UWTSD’s 6 Nations Review – Week Two 0

England V Italy

In the aftermath of England winning against Wales, the public expected a huge and dominate win for England against Italy, form was on England’s side, with the home side never losing to Italy in any form of match in their history, and close matches have been the norm recently as Italy have slowly progressed their game as rugby becomes a more respected and played sport. 2012 and 2013 only have to be brought up for the home crowd to remember how close Italy was to winning.  In 20 matches over 24 years, Italy have yet to muster a win against England – though prior to last year’s one-sided romp at the Stadio Olimpico, previous scorelines had seen them separated by just seven and four points.

The match was only 3minutes old before the first points were on the score board, but it was Italy that were celebrating as their inspirational Captain and Leader, Sergio Parisse scored a well worked try, the conversion was missed but Italy were ahead by 5.

After a long delay in the match due to Mike Brown England’s Fullback, stretched off due after a clash of head on shoulder with Italy’s Andrea Masi, England’s restructured back line which saw Billy Twelvetrees enter the fray and Englands hero Joseph move to the Wing. It is often said that when sides have a long period of hanging around due to delays in matches that the side that can dominate after the break go on to win the match, unfortunately for Italy who were breaking down the English defence with ease, Pace and width on the ball, they never continued to have control of the match after that delay.

It took the hosts 20minutes before any score narrowed the Italian lead and through the boot of George Ford, England managed a penalty. So after the 1st Quarter Italy held a slender lead 3-5, with Italy being the much more open aggressive side, much was spoken before kick-off that England needed to rid themselves of being slow starters after another slow start against the Welsh the week before and here again, England found themselves down on the score board.  They finally got going with scores coming in the 23rd minute and the 26th with Joseph going over for his 2nd try in 2 matches and Ford duly adding the extras.  The Scores remained 15-5 up to Half time, with the game evenly poised and a remaining 40Minutes left to play.

The Second half started much like the first, with early points being point on the board by both sides, England with a Penalty and Italy scoring their second try of the match through centre Morisi, unfortunately the Italians huge No10 couldn’t add the extras and with the scores now 18-10 you could sense the Twickenham Crowd were getting edgy due to the brave Italian fight-back.

As the game settled, England finally got on top, with a quick tap Penalty which resulted in Ben Youngs getting over the try line from 5 metres out, with Ford converting, England stretched their lead, another score 3 minutes later from the boot of Ford, meant England had a stranglehold on the match and with the clock striking 60mins step forward Jonathon Joseph with his second try of the match, Ford released him after a set move involving Twelvetrees, with the Bath Man releasing fellow teammate through a giant hole in the Italian defence. England were now in total control, the crowd’s first half tension suddenly evaporating and Italian resistance crumbling.

Upon the conversion the Bench lit up with Ford being replaced, the Twickenham crowd got to their feet as they welcomed back Danny Cipriani from International exile for a first appear in-front of the home crowd for 8years. Within seconds of coming on the score board increased, with Cipriani’s first involvement, releasing winger May up the wing and following his man, Replacement Fly Half got onto a near offload for a scamper over the line and scoring his First try of the tournament, converting his own try England lead was growing and the Italian fight-back was over or so we thought.

England increased their score with another try in the 68th Minute of the match, Nick Easter going over to make him the oldest ever England Try scorer (what a record to have) with now only 10 minutes remaining, Italy like they did against Ireland suddenly got some possession and played within the oppositions half. It led to a consolation try through their young but impressing Centre Morisi, with replacement No10 Allan kicking over the conversion.

The Game ended 47-17 but the Italians can be pleased with their determination while England will be hoping for a much improved defensive performance against reigning champions Ireland next week, to keep the hope of a Grand Slam alive.

Ireland V France

Now onto Dublin and the Aviva Stadium, where the Irish hosted France, both teams won their 1st weekend encounters unconvincingly at best, but with the Irish having French based Jonny Sexton back in their team after medical advice took him out of the game for 12 weeks you could expect Ireland to be much better this time around.

The French entered this game, with coach Phillippe Saint-Andre looking for his 1st win over the Irish and that statistic continued and all the more worrying for the French is that they must entertain the Irish in their pool match at the World Cup later this year.

