Six Nations Rugby Week 2

Scotland 16 France 20

England 16 Wales 14

Ireland 36 Italy 0

Once again the 6 nations produced an exciting weekend of rugby, if not all of the highest quality.  Ireland hammered their opponents while the other two matches made up for what they lacked in quality with the closeness of the results and some controversy.

Scotland 16 France 20

For the most part this was an appalling game of kick tennis and caterpillar box kicking. France, if anything, were worse than against Ireland in an error strewn game with few redeeming features. A brilliant piece of finishing by Bielle-Biarrey finally lifted the gathering gloom. Scotland were adjudged to have been held up on the line at the death on the grounds that there was no clear and obvious evidence of the ball being grounded for the Television match official to overturn the referee’s on-field decision. Many Scots would beg to differ. It was hard luck on Scotland, but in truth neither side really deserved to win!

England 16 Wales 14

In sharp contrast to the preceding week against Scotland, Wales started brilliantly and built up a 14-5 half time lead. Remarkably, England scored those 5 points when down to 13 men through a great carry by Ben Earl. England gradually got on top in the pack, especially after the subs came on and a try by Dingwall and a couple of penalties by Ford was enough to settle the match in their favour. Ireland, who play Wales and then England in Twickenham will not be quaking in their boots.

Ireland 36 Italy 0

Once again Ireland beat their opponents by a considerable margin despite leaving a few scores out there and making quite a few mistakes. The 6 changes in the Irish starting team and 5 more on the bench may have contributed to this, but overall Farrell will be satisfied he has viable replacements for most of our first XV. Crowley again impressed with his work rate and running, but still needs to work on his kicking from hand and tee. Harry Byrne had a fruitful cameo appearance after Keenan went off and Crowley moved to 15. In general the entire back-line had good games, with Keenan, Lowe, McCloskey, and Henshaw particularly impressive.

Up front Porter won a few scrum penalties for a change and the line-out again functioned flawlessly while snaffling a few Italian throws. Sheehan again underlined his value in every phase of play, and McCarthy, Baird, Conan and Doris all had strong games. Casey may have done enough to over-take Murray as back-up to Gibson Park. He suits Ireland’s all action running game better. In general there was more actual rugby, running and passing, than in both of the other two matches combined.

Italy hardly fired a shot despite having a lot of territory and possession. Italian Head coach Gonzalo Quesada said of Ireland that “They didn’t need to do anything special, just ran through their system, their attack. When they go those 19 points up, it’s like the All Blacks some years ago, they just go through their basics and they had 100 per cent of the lineout, 100 per cent of the scrum, 100 per cent of the high balls. And then they just work their rucks in attack and defence with extreme efficiency”. That’s quite the compliment.

U.20 match: Ireland 23, Italy 22.

Having been absolutely brilliant in a high quality and intense win against France on the previous Saturday, Ireland produced a nervous and error strewn performance six days later, gifting Italy 14 points early on by failing to deal with re-starts. They were also hammered in the scrums by Italy’s experienced and powerful props, not helped by Andrew Sparrow, Ireland’s leading tight head, being absent through an injury sustained against France. This made for a long evening with Ireland making lots of mistakes and struggling to get back on terms.

Finally substitute Sean Odogbo, younger brother of Edwin and nominally a number 8, raced back to save a try and then scored one showing the pace of a winger on the right wing. Ireland held out to the end, but badly need to work on their scrums, restart receptions, and maul defence. Their decision making and execution let them down at times. They missed 34 out of 114 tackles and could very easily have lost the match were it not for their dogged determination to keep going regardless of their mistakes. Its just as well they have a break now and time to work on their systems. There are harder tests to come.

 

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