes later Taulupe Faletau went over and Wales led 44-3.
Scotland, however, were not quite done and for twenty minutes they played out of their skin. Keeping possession for long stretches and frustrated the Welsh. They couldn’t break through the Welsh line but they stalled the momentum of the Welsh. For a time at least.
In the last ten minutes Wales started to threaten again and Scotland couldn’t stop Rhodri Williams from getting his first international score.
It may not have meant much for the outcome of the tournament, but it was a hugely entertaining match and Wales’ 51-3 win earned them third place.
France vs Ireland
I’d predicted and hoped for an Irish win, but proving the tournament cliche that you never know which French team is going to turn up the home side surprised me by making a real contest of it.
They pushed the Irish all the way and it was a tight affair. Helping them away was a strong showing from Jonathan Sexton, who grabbed two tries and kicked a further 7 points.
An Ireland win was what I wanted, not just because it would derail England’s hopes but because it was the last Six Nations for Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll. The fairy tale ending would be an Irish victory with O’Driscoll scoring a match winning try. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and the closest he game was being brought down just short of the line.
On balance Ireland deserved the win but the French made them work for it and it remained close to the end. They almost stole it in the dying minutes but a needlessly forward pass robbed them of the chance to snatch victory and Ireland ran out 22-20 winners, enough to seal the championship.
Ireland were probably the most consistently impressive team, as evidenced by their massive point margin (83) and deserved the win. England can build on a strong showing and Wales now know the flaws they need to address.
My prediction scorecard- 11/15.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.