Round 2 of the RBS Six Nations Tournament saw Ireland getting their title hopes back on track with a demolition job on Italy, while England faced their old foes in Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, and made it two wins out of two with Sunday’s game seeing France welcoming Scotland to the Stade de France for a see-saw battle to round off the weekend.
ITALY 10 – 63 IRELAND
Both sides came into the the second round of matches on the back of defeats, with the Italians being over powered by Wales while Ireland lost a thriller to Scotland. Italy were hoping to stop a run that had saw the Azzurri losing eight matches in a row in the Six Nations, while Ireland were hoping to get their title bid back up and running again against an Italian side that has been lacking a cutting edge to their play.
Ireland needed to win just to stay in contention for the Six Nations crown, but Joe Schmidt the Irish head coach nor anyone else could have predicted the walkover that was about to ensue at the Stadio Olymplico before everyone’s eyes.
Keith Earls much like he did against Scotland the previous week, it saw him grabbing the visitors opening try in the contest after some good work by Paddy Jackson with the fly-half finding his teammate on the wing to put the Irish ahead. Italy then got on the board with penalty for 7-3 and that was soon followed by CJ Stander going over in the corner for Ireland and had Paddy Jackson puffing out his cheeks in relief, when the Ulster player converted with what can only be described as an extremely fortunate ‘Banana kick’ that got carried over by a swirling wind.
Earls then went in for his second try of the match and Ireland’s third of the game, with the Italians powerless to do anything at all to stop the Irish attack and it was becoming far too easy for the away side with 26 minutes gone on the contest. Italy then had some minor joy with a Penalty Try awarded their way minutes later, after the referee deemed the visitors were guilty of collapsing at the scrum. Ireland then picked up their first try scoring bonus point in the Six Nations and also the first by any team in the tournament too, as South African-born CJ Stander powered his way over for a score and made it Ireland 28-10 at the break.
Second half was not so much a wave of Ireland attacks than it was a Tsunami of attacks coming the Irish forwards as they ran in five tries against a side that failed to show anything defensive at all in the half. Stander then completed his hat-trick five minutes into the second half when he burst through the back line to score the fifth try for Ireland and it was getting embarrassingly easy. Ireland then hit the 40 points barrier with Craig Gilroy cutting through the Italians and scored his first of three tries in the half. Gary Ringrose then scored the seventh try for the visitors and was like a hot knife through Italian butter to take the score onto 49-10 with Paddy Jackson adding the extras.
Gilroy then scored two late tries in the game when firstly, Stander kicked clear and saw the Ulster man collecting a favourable bounce his way en-route to going over for his second of the game and then he completed his hat-trick in added time to see Ireland scoring their ninth try in the game, plus matching their previous best and finished with a whopping 63 points.
WALES 16 – 21 ENGLAND
In what was clearly the game of weekend at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, it saw Eddie Jones and his England side looking to make it 16 wins on the bounce and they knew coming into the Dragon’s den that they would need to be at their very best to beat a ready and waiting Welsh side who wanted badly to dent the title hopes of their bitter rivals on home turf.
Wales struck first courtesy of a Leigh Halfpenny kicked penalty at goal, after England were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle. Owen Farrell then soon had the visitors back on level terms with a kick a goal himself and then in the 17th minute of the game it saw Ben Youngs going over near the line, to put England ahead for a 8-3 lead but Farrell missed the conversion. Halfpenny then moved the hosts 8-6 ahead with another penalty from his boot and had Rhys Webb claiming soon after that he scored a try, only for the TMO to disagree with and rule no try.
However Wales did go into the half time break ahead, as Liam Williams found space to run into a gap and dive over for a score to move them 13-8 in front. Second half saw Wales nearly extending their lead when they charged up field with some lovely play and unfortunate for the home side it saw Rhys Webb’s pass to Dan Biggar being too far in front and a deemed a clear forward pass. Both Farrell and Halfpenny kicked points for their respective sides and made it 16-11 in favour to the Welsh with less than 20 minutes of play to go.
With England a yard away from the Welsh try line, it saw them trying to pass it across and Dan Biggar was switched on enough to intercept a pass and with the English players gaining on him at the halfway line he was forced to kick forward and it needed Elliott Daly to almost make a slide tackle to kick it out of play for the visitors. England was award a penalty when Sampson Lee was deemed to have made a high tackle on Jack Nowell and with Owen Farrell having nerves of steel to kick the penalty over he made it a two-point game with less than ten to go.
With the visitors pushing hard for a score late on, it looked like their hopes had been dashed when England lost possession deep in the Welsh half but when a poor clearance by Jonathan Davies missed touch and found George Ford instead, it saw the England man running the ball back and launching a pass out to the wing for Elliott Daly who managed to get the better of Alex Cuthbert for the game winning try.
In such a close game it was going to come down to a mistake or a piece of genius that would give their side victory and in a way it was both, as the poor clearance combined with Ford’s vision and Daly having the energy to get to the line sealed the victory for England and moves them a step closer to retaining their title so far.
FRANCE 22 – 16 SCOTLAND
After their stunning win over Ireland in the opener to their Six Nations campaign the week prior, Scotland was full of confidence heading over the Channel to face France at the Stade de France in Paris with and hopefully end their Paris hoodoo, with the Scots looking for their first win on French soil since 1999.
Camille Lopez put the hosts ahead with a penalty early on before Stuart Hogg went over in the corner for the Scots and put the 5-3 in front. Lopez again kicked the French back in ahead and then minutes later saw Gael Fickou crashing over to make it 11-5 for France before Lopez added the two extras. Scotland suffered a huge blow when Greig Laidlaw suffered an ankle injury in the first half, so kicking duties feel to Finn Russell and he converted on two late penalties before the break to have his side within two points at 13-11.
Scotland then got a lucky bounce i suppose you could say, as Tommy Seymour kicked up field and the bounce from the ball came right back to him and caught out the French defence which then allowed Tim Swinson to go under the posts for a try and see the away side lead 16-13. Confusion then followed for their conversion, when Russell was repeated shouted at to take it quickly and saw the ball falling off the tee and his kick going under the posts in a horribly rushed effort. France looked to have scored a try through Remi Lemerat, as replays suggested that the player got the smallest amount of downward pressure onto the ball and yet the TMO decided differently and ruled a no try.
That no try seemed to spur the French on for the back of the game and two penalties in the last ten minutes gave the home side victory in which you could arguably say was more a case of the Scots throwing it away than France coming back. Both teams now face tricky games in the next round of matches, with Scotland travelling to Wales and France facing Ireland in Dublin.