6 Nations Round 5 – And there you have it

Photo credit Inpho and RBS Six Nations
6 Nations Round 5 – And there you have it

The final round of the 6 Nations had it all. Nail biters, underdog victories, insanely long matches and good, hard rugby. Despite the Championship already going to England, this round had no less interest. There were final standings on the line and records to beat.

The first match gave us a result we were expecting, Italy have not performed well this year and that poor run continued into their final match. The second match was a thrilling 100 minute long affair, while the final match of this year’s competition was all we had hoped for.

Scotland 29-0 Italy

By Nick Wasiliev

The last few years have been exciting times for Scottish rugby, and a lot of that has been due to the work of Vern Cotter. In his tenure, he has taken the Scots from the depths of rugby hell to a legitimate challenger of the top tier teams.

A lot of the progress he has made has become evident in the last year, with the Scottish transformation of Murrayfield into a fortress of Scottish rugby; where only one team has been able to beat them in the last 6 months (which was the Wallabies, by a single point). It was already looking a tough ask for the Italians, up against an outfit looking to send off their inspirational coach in style.

The Scots got off to a flyer off the back of an impressive scrum, with the boot of Stuart Hogg putting them on the board. The opening quarter of the game was a scrappy affair that was high in errors and in the penalty count, as the Edinburgh rain turned the game into a grind. But it was a grind the Scots were slowly starting to dominate.

Just after the 27th minute, the Scots broke the grind, with a brilliantly orchestrated try to Finn Russell. He then converted his own try, and the Scots were out to a 10-0 lead. While the Scots were starting to wake up, the Azzurri were all over the place, botching three shots on goal and losing half of their own lineouts.

Scotland then scored again two minutes before the break off one of the cheekiest chip kicks you’ll ever see, with Matt Scott leaping on the ball. Russell was unable to convert though, but the Scots went to the break with a healthy lead.

Halftime Score: Scotland 15-0 Italy

Italy started the second half more positively, creating opportunities and working themselves into a great field position to restart the second half in style. However, Angelo Esposito was unable to get over the line due to resolute Scottish defence in the 47th minute.

When Scottish skipper John Barclay was sent to the bin for collapsing the maul a minute later, the Azzurri found themselves in the perfect position to strike back. However, Esposito and fullback Edoardo Padovani made an absolute mess of the ball, and knocked on.

The Scottish then worked their way back out of danger, and came up trumps just after the 61st minute when Tim Visser found himself in space to score off a brilliant chip kick. This proved to all but seal the match, with Tommy Seymour crossing over the line in the 72nd minute guaranteeing the bonus point; the icing on the cake of a fairy-tale end to the Cotter era.

The Scots were deserved winners, and more than made up for last week’s humiliation at the ends of England. It was a fitting end to see them win so convincingly, and was a bitter-sweet day for all Scottish fans. With the help of great coaches like Cotter, look how far they’ve come!

The flipside of that coin is Italy. I think the score line flattered them. They barely showed any attacking spark or creativity, were rubbish at set piece, missed multiple shots on goal, and most importantly, they didn’t take their chances to score and make a game of it, even when the chances were begging in front of them. It was a sad end to a long, long campaign, with them finishing with the wooden spoon yet again for the 12th time in their 18 seasons.

Fulltime Score: Scotland 29-0 Italy

The Game Changer

Seeing as Italy were barely in the game it is hard to pick a moment, but their botching of two try scoring opportunities in the 47th and 49th minute didn’t help. Had they scored, they may have made a game of it, but it was such a lacklustre performance that I think the Scots would have still run away with it.

Man of the match

Finn Russell. Had an excellent game at flyhalf, scoring a try and performing well with the boot. He gave the Scots the flair to finish the game off, and that they did.

Get more match information from ESPN Rugby.

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France 20 – Wales 18

By Lee Grant

In one of the most amazing finishes to any rugby match France defeated Wales in the 101st minute. That’s not a typo: there were 21 minutes of extra time.

The game started normally enough: France lost a 5-metre lineout but soon returned to the Welsh 22 where flyhalf Lopez dinked a kick for centre Lamerat to score next to the posts.

It was all France at the beginning with no. 8 Picamoles lumbering up the field several times and after a Lopez penalty goal France led 10-0 at 15 minutes.

Then the flow went to Wales and France winger Vakatawa deliberately knocked on a pass to Wales’ winger North who looked certain to score. A yellow card was awarded though not the expected penalty try. But never mind: Halfpenny goaled the penalty, and another before Vakatawa returned; then a third before the break.

