DUBLIN, IRELAND – Round 1 of the 2017 RBS Six Nations is in the books and, as always when it comes to The Championship, it was unpredictable. Pre-tournament favorites struggled with mediocrity, newly capped players put in big performances, and the tournament saw it’s very first losing bonus point. Business as usual when it comes to @. Check out recaps of each match below.
Scotland 27 – 22 Ireland
Man of the Match: Scotland’s Stuart Hogg
Scotland came out and put in a steam rolling performance against an Irish side that looked as though they had never left the dressing room. It was the stuff of dreams for the Scottish faithful who, boisterously as ever, witnessed Scotland’s first opening weekend victory in the Six Nations since 2006.
Both sides had positives through the first seven minutes, Scotland with an amazing out of the gate attacking performance and Ireland with total domination at the scrum.
The dream start for the Scots was kicked into motion (not literally) when fullback Stuart Hogg produced yet another piece of magic to score around an extremely pinched Irish defense for his first try. Scrum-half Gregg Laidlaw easily converted from the corner.
Hogg and Laidlaw teamed up for yet another seven points just 10 minutes later before the Irish could muster any points on the board.
Despite an Irish try from winger Keith Earls and a penalty from fly-half Paddy Jackson, Scotland manage another try and went into the half ahead 21-3.
Even though they didn’t look very good in the process, Ireland staged a come back thanks to tries from Ian Henderson and Paddy Jackson to take the lead 22-21 with 20 minutes left ago.
However, as has been the story for the Irish the whole day, bad mistakes and missed opportunities allowed Scotland to kick two penalties and score a historic victory against a pre-tournament favorite.
England 19 – 16 France
Man of the Match: France’s Louis Picamoles
England continued their winning streak under Eddie Jones despite playing lackadaisical rugby against a noticeably green French side. The English were put under pressure early and often by the French, and the strain on England was very noticeable.
The two sides traded penalties in the opening 25 minutes to make those score 9-6 in favor of the French before English winger Jonny May found himself in the sin-bin after he dangerous tackle.
Even so, the French couldn’t capitalize and allowed England to square it up at 9-9 before heading into the halftime break.
The bruising hits and war-of-attrition like play continued until Owen Farrell put the English ahead 12-9 in the 54th minute. The French, ready to respond, scored not five minutes later thanks to a beautiful play of short offloads from Picamoles to Sebastien Vahaamahina to Kevin Gourdon two replacement hooker Rabah Slimani. France lead 16-12 with 20 minutes left.
The English would have their own say on the outcome, however, thanks to a brilliant effort from rugby league convert Ben Te’o. Te’o used his signature smash mouth rugby to blast through the French defense and give England the victory 19-16.
Even in defeat France maintained a losing bonus thanks to a massive performance from their largely unacquainted forward pack.
Italy 7 – 33 Wales
Man of the Match: Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny
Despite talk of a possible opening weekend upset, Wales sailed to a generous victory over Italy thanks to a massive second-half performance that saw the Welsh score 30 unanswered points against a hapless Italian side.
The first half, however, couldn’t have been more different from the second.
The Italians were sharp from the get-go and applied early pressure on a Welsh side filled with veterans. Sergio Parisse and Braam Steyn put in big early tackles to all but stop any Welsh attack.
The most promise for the Italians came from there scrum-half, fly-half pairing in Edoardo Gori and Carlo Canna. After two reset scrums and three faces right in front of the Welsh line under the posts, Gori powered over the white wash (with the help of Parisse and Steyn) for the first try of the match. Canno converted, and despite a 35 minute penalty from Halfpenny, the Italians went into halftime 7-3 to the better and in the driver seat.
But, things change. In a fashion not as dramatic as the Patriots, the Welsh came out of the blocks in the second half like men possessed.
Halfpenny kicked three penalties in the first 15 minutes to put the Welsh ahead 12-7 before the floodgates opened.
Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams, and George North all crossed the line for beautiful tries in the final 20 minutes, Halfpenny adding three conversions to bring the score to 33-7.
It was a big opening statement victory for Wales only week before their most anticipated match against England in Cardiff. Head coach Rob Howley Will have to pull out all the stops if they are to beat the English next week, but the bonus point victory against the Italians was a great start to The Championship.
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