WESTWOOD, CA – With the defeat of rivals Wales last Saturday, England have won both the Triple Crown and the overall championship in the 2016 RBS 6 Nations. After a week of unbounded excitement in the build up to the England vs. Wales title decider, I think we can all agree that this “rivalry run by hatred,” as Eddie Jones so delicately put it, ended up being the weekend’s biggest anti-climax. In the wake of all the bickering and bridled argument amongst coaches and fans alike, England earned their way to their first championship trophy of the Eddie Jones era with a chance to take the Grand Slam this upcoming weekend against France. The weekend’s other two matches were, at least in my opinion, more exciting and produced more quality rugby along the lines of what we used to seeing in the RBS 6 Nations. In the weekend’s first game, Ireland hammered Italy at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland’s first win of the Championship and the biggest point differential in a match in this Championship so far. On Sunday, in what was arguably the best match of the weekend, Scotland extended their winning streak to 2 matches with a solid performance in an upset win over France. Relive England’s Championship winning performance and see how Scotland and Ireland turned to winning ways in this week’s review of Round 4 of the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.
Expert Pick Panel:
Analysis: After four rounds of this year’s 6 Nations Championship or we would have a three way tie for first place between Mr. Nelson, Mr. Harrington, and Mr. WB. In the wake of the England vs. Wales match, Mr. Blaber was the only one in our panel smart enough to choose England, the rest of the panel siding with Wales. For the Ireland vs. Italy match, the entire panel smartly chose the Irish who ended up demolishing the Italians by 43 points. In the last game of the weekend, Mr. Nelson, Mr. Yeats, and Mr. Blaber correctly predicted Scotland’s upset over France, Mr. Harrington, Mr. WB, and Mr. Frechette all incorrectly siding with France. Everyone of our panellists made a correct Pick of the Week prediction, Mr. WB leading that category with a record of 4–0.
Ireland 58 vs. 15 Italy
Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Man of the Match: Donnacha Ryan (Ireland #4)
Ireland came in to Saturday’s match having scored just two tries in three games against Wales, France, and England, but quickly turned to try-scoring fashion when the Italians came to town. After weeks of missed opportunities and close fixtures the Irish ran rampant, converting five penalty goals and running in 8 tries before the match ended.
The scoring frenzy started after only six minutes when Jared Payne found space in the Italian 22 and set up Andrew Trimble for his 17th try in 62 caps for Ireland. Unfortunately, Irish fly half Jonathan Sexton lost his 100% kicking success rate thanks to his miss on the ensuing conversion, but it didn’t seem to disrupt him throughout the rest of the match.
The Irish were up by another try only 10 minutes later thanks to Jack McGrath’s tackle breaking effort to get over the white wash, his second try of his international career and second against the Italians.
The only score in the first half for the Italians came from the boot of Edoardo Padovani, but meant little in the scope of the game considering that CJ Stander ran in his first try at the Aviva Stadium and Jamie Heaslip finished off arguably the best try of the championship to end the half 25–3 in favour of the Irish.
The second half started off with a bang for the Irish as Jared Payne intercepted a poor pass from Italian fly half Kelly Haimona to give the Irish their fifth try of the match only two minutes into the half. Long story short, the Irish absolutely dominated up and down the pitch. Heaslip got his second try the Match in the 48th minute, substitute Sean Cronin touchdown for Ireland’s sixth try in the 54th minute, replacement in Madigan had stepped his way into the try zone 10 minutes after Cronin’s score, and Fergus McFadden put the icing on the cake in the 78 minute to cap off an eight try victory, a huge confidence booster for a squad that lacked attacking creativity throughout the tournament.
Despite scores from David Odiete and Leonardo Sarto, the Italians fell to yet another defeat in the 6 Nations. Ireland’s huge margin of victory has already sparked debate as to whether the 6 Nations should open up to a promotion/relegation scheme considering Italy’s relative inability to put together squads strong and resilient enough to move out of fifth or sixth place in the 6 Nations table.
England vs. Wales
Man of the Match: Maro Itoje (England #4)
In what was supposed to be the most exciting match at the weekend, England, for most of the match, waltzed past an inadequate Welsh team on their way to the 6 Nations trophy as well as the coveted Triple Crown. It was a dream outcome for new England head coach Eddie Jones who only took charge of the England squad a little more than three months ago.