Half-time score: France 10 – Wales 9

It was a scrapathon in the second half as France stuffed up a tap-kick try attempt and started losing lineouts. Wales took the lead 12-10 when fullback Halfpenny got his fourth penalty at 53 minutes.

The Paris crowd sensed their team needed a lift and started singing “La Marseillaise”. But although Lopez kicked his second penalty goal his team hardly charged out of the trenches and Halfpenny lobbed two more penalty goal grenades at them instead.

Wales led 18-13 with only nine minutes remaining although it turned out to be half an hour.

Eventually replacement Chouly scored and Lopez slotted the conversion.

Jubilation pour France – they win 20-18.

The game changer

The 21 minutes of extra time at the conversion was like “Days Of Our Lives”—Wales prop Lee was carded, a French doctor swore his player was injured, North claimed he was bitten, Wales lost their best scrummagers, referee Barnes didn’t give a penalty try earlier to Wales, and wasn’t going to give France one now – but they clinched the game anyway.

Man of the match

“Dead-Eyed Dick” Halfpenny was imperious from the kicking tee for Wales and Warburton continued his renaissance, in the 6 jersey. No. 8 Picamoles was like a bull for France in the first half and fullback Dulin got the official award for skipping around defenders in the second; but the G&GR man-of-the match was France hooker and skipper Guilem Guirado who was inspirational though playing injured for much of the match.

Get more match information from ESPN Rugby.

** You can find a more detailed breakdown of what happened in the 20 minutes after the siren went here.

Ireland 13 – England 9


It was a game that meant a lot to both teams. For Ireland it was a chance to redeem themselves after a mixed campaign and an opportunity to finish second in standing. For England it was all about records and potential to create history. Going for their 12th six nations win undefeated and with the opportunity to surpass the All Blacks record of test matches without a defeat it was all to play for.  The game started out at high intensity, with no quarter being given. Both teams were going hard at each other in a physical grinding affair, with the obligatory niggle, but the wet ball was making ball retention a tough ask. Ireland were first on the score board after 11 minutes when Sexton took a penalty directly in front after the attacking opportunity under advantage broke down. England took the opportunity to tie things up at the 18 minute mark after an Ireland player didn’t roll away, Farrell converting easily. Ireland again went on attack after choosing to kick a penalty to the sideline to take an attacking line out within the England red zone. From the throw, Ireland went for a maul that was messy and disintegrated, Henderson seizing the opportunity to dive for the line scoring the opening try. Sexton made the conversion taking the Irish to a 10-3 lead. The arm wrestle continued until half time with no further score for the half.

Half time score: Ireland 10 – England 3

The second half was a resumption of the grinding arm-wrestle with both teams unwilling to give an inch.  Both teams were taking chances in attack and were creating opportunities, but errors or strong defence were stifling any half chances.  England were the first to score in the second half with Farrell taking an off side penalty from 45 metres out to take the score to 10-6. Ireland was competing hard in the forwards matching England and nullifying the usual dominance the English pack are used to having which kept the game really tight frustrating them. An offside penalty at the 61 minute mark allowed Sexton to push the lead back out to 7, but England hit back 6 minutes later with Farrell taking a penalty from a maul to pull the margin back to 4. England were piling on the pressure in attack but the Irish dogged defence, including some critical lineout steals, was keeping the English out of the game and the frustration was very apparent. Ireland closed out the game the more confident and composed, stealing a hard-fought victory and ending England’s undefeated run.

The Game Changer

This was a tight one from the outset, but it would probably have to be Ireland’s try that made the difference. They had been putting England under immense pressure defensively and going over the line showed their ability to be dominant in attack.

Man of the match

This is a tough one, as a number of Irish players really stood out. Jared Payne (fullback) was a standout with a game high 106 running metres. Smart kicking and accurate passing as well as his running put Ireland right on the front foot.

Get more match information from ESPN Rugby.

The Wrap Up

So there you have it. The 6 Nations is done and dusted for another year. Eddie ran out of “get out of jail” cards at the last hurdle, meaning that England were unable to break the tie with the All Blacks for the number of consecutive test wins, Ireland again playing the role of spoiler.

There were probably not too many surprises in the results, despite all the wishful thinking England were still favourites to win the Championship. Wales continued to perform below what people expected while the Scots went out on a high, farewelling coach Vern Cotter in style.

Italy looked to be thoroughly outclassed yet again. After their good showing in the first half against England, I think many of us hoped for better from the Azzurri.

The final standings:

Wins Losses PD Points
England 4 1 65 19
Ireland 3 2 49 14
France 3 2 17 14
Scotland 3 2 4 14
Wales 2 3 16 10
Italy 0 5 -151 0

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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