England

England win RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam

England win RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam

The final day of RBS 6 Nations was all about whether or not England would win the Grand Slam in Paris.

But in Cardiff, Wales would be after a comfortable win at home against Scotland who had a scant 6-day turnaround—and nothing but a thrashing of Italy would be acceptable in Dublin.

“Bardon” and I report on the games.


George North – his signature try was a highlight

Wales 67 – Italy 14

by Lee Grant

Wales scored nine tries to two in a one-sided contest that you would not see south of the equator in the Rugby Championship.

Wales got off to a flukey start when a ball was kicked through by Wales with two fellows in red shirts comfortably ahead of the kicker, and Italy had to smuggle the ball out near their line. From the lineout maul scrummie Webb scooted over to score.

For nearly 25 minutes Wales couldn’t bag another try; they may have been trying to play what was in front of them but they seemed not to know what was there. This was Italy’s best period of play because they resisted, a man short, but Wales broke the deadlock, if that’s what it was, when Biggar scored.

There followed an excellent ensemble try from Wales started from their 22 and six passes later Jonathan Davies was in under the posts.

Half-time score: Wales 27 – Italy 0

Having scored three tries before the break Wales scored six after it and Italy, two.

North made his second pass for a try, out of the back of his hand, and Roberts scored. Then eight minutes into the half he put on signature North run from the side of the park to the centre leaving folks in his wake to score untouched between the sticks.

That was the highlight of the match because although Wales’ replacement flanker Moriaty scored a double and Liam Williams and Gareth Davies got singles after it—and Palazzani and Garcia scored for Italy—the game was an anti-climax after the North brilliancy.

Gareth Davies’ try was the 29th scored against Italy in their five games of RBS 6 Nations. It’s difficult to see where they can go from here and the sooner that teams like Georgia can get a shot, the better.

As for Wales: what might have been had they played that way against England in the first half the week before?

Final score: Wales 67 – Italy 14

Game changer – Italy were down a modest 0-13 and held out Wales with 14 men because one was carded. Ironically after scrummie Palazzani ran back on from the sin-bin near the half-hour mark, Wales scored from a lineout move when Biggar charged through a gap that shouldn’t have been there. After passes were exchanged with North, he dotted down.

Man of the matchGeorge North by ten lengths; OK, 20.

Get more match information from ESPN.


 Jamie Heaslip – one of the best for Ireland this year

Ireland 35 — Scotland 25

by “Bardon”

Ireland finished a disappointing campaign with a mixed-bag victory over Scotland.

The Irish bullied the Scots in the first quarter but a 9-3 lead was scant reward. The backrow of Stander, O’Donnell and Heaslip were dominant and made good yards.

Scotland couldn’t get their hands on the ball but they made the most of it when they finally did. A wayward box kick from Murray was collected by Hogg just inside his own half. He picked a gap between Best and Ross then put on the after-burners and went all the way to the line. 10-9 on 21 minutes.

Ireland were dominant at the breakdown and as they threatened to breach the Scottish try line Barclay infringed and earned himself a ten minute rest.

Ireland continued to pile on the pressure and it paid off as Stander dived over a ruck to score. Sexton did the honours from the tee and Ireland were back in the lead 16-10 with twelve minutes to half time.

Ireland weren’t done punishing Barclay’s indiscretion. A clever chip into the 22 from Sexton caused chaos in the Scottish defence. Hogg misjudged the bounce of the ball and took out winger Seymour to give Earls a free run to the line. 21-10 Ireland.

Laidlaw landed a penalty on the stroke of halftime to make the score 21-13 at the break.

Ireland resumed their siege of the Scottish line at the beginning of the second half. Murray struck from close range diving over from the base of a ruck. Ireland led 28-13 within ten minutes of the restart.

The Scots just wouldn’t lie down though. On 55 minutes the narrow Irish defence was exposed once again this year as Richie Gray went in under the posts.

Scotland were back to 20-28 and finally finding a bit of momentum. It was not long-lived though as Dunbar went to the bin for a dangerous clear-out on Sexton.

Ireland once again made the Scottish 22 their home. A Heaslip offload allowed Devin Toner to use all of his 6 feet 10 inches to stretch and ground under the posts.

Dunbar returned with just three minutes on the clock but it was enough time to score the final try of the game to make it 35-25 at the final whistle.

Game changers – The two yellow cards for Scotland were crucial as Ireland scored 19 points with a man advantage.

GAGR Man of the Match goes to Jamie Heaslip who’s had a fine tournament.

Get more match information from ESPN.


Billy Vunipola – starting off the game changer

England 31 – France 21

by Lee Grant

France started with tempo allowed by England’s clumsiness; but the score was locked at 3-3 twelve minutes in, when scrummie Danny Care took off like a scolded cat from the ruck 47 metres out. France lock Flanquart had come from France’s right-hand side to be pillar on the left where he wasn’t needed, and Care ran through the gap. England 10-3.

France had some good moments and did a bit more than offloading to guys standing still this week, but didn’t complete the moves.

France slotted a penalty but the key moment of the first half was in the 20th minute when Coles got the ball six metres from the line and Mako Vunipola latched onto him to but slightly in front. Guirado came into tackle Coles but Mako was in the way. One arm connected to Coles was not enough and he scored.

After the Farrell conversion England led 17-6 but Machenaud whittled it down with two goals in the second quarter.

Half time score: England 17- France 12.

Les Bleus played some of their best rugby in the tournament after the break and apart from losing some lineouts were tough to crack; but at 55 minutes, after France had slotted two goals to one, winger Watson scored the game changer for England to lead 25-18.

Both nations gave as good as they got as the flaky French team of last week showed passion and starch to swap penalties and bring the score to 28-21.

This was still within the ambit of a Grand Slam spoiler should Les Bleus get a 7-pointer to tie, but with three minutes remaining the visiting English crowd were singing “Sweet Chariot” when Farrell slotted a penalty to ice the Slam.

Final score: England 31 — France 21.

Game changer – at 55 minutes England are ahead by just 20-18, but Billy Vunipola takes the ball up from a scrum 60 metres out with France flanker Chouly and no 8 Goujon still pushing !! After making yards England scrummie Care gets the ball from the breakdown and kicks neatly for winger Watson to score in the corner for England, and they lead 25-18.

Man of the match – George Kruis was the favourite of the commentators and his lineout steals and presence around the park were key, but the GAGR award goes to Billy Vunipola for his telling runs including the one mentioned above.

Get more match information from ESPN.


The wrap-up

England won their first Grand Slam in 13 years and they deserved it.

It wasn’t a vintage RBS 6 Nations tournament but nobody in the England set-up cared. The resurrection of a team under the control of new coach Eddie Jones was remarkable given they could not advance beyond the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup they were hosting a few months earlier, and seemed to be in disarray.

They have a cadre of young players in their squad, some of whom missed the RBS 6 Nations tournament because of injury. They will be good value to watch on their tour of Australia in June

Don’t miss them.

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England

Voted most valuable member of the G&GR Forum since records began - Ed.

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