This round of the 6 Nations has come with cries of “Italy made the game a farce”, “They need to re-write the laws” and best of all from good old Eddie “That’s not Rugby!” From the same game, one of the best lines from a referee … ever!
The other two matches may have lacked the theatrics of England v Italy, however Scotland beating Wales was probably a little unexpected as they had failed to do so in the past 10 years.
Tommy Seymour scores Scotland’s first try
Scotland 29 – Wales 13
Both teams headed in to the round 3 clash looking for their second win of the campaign. The game started out as the predicted tense and gritty affair with both teams going hard at each other. Both teams were made to work hard for any metres and with neither looking too threatening it was down to penalties to get both teams on the scoreboard. At the 22 minute mark Wales seized the first opportunity playing on quickly from a free kick, moving the ball quickly across field where Liam Williams beat a scrambling Scottish defence to score in the left corner, Halfpenny converting. The game then fell back in the pattern of the first 20 minutes, a penalty a piece being added to end the half with Scotland trailing 13 – 9.
The second half opened with Scotland finally getting some forward momentum. On the front foot, Scotland advanced towards the try line, with Wales on their heels, and sent the ball through hands to Hogg, who’s sublimely timed pass put Tommy Seymour into the right corner 3 minutes after half time. Russell converted to put the Scots ahead 16 – 13. Wales had a chance to hit back shortly after receiving a penalty, kicking to the sideline. From the lineout Wales squandered their opportunity with accidental obstruction while forming the maul. The Scots were straight back on attack with Wales conceding a penalty at the breakdown for not releasing, allowing Russell the opportunity to add 3 more points, extending the lead to 6. Wales were presented with an opportunity not long after when the ball squirted out the side of a Scottish defensive scrum 10 metres from the line, Webb pounced on the ball and dove for the tryline but was denied as his boot was in touch.
Scotland again seized control and were back on attack, working towards the Welsh line. After multiple phases the Scot’s moved the ball through the hands to the left where Tim Visser darted through in the corner to score the Scots second try that Russell converted. The Scots took a penalty with just under 10 minutes to go to extend their lead. Wales had two more attacking opportunities; both stopped by dogged Scottish defence turning the ball over.
The Game Changer
Scotland came out in the second half determined and establish forward momentum that pushed Wales out of the game.
GAGR Man of The Match
Finn Russell was solid on field and 100% off the tee, with 19 points off the boot.
Ireland’s forwards got the better of the French at scrum time
Ireland 19 – France 9
By Mark Rooney
France started the game on the front foot and looked to go wide early and in numbers. They made headway but they couldn’t get in behind the Irish defence.
That was until Serin produced a bit of magic as he went and sidestepped fullback Kearney deep in the Irish 22. Heaslip was pinged for being off his feet as he looked to slow the ball down.
Lopez opened the scoring from the resulting penalty to make to 0-3 after 12 minutes.
France were able to pin the Irish back through the massive boot of Spedding and when Zebo tried to keep one of his kicks in close to the line he conceded a 5m scrum.
After France had a try ruled for a Fikou knock on in the build-up Lopez took the points for the penalty advantage to make it 0-6 on twenty minutes.
From a five metre scrum Henshaw’s burst close to the line allowed Murray to pick and dive over for the opening try. The returning Sexton added the extras for 7-6 with ten to half-time.
That’s how the half ended despite Ireland looking to increase their lead.
Ireland got their reward for a bright start to the second half as Sexton slotted a penalty after Serin pulled Murray back at a scrum. 10-6 five minutes into the half.
Sexton then added a drop goal five minutes later with Owens playing advantage to make it 13-6.
Ireland’s kicking into space was putting pressure on the French back three and keeping Ireland in the right area of the field.
When Gourdon was pinged for not being bound to the scrum Sexton obliged from the tee for 16-6 with 25 to go.
With seven minutes to go Toner’s check on Le Devedec allowed Lopez to kick France within one score of an unlikely draw at 16-9.
The pick of the French team for me was Picamoles but he gave away a penalty in the dying minutes for not rolling away. Replacement Jackson made it 19-9 and that’s how it finished.
The Game Changer
Murray’s try gave the Irish belief and a turned the momentum of the game.
GAGR Man of the Match
Picamoles was impressive for France and Spedding was a great out with both boot and ball in hand. For Ireland Sexton looked sharp and his return but Connor Murray’s accurate kicking and all-round performance, topped off by his try, make him my pick for the GAGR Man of the Match.
Kyle Sinckler makes a break for England
England 36 – Italy 15
By Lee Grant
England were out-thought in the first half by a coaching ploy, but they came from behind when they sorted the problem.
Italy surprised England by not forming rucks after a tackle. There was no offside line – it didn’t seem that hard but the England players didn’t understand the law, nor did the booing crowd.
Apart from that even, England were ordinary. They couldn’t attack in the Italy 22 until prop Cole scored a maul try at 24 minutes. They were lucky to be ahead because Italy flyhalf Allan had missed two penalty goal attempts – though he made up for it with a drop kick.
Just before oranges Vendetti pouched the rebound from another failed penalty and scored – the Englanders were facing the wrong way.
Half-time score: England 5 – Italy 10.
So if Italy didn’t want to form a ruck and loitered on the England side of the tackle, the Roses could charge up the middle. That didn’t seem to be too hard either. It worked and they shredded Italy with two tries in six minutes.
England scrummie Care scampered after a five-metre scrum penalty. Too scared of Eddie Jones not to score, he did. Then they drove up the middle, used the ball wide and winger Daly was in. England 17-10.
Surely Italy would be overrun but centre Campanaro brushed past Ford and two helpers to dot down. Brilliant. England 17-15.
Game changer – Italy were now posing questions but England owned the final period and scored three tries in the last ten minutes.
They attacked with tighthead ball and nearly ran in but earned a 5-metre scum for winger Nowell to score in the opposite corner. Centre Te’o was in next after a thundering run from reserve prop Sinckler. Then Nowell got his second after pinball play in the Italy 22.
Final score: England 36 – Italy 15
Man of the match
Since referee Romaine Poite can’t be nominated, nor the Italy coaching staff, we have to look at the players. Italy centre Centre Campagnaro scored a brilliant individual try and lock Van Schalkwyk ran well.
For England scrumhalf Care had a superb first half but was subbed early, and lock Launchbury, the official MOTM, had one devastating run and fine all-round game,
But the GAGR man-of-the match goes to the other lock Maro Itoje, who was mutli-functional on attack an defence.
Yes Dylan, he is a referee, not a coach
Scotland is still in the hunt for the title, having only lost one of their matches. This win will have boosted their confidence, especially as they were missing a key figure in Greig Laidlaw. They come up against England next and are currently brimming with confidence. Ireland are also still in the running, they face Wales and England in the final 2 rounds so who knows what may happen.
Wales are out of the race now, having won just one of their matches. The players who really stood up against England (Moriarty for example) were missing this week and they didn’t take chances where they had them.
France started strongly in this campaign, pushing England hard, but have dropped off and are out of the running.
Italy … well they have just shown how a strategic game plan (and sticking to said plan) can really hinder the opposition, both on the field and mentally. Cynical or brilliant? Either way it made them competitive, even if only for one half.
Finally England. They must be the favourites to win the 6 Nations, but Italy showed that they are vulnerable. You can bet that Eddie won’t be caught out by that again.