The 6 Nations has kicked off with a bang and here is my review of the weekend’s action.
How did the predictions go?
First here’s a link to my predictions.
2 out of 3, I overestimated the disruption to the England team and they pulled out a great second half performance.
Wales 16 v 21 England
Despite all the banter, that at times stepped over the mark into hatred this game was only a game and was irrelevant. The wellbeing of the players though is important and clearly the protocols failed for George North. He took two knocks to the head that are shown here on YouTube, who knows how many more weren’t as severe and weren’t noticed. World Rugby have asked for an explanation. When at least 4 ex-players were tweeting during the game that he shouldn’t be on the pitch something is clearly wrong.
Anyway on to the irrelevant game. Wales had a great start and were clinical, making sure they scored when they visited England’s 22. But even so there were early warning signs as the Welsh scrum was going backwards even though they engineered a try. At the time Wales were scoring more than a point a minute for a 10-0 lead.
England did well not to fold at that point and got hold of the ball and put together some phases. This led to a try and England were back in it. Swapping penalties meant that it looked like the teams would enter the break with just a 5 point gap. But a Biggar drop goal to finish the half meant that Wales went into the break 8 points up.
England started the second half much better and got a try after 20 phases of play to give JJ his first international try. It was a one point game until just after the hour mark when Haskell ran into the post rather than scoring. Cuthbert was yellow carded for illegally stopping the try but the only points England managed were the penalty for that offence. In the end England’s superiority upfront told and another penalty just before the end sealed the win.
Key stat: Scrums on own feed Wales 6 won, 2 lost (75.0%) England 3 won, 0 lost (100.0%)
It may say that Wales only lost 2 scrums but that doesn’t tell the whole story as they won scrums where they were going backwards. England’s powerful forwards put in a big shift to ensure that they matched and bettered the Welsh physicality. Once you remove that from Wales they didn’t have a plan B.
Italy 3 v 26 Ireland
In the run up to this tournament a lot of the talk around Ireland has been about their attacking ability. This was strange since Ireland won the last 6 Nations due to least points conceded. Won their November Internationals due to solid defence and a few attacking moments of genius. Add into that their tactics of not offloading and rucking quickly means that a solid defence that doesn’t over commit will always cause Ireland issues.
In the first half Ireland managed 3 kickable penalties and knocked them all over. Italy managed one of their own to end the half. The second half was much the same for the first 20 odd minutes with the Italians also needing to infringe to keep the Irish out. Eventually this told and the hooker got yellow carded. With the man advantage Ireland scored two quick converted tries to take a comfortable win.
Key stat: Tackles made/missed Italy 198/18 Ireland 117/12
Perhaps I should have chosen the yellow card but the story was Italy’s solid defence keeping out Ireland.
France 15 v 8 Scotland
Perhaps the French learned something from the Argentina game last November where they lost to constant kicking. France kicked off the game well and picked up an early penalty, the rest of the half was played at a frenetic pace and France looked to lead 9-3 into the half. Scotland though scored the only try of the game with a sweeping move just before half-time to cut the lead to just one point.
The second half was equally frenetic but France were able to turn the screw with better discipline, defence and ability to hold onto the ball. Scotland didn’t help themselves with a yellow card as well, even tough they didn’t concede any points during that time. France did manage two penalties to close out the close win.
Key stat: Turnovers conceded France 14 Scotland 21
Both sides struggled with continuity handing the ball over to the opposition so many times. Scotland also missed 21 tackles so it’s clear where they need to work over the next week.