On the other side of the ball, the Welsh “Warrenball” style of football has come under heavy criticism from Welsh critics and the Welsh general public alike in the wake of what was a truly inadequate performance for a game of such importance. The Welsh were outgunned and outsmarted around the park by the English for more than an hour before Wales finally found their feet, and by the time they started to come back it was too late.
England were completely dominant in the first half, playing nearly 60% of the time within Welsh territory and putting up 16 unanswered points before the break. Owen Farrell started off the scoring for the home side with three penalties in the first 20 minutes to give England a comfortable lead.
The moment the Welsh knew they were in trouble came in the 31st minute when Anthony Watson was found in space on the far left and trotted into the try zone for the match’s first try. Farrell’s successful conversion only rubbed dirt in the Welsh wound and the English closed out the half with ease, waltzing into the break ahead 16–0.
The Welsh came out of the locker room and looked unchanged mentally and physically as they were once again dominated at the breakdown and in the contact area while England enjoyed much of the possession. Farrell slotted yet another penalty five minutes into the half to bring the match to 19–0.
Wales’ godsend seemed to have come in the 54th minute when fly half Dan Biggar charged down a kick in the English 22, retrieving the bouncing ball and giving his country their first points of the game.
Wales’ inability to control their discipline proved detrimental to their comeback, though, as Owen Farrell slotted two more penalty goals before the 70th minute to bring England’s lead to 18 points. Wales finally found their footing in the 73rd minute when George North ran in an important score for the visitors, providing a visible boost for the disheartened Welsh squad.
They found themselves with yet another try only three minutes later thanks to big man Toby Faletau, but the comeback hopes ceased as time eventually run out. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest game but at least they provided a few late minute theatrics.
Scotland vs. France
Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg (Scotland #15)
Finally, the Scotland we’ve all been waiting for! After ten years of painful defeats at the hands of the French, Scotland finally found something within themselves and scored a famous victory at home for their second win in a row in the championship.
It was the first home victory for the Scottish in eight attempts and finally we were able to hear the Murrayfield faithful boisterously chant and sing, something that hasn’t happened of recent.
While Scotland remained relatively unchanged for the fixture, new French head coach Guy Noves rang in six changes for this trip to Edinburgh.
Things definitely does not start up well for the Scottish as newly included French winger Virimi Vakatawa offloaded the ball to captain Guilhem Guirado who rambled over the line for France’s first score of the game after only four minutes. To make things worse, Finn Russell went down in the fifth minute and was taken off for a HIA concussion test.
Despite the double blow, Scotland where only down 5–0 after 15 minutes thanks to French fly half’s François Trihn-Duc’s missed conversion and subsequent penalty goal, a terrible start for the fly half in over the fan favourite Jules Plisson.
Scotland took the opportunity to strike back through the boot of scrum-half Greig Laidlaw, giving the Scottish a 6–5 lead after 21 minutes. Riding a wave of fervorous momentum, Scotland took complete control big match’s possession, dominating the open field and the breakdown.
10 minutes after Laidlaw’s second penalty goal, the Scottish delivered a huge blow with two tries in three minutes, the first through outside centre Duncan Taylor in the 32nd minute and the second from the masterful skill level of fullback Stuart Hogg in the 35th minute. Laidlaw only managed to convert one score but the Scottish where ahead 18–5.
The French, however delivered a blow to Scotland’s momentum when Centre Gael Fickou dashed down the left side line with the clock in the red to bring in France within six points after Maxime Machenaud’s conversion. The two sides went into the break at 18–12 in favour of the home side.
The opening 20 minutes of the second-half was quite entertaining for defensive specialists, the only scores coming in the form of penalty goals, one for Stuart Hogg and two for Machenaud to bring the game to 21–18 Scotland.
It was a moment of pure brilliance in the 65th minute that game Scotland the impetus to carry on to victory. Laidlaw passed wide to Hogg on the left side who, with
pressure bearing down on him from the French, flicked the ball over his head to a waiting Tim Visser in space. His dive over the line was cheered on by a huge roar from the home crowd, obviously excited at the prospect of finally winning get home game.
Laidlaw put the icing on the cake in the 74th minute to give Scotland a famous 29–18 win. They will no doubt heading to Dublin next week nearly expecting victory.