It’s that time of year again! The Six Nations is far and away my favourite sports tournament and Wales got their campaign underway today in Dublin.
It did not start well as the Irish built up an impressive 13-0 lead and things got worse when Dan Biggar had to retire from the field and Rhys Priestland took his place.
Priestland is my least favourite Welsh player. His kicking at posts is average but and from the hand he’s woefully inconsistent, the worst part is I’ve seen him turn in great performances at club level and can’t understand why when he puts on a Wales jersey he falls apart. Nerves? The pressure?
To be fair he did quite well, landing a penalty and converting after Taulupe Faletau muscled over for a try. Wales’ “good for an hour” tradition continued as they got back into things and closed the gap to 13-10 at the break.
After the break Priestland added another penalty and Wales began to take control. They attacked impressively but the Irish defence was superb, holding their line phase-after-phase and stalling a Welsh push at the 22.
Even as a Welshman I felt for them as they succeeded in winning the ball only to give away a sloppy penalty that Priestland scored to give us a 16-13 lead.
Ireland came back almost immediately as Jonathan Sexton kicked a fine effort and despite both team’s attempts it ended a draw. This was probably the fairest outcome as neither team deserved to lose and a last minute winner would have been a painful finale.
The Priestland problem became apparent when on two different occasions Wales passed back for a drop goal attempt. It was like the men in red kept forgetting Biggar was off as they threw the ball to Priestland who kicked well wide of the posts.
You hope that they learn from this and stop expecting him to do something he clearly can’t manage. You got the feeling that Priestland himself was looking at his teammates and asking “have you forgotten who I am?”
They need to recognise his limitations and try a different approach.
I’d say I was disappointed but I expect so little from Priestland that for me this counts as his strongest showing wearing the three feathers.
Another player meeting low expectations was England’s Owen Farrell. There was a needless shove on a Scottish player, a petulant, unsportsmanlike moment and I thought “Who the hell did that?” And then saw it was Farrell who I expect nothing more from.
It’s a shame as he’s a decent player but his discipline is atrocious and he seems the embodiment of the arrogance that makes English rugby so unlikable to the outsider, or this outsider at least. Also his pre-kick ritual reminds me of a gormless Terminator. He contributed five of his side’s fifteen points as they beat a stuttering, shaky Scotland by six.
This was a blow for the Scots and the majority of neutrals who wanted the Scots to have a good match to make up for the injustice of their World Cup exit. Having been robbed by the referee after a solid match it would be nice to see them do well.
Unfortunately, sport and life is often unfair and the Scots find themselves holding up the table, just behind the Italians who made the French work for a 23-21 win.
Round 2 predictions (current score 1/3)
France v Ireland
Wales v Scotland
Italy v England
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.