Ireland and Italy fought each other to a standstill in the first half, before Ireland probably with some luck ran away with a 5 try win in Dublin. In reviewing the match most neutrals would agree with an Irish win, but not necessarily with the eventual points difference. There was relatively little between the teams for most of the match other that the uncanny Irish ability to keep the scoreboard moving, and scoring at critical times. Sexton at 10 for Ireland controlled the match in a manner which that converted scrum half Tobias Botes, at stand off for Italy, could not begin to match, and as a result, impacted on the whole Italian performance.
England then hosted Wales at Twickenham and surprised all predictions by playing in an aggressive and open style which matched everything Wales could throw at them for the majority of the match. The English half backs with Farrell outstanding and Tuilagi and Barrit overpowering the Welsh mid field, looked to have weathered the first half Welsh pressure.
With an injured Farrell, England looked out of things, particularly when Lawes lost the ball in a tackle from Welsh hero, replacement Scott Thomas, who then ran the length of the pitch to score what proven to be the winning points. Not to be outdone however England in the last minute thought they had regained the lead when winger Strettle crashed over in the last play of the match.
The TV replay clearly showed that the combined crash tackle from Halfpenny and North prevented a touch down and England’s chance had gone. What a match- one for the spectators, and one which had everything including a “sin binning”, tries, penalties, and of course a disputed try!
A great England performance, recognising the inexperience of their team, and a resounding Triple Crown success for Wales, who are still on course for the Grand Slam.
Not being biased, Scotland performed unbelievably well against France on Sunday during the third match of the weekend. A full house at Murrayfield saw 2 Scottish tries from open play, aggressive tackling and a considerable amount of youthful flair and exuberance. Unfortunately, this was matched by the raw power and experience of the French pack which suffocated Scotland in the last quarter of the match to record an away win in what is likely to have been one of their closest matches for many years.
This weekend sees the re- run of the France – Ireland match, cancelled from a few weeks ago, and the second of 4 matches in 4 weeks for both teams. The home team start as favourites simply because they have probably the best scrummaging pack in the world, and certainly the best and most destructive back row in the Championship.
For Scottish and Italian fans this weekend, the pressure is off, so we can all sit down with a dram or two of a nice Glen Grant whisky, and enjoy the match without worrying about the performance of our own teams!
We can also look forward to the end of a season which has promised so much for both teams, but has in reality delivered very little.
The results of the 6 Nations matches so far suggest that the much awaited Italy – Scotland match in Rome on 17th March will again be a competition for the “Wooden Spoon”- a mythical award, quite frankly, which neither team deserves, but results in the competition suggest otherwise!
Unless of course, Italy beat Wales in Cardiff and /or Scotland beat Ireland in Dublin results which might be considered slightly impossible based on performances to date, but then again, both Scotland and Italy are due a success this season!
…. a slightly biased and possibly over enthusiastic supporter!
Bob Cunningham, former Scottish Rugby Internationalist, is HR Adviser to Glen Grant Distillery in Speyside.