DUBLIN, IRL – The third round of the 2017 Six Nations wrapped up on Sunday following a weekend of pure craziness.
Scotland’s victory over Wales to start the weekend pushed them up to their highest ever ranking in World Rugby’s classifications, pushing them into the top five. Ireland overcame an early deficit to score a hugely important victory and Dublin over the visiting French, and England scraped past an audacious Italian outfit to score their third straight victory in the tournament. Relive a great weekend of European rugby action below with our individual recaps:
Scotland 29-13 Wales
In a massive home performance, Scotland staked their claim in championship contention with their first win over the Welsh in 10 years.
Head coach Vern Cotter has amazingly created a revitalized Scottish side in this championship, and despite their second round loss to France, the Scots are now in the position where a victory over England in the next round could secure them their first Triple Crown in nearly 30 years.
The two sides exchanged penalties through the first 10 minutes as they worked their way through a chess match of a start; Finn Russell and Leigh Halfpenny kicking the points for Scotland and Wales, respectively.
Wales took the lead just after the 20 minute mark thanks to a quick taken free kick off a midfield scrum, the ball ushered wide through the hands of the Welsh back line allowing George North to cross over in the corner. With Halfpenny’s conversion the Welsh led 10-3.
The Welsh slotted one more penalty and the Scottish two more in a gridlocked first match, besides going into halftime with the visitors ahead 13-9.
The second half, however, was all Scotland. Winger Tommy Seymour scored Scotland’s first try after just three minutes thanks to beautiful interplay from Stuart Hogg and Tim Visser.
Scotland’s second, and game-winning try came in the 66th minute when Hogg put on a master class of ball-handling, feeding Visser, Who was himself almost in touch, in the tiniest of channels to put the winger over in the corner. Russell converted and tacked on a 72nd minute penalty to bring the final score to 29-13, a well-deserved victory.
Ireland 19-9 France
Despite an early 6-0 lead to the visiting French after 20 minutes, Ireland used a powerful second half performance two are in their second win of the championship.
The French were very quick from the get-go and enjoyed a fair amount of attacking possession through the first 10 minutes. Ireland were mostly on the defensive side of the ball and were caught infringing in the 11th minute when Jamie Heaslip used his hands in a ruck to slow down a cunning snipe from first-cap scrum-half Baptiste Serin. Fly-half Camille Lopez converted for the score. Lopez added three more points eight minutes later from easy range to give the French a 6-0 advantage.
Lopez added three more points eight minutes later from easy range to give the French a 6-0 advantage. From there, Ireland dominated the rest of the match.
Conor Murray’s performance in the #9 jersey all but booked his ticket to New Zealand on the Lions tour; his pace and vision around the breakdown turning the tide in favor of the Irish. Murray got Ireland’s account started on the half hour mark thanks to a quick snipe around the fringes of a ruck 1 m from the try-line. Excellent attacking play from fly-half Johnny Sexton and centers Robbie Henshaw and Gary Ringrose were key to putting the Irish in position to score, their looping play and line-running punching repeated holes through a backpedaling French defense.
In the end, though, Ireland just weren’t able to capitalize on any of their attacking opportunities (except for the Murray try), forcing the two sides to enter halftime with the Irish ahead 7-6.
The French came out in the second half looking as though they had lost all the wind from their sales. Although they maintained possession through three of the first five minutes, they did not make any ground and instead turned the ball over. Sexton slotted a 45th minute penalty and retained the ball from the ensuing kick off. With the Irish attacking just inside the French 40 m line, Johnny Sexton unexpectedly took his chances with a drop goal, a fine strike driving straight to the sticks for the score.
The rain started lashing 10 minutes into the second half and the French were noticeably not coping with the moisture. Ireland retained most of the possession for the rest of the half, but once again we’re not able to score tries from their possessions. Sexton kicked two more penalties in the 54th and 75th minutes to hand the Irish an impressive, yet somewhat unsatisfactory victory.
England 36-15 Italy
The Italians were a huge nuisance to table toppers England at Twickenham on Sunday thanks to their deployment of extremely clever defensive tactics that baffled the English players. The Italians refused to create a ruck on several occasions, allowing them to swarm the English defenders thanks to the vacancy of an offside line.
England got the scoring off to a start after a frustrating opening 20 minutes thanks to prop Dan Cole’s try from a driving 5 m maul. The conversion was missed.
The Italians got on the board in the 32nd minute after repeated phases in front of the posts came to no avail, pushing fly-half Tommaso Allan to slot a well-kicked drop goal to bring the score to 7-3.
A major surprise came just before the half win a Tomasso Allan penalty stroke the upright and a flat footed English defense watched as winger Giovanbattista Venditi pounced on the loose ball and scored Italy’s first try. The Italians shockingly went into the break ahead 10-5.
Damning their deficit, England came out roaring in the second half. Danny Care scored England’s second try of the match just three minutes in to the second half, while Elliot Daly put over a third try just six minutes after half time.
Despite a try from Italy’s Michele Campagnaro in the 60th minute and plenty of defensive resistance, the floodgates opened thanks to 70th and 72nd minute drives from winger Jack Nowell and center Ben Te’o. Nowell scored a double with 10 min to go to seal the deal for England.
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