I missed the France vs Ireland match but by all accounts I didn’t miss much as France scored a late try to edge it 10-9.
Wales faced Scotland in Cardiff and to the relief of a nation Dan Biggar had overcome injury to return. Wales got off to a great start as Gareth Davies ran in a try within seven minutes of the kick off and Biggar converted.
It would not last long and Scotland came back strongly, bossing for most of the first half. They pulled level after a fantastic try, a good move was capped by Finn Russell sending a perfectly weighted kick that Tommy Seymour caught and grounded. Greig Laidlaw scored the conversion and added two more penalties before the interval, while Biggar added one more for the home team leaving it 10-13 at the half way point.
In the second half Wales found their feet again and Biggar tied things up with his second penalty. It came after a great run from George North, who impressed throughout. Laidlaw kicked a penalty to retake the lead for the visitors but Wales were starting to dominate.
The Scots defended admirably but under sustained pressure they seemed doomed to break at some point. The breaking turned out to be a smashing as Jamie Roberts got the ball and crashed through a couple of Scottish players for the second Welsh try of the afternoon.
With ten minutes left North struck again and with a burst of speed left everyone behind him and touched down to extend the lead. It was a great moment as Wales found their groove. Biggar converted both and it stood at 27-16.
Scotland nabbed a late try to narrow it to 27-23, but Wales deserved the win due to their strong passing game and strength of character in coming back from the deficit. Scotland meanwhile exhibited the same frailties as they often had and when things started going against them looked shaky.
The final match of the round was today’s showdown in Rome as Italy welcomed England. Discussing Italy always runs the risk of slipping into “plucky underdogs” cliche, and they must loathe it, but at times it fit. They ran France close in their opening match and for forty minutes they contained England.
They threw in some big hits and didn’t back down, getting on the board first through a Carlo Canna penalty and it was tit for tat for a while. Owen Farrell replied, Canna got his second and then George Ford equalised once more for England. Ford kicked as Farrell received attention for a head injury, but he returned to the field.
Ford the scored the first try, but the conversion was missed. Canna struck another penalty five minutes from the break and they went in at 9-11. Italy had impressed and seemed to be making it into a contest.
This lasted for around ten minutes of the second half before players had to be switched out and England piled on the pressure. Jonathan Joseph finally managed to find breathing room having been contained in the first half and he was soon causing problems.
He seized a sloppy pass and turned on the pace to go under the posts. When Joseph gets moving he leaves most other players for dead and the scrambling Italians never looked likely to stop him. Farrell kicked the conversion.
Five minutes later Joseph struck again as Danny Care sent a kick across the ground behind the blue line. Joseph showed grace under pressure and scooped it up and went over once again. It was brilliantly taken and Joseph made it look easy.
Now Italy came utterly undone, they gave away a penalty which Farrell converted and the scoreline was distinctly one sided at 9-28.
Worse was to come as Joseph rounded off his hat trick as he muscled over following more English pressure. Farrell struck the post but would redeem himself with six minutes remaining as Jamie George offloaded to him and he grounded under the posts. This time he didn’t miss and got the conversion leaving the scores at 9-40.
It was a deserved victory as England were strong throughout and ruthless in putting the Italians to the sword. The scoreboard told the story and Italy’s weaknesses came to the fore, they lack the depth of squad to deal with injuries and only a few players can hold their own against the other teams.
England and Wales emerged victorious this weekend because both teams seem able to respond well to pressure and have powerful backs who are hard to keep contained for the full eighty.
England remain top of the table, their points margin here putting them comfortably ahead of France. Wales hover at third, one spot above the Irish. Scotland and Italy meet in a fortnight, and that game looks as though it could be the wooden spoon decided.
Round 3 Predictions (Current score- 3/6)
Wales vs France
Italy vs Scotland
England vs Ireland
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.