LOS ANGELES, CA – Two weeks gone, two rounds played, and two teams sit atop the RBS 6 Nations table with two wins from two (England and France). The weekend proved to be an absolute bruiser, especially in Paris where three Irishman and two Frenchman were pulled off with injuries before the match was over. In the end of that clattering affair in Paris, France toppled two-time reigning champions Ireland with what was thought to be a woefully experienced squad. In Cardiff, Wales edged Scotland in a thriller that actually saw Scotland head to the break ahead before succumbing to a second-half rally from the home side. Lastly, England waltzed past Italy in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, keeping their grand slam hopes alive in high-scoring fashion. Review the weekend’s action and check out how our Expert Picks Panelists faired (thanks to Junior Blaber for the EPP table) m as RugbyWrapUp reviews Round 2 of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations…
Expert Picks Panel:
Results: Remember when I said that unanimously siding with Ireland could sink or boost every panel member’s record? No? Well, anyway, thanks a lot Ireland for sinking us all. Moving onto the match in Cardiff between Scotland and Wales, the panel was evenly divided between who the victor would be, Mr. Nelson, Mr. WB, and Mr. Harrington siding with the Welsh while Mr. Yeats, Mr. Blaber, and Mr. Frechette went for the Scots. In the weekend’s final fixture, panel almost unanimously sided with England to best Italy, Mr. Yeats being the only hold out and siding with the Italian underdogs. After Round 2, JWB and Mr. Harrington are tied for first with 4–2 records followed by Mr. Nelson in third with a 3–3 record, Mr. Blaber and Mr. Frechette tied for fourth at 2–4, and Mr. Yeats in last with a 1–5 record.
France 10 vs. 9 Ireland
Stade de France, Paris
In atrocious conditions in wintertime Paris, Guy Noves and his youthful French squad narrowly stretched passed a tough Irish squad hampered by injuries. The game itself was marred by handling errors and woefully missed opportunities on both sides, making it the attritional match no television viewer wished to watch.
After a rather dominant opening quarter of an hour for the visitors, Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton got the first points on the scoreboard through a successful penalty goal after France’s second rower Yoann Maestri hit Sexton with a cynical late high challenge.
The return of Sean O’Brien from injury seemed to be a positive sign for the Irish as they looked stem the flow of injuries bleeding their reserves dry, but his exit in the 20th minute was not good for the visitors morale nor squad depth. Tommy O’Donnell came on in his place and ended up playing valiantly with the opportunities given to him.
10 minutes after O’Brien limped off the pitch, Sexton pushed the scoreboard up to 6-0 thanks to a French “not rolling away” call. The French struck back however through fly half Jules Plisson, cutting the gap to three after Devin Toner clumsily fell into a ruck.
Even so, the Irish went to the break ahead 9–3 thanks to one last Sexton penalty, ironically the same halftime score as the clash between these two nations at the Rugby World Cup.
The second-half turned into a nightmare for the Irish, a combination of the six day turnaround and flat footed, lacklustre performance contributing to a scoreless 40 minutes.
French head coach Guy Noves saw the increasingly bad weather as an opportunity to begin substituting on his replacements, replacing his entire front row before 50 minutes in an effort to regain advantage at the set piece. By the hour mark, Noves’ plan began to take shape, the French pack finally getting the dominant upper hand on the Irish.
With a little more than 10 minutes to go, the French finally made a breakthrough, swinging the ball wide left of a scrum to Maxime Medard who burst through Tommy O’Donnell for a well-deserved try. Plisson slotted a difficult kick from far left field to give the French their first lead of the game.
The Irish morale look to be entirely broken when Sexton limped off with nearly 10 minutes remaining and was replaced by Ian Madigan. The French had no problems seeing through their second victory in two games under the reign of Guy Noves.
…oh and to referee Jaco Peyper, pay little more attention to the high tackles will you?
Wales 27 vs. 23 Scotland
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
In what was undoubtedly the most exciting fixture of the RBS 6 Nations thus far, Wales edged Scotland in a classic at the Millennium Stadium to move within one point of table leaders England and France.
Warren Gatland’s Wales entered into the game with no changes from their clash against Ireland a week prior while Scotland came in with one change at wing after Sean Maitland developed a hamstring strain.
Scotland almost opened up the storing scoring after fallback Stuart Hogg was found in space in the right corner, but Wales recovered and settled into their usual physically challenging playing style.
The home side openned the scoring in the sixth minute through Jonathan Davies after he made a stunning 40 meter break to outpace the Scottish defenders and put his side up 7–0 after Biggar converted.
No more than six minutes had passed, though, before Scotland had a response through Tommy Seymour, who found the end of a Finn Russell grubber to draw the game level at seven after Greig Laidlaw converted.
From here until the hour mark the game turned into a showdown between Laidlaw and Biggar, the former slotting to before the half and one after and the latter slotting to before the half.
Ahead 13–10 at the start of the second period, Scotland looked optimistically at the chances of securing a famous victory. The wicked fast pace of the game never ceased, and with 20 minutes to go Scotland lead 16–13.
Scotland’s hopes suffered a major blow in the 64th minute as rugby league convert Jamie Roberts used his league experience to smash his way through the Scottish defence and put the Welsh up 20–16 after the Biggar conversion.
George North looked to have sealed the game in the 70th minute when he tiptoed down the right side line to score his first try in a good while, pushing the scoreboard to 27–16 with yet another conversion.
A determined Scottish side, though, fought back and, with two minutes remaining, scored through Duncan Taylor. The conversion was successful to bring the gap to 4 points, but following the kickoff, Scotland fumbled the ball forward and ended the game, ceasing all hope of a famous victory.
Italy 9 vs. 40 England
Stadio Olympico, Rome
Sunday’s fixture between Italy and England in Rome was a tale of two halves to say the least. Italy were commendable in the first half performance as they held Eddie Jones and his English squad to just 11 points, but the visitors had their say in the second half and put the Italians to the sword, scoring 29 unanswered points before the final whistle blew.
In fact, it was the Italians who got the scoreboard rolling through the boot of Carlo Canna, but the lead was short lived as Canna, Owen Farrell, and George Ford (On temporarily for Farrell) traded penalties to bring the game level at six by the 20th minute.
George Ford proved his worth in Farrell’s absence when he found himself in space on the left and went over for the first try of the match after 20 minutes. The half ended in stalemate as the two teams went into the break with the visitors ahead 11–9.
The second half was, unfortunately for Italy, and overwhelmingly easy effort for the English. After 10 minutes of constant pressure, Jonathan Joseph ran in England’s second try of the match, only two repeating himself five minutes later to run in England’s third try of the match.
Even then, Joseph was not to be stopped and, in the 70th minute, completed his hat-trick by wriggling over the line after Joe Launchbury stole the ball from Italian second rower George Biagi’s hands.
With a few minutes remaining, Owen Farrell managed to score a try on his own and add a successful conversion to bring his kicking tally up to 2 penalties and 4 conversions, ringing his points total to a mighty 19 points. After half time, it seemed to be just another day at the office for the English…
We’ve got two weeks until Round 3 people! Make sure to watch the European domestic leagues and the USA Eagles in the America’s Rugby Championship! Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber,James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Ronan Nelson, Kaitlin McCabe, Kyle Phillips, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.