This game was always going to be a close encounter, and again throughout the match it continued to be a war of attrition as both side went about trying to gain the upper hand.  A first half of penalties meant Sexton returning to duty with the boot, 4 penalties in the half gave Ireland a 12-6 lead at half time, with Lopez kicking two for France. While both teams conceded penalties galore, Ireland appeared to control when and where they were conceded as the score board proved. The stats show that both sides conceded double figures for penalties and that will concern the coaches as to win games the side that can keep the penalty count below single figures for the entire 80minutes usually end up winning the match.

Referee Wayne Barnes was kept busy throughout awarding both sides Yellow cards during the match as Rory Best of Ireland and the French Pascal Pape were both sent to the bin for 10minutes. More concerning for Ireland was the injuring that saw Jamie Heaslip come off in the second half, a Knee to the lower back saw the supporters call for a red card for Pape, although after consultation with the TMO Barnes only awarded a yellow. Heaslip it has now been announced suffered fractures to his lower vertebrate and the citing commission have severely punished the actions of Pape by giving the French Lock a 10 week ban meaning this contribution to this 6 Nations is over.

A further two Irish Penalties one apiece for Sexton and Madigan saw game for Ireland end with all points scored from the boot, while more pleasing for the French would have been the performance when they were duly down to 14 men and they scored the only try of the Match due replacement lock Taofifenua, the game ending 18-11 to Ireland.

Scotland V Wales

The final encounter for this week saw Wales travel up to Murrayfield, on the back of the defeat to England, Gatland made the early announcement that the same players who disappointed the home crowd a week ago would walk out onto the pitch. 2 enforced changes saw North and Lee missing due to failed concussion protocol meant their places were given to Liam Williams and Aaron Jarvis.

There have been calls for Liam Williams (form Welsh player in the Pro12) to play from the start, after impressing during the autumn internationals and it’s a debate that rages from the sofa, as to who is the best to be picked in the back line for Wales, many after last week’s poor showing thought changes would be made, with the tactic Warrenball not favoured by the viewing public, Once teams deal with Plan A, Wales seem unable to switch between phases of play and struggle to get on the front foot which is required in Rugby Union.

Back to the game and both side started brightly, with the Welsh scoring an early penalty much like last week I hear people saying ,I myself commented on this fact much to the annoyance of my Girlfriend and her family. However after this early Welsh score Scotland with a point to prove after narrowly losing to France, hit back with a Try through the ever impressive Stuart Hogg who must want to prove something to himself after last years red card against the same opposition. Conversion by Captain Laidlaw saw the scores 7-3 after 10minutes. A further penalty 7 minutes later saw Scotland extend their lead to 7 with Laidlaw kicking over once again.

A sour point of the half was the sin binning of Finn Russell, who saw Yellow for taking his man in the air, Dan Biggar in the thick of the action once again, landing awkwardly on his back and shoulders.  It was during this moment Wales came alive unfortunately for the tartan army. As the Welsh Dragon fought back, dominating the rest of the half, through the boot of Halfpenny and a try again by Webb his second in as many weeks.

More drama soon followed, as the Welsh were reduced to 14, with Outside Centre Jonathan Davies sent to the bin for taking his man in the air, much like the 1st yellow card by Russell.

The Second Half started much like the 1st, with a penalty kicked but this time from Scotland, as Laidlaw got the game rolling from the tee. Reducing the Score and Welsh lead by 3, meaning after 5minutes of the Second Half the scores read 13-16 to Wales. A seesaw of penalties by either side saw the game ebb and flow by 3 points, as Halfpenny kicked over first followed by the boot of Laidlaw.

A second Try for Wales was scored or so we thought, neatly finished off by Webb, off the back of a rolling maul, if it wasn’t for the breakoff by locks Wyn Jones and Ball the Try would of counted, however the TMO and Referee Glenn Jackson upon review felt that by breaking off the two Locks prevents Scottish defenders from reaching the attacking players and therefore the Try was disallowed.

Halfpenny ruined his unblemished record from the tee but those memories were soon forgotten as Jonathon Davies scored his 1st Try of the Tournament to make up for his sin binning earlier in the match. With Halfpenny converting it took the game away from the boot of Laidlaw meaning Scotland would have to fight back with a second Try of their own and they did, Replacement prop Jon Welsh barging over the line, Finn Russell converted with Laidlaw being replaced.

With the clock ticking away, Russell for what seemed like an eternity took his time with the conversion, once kicked the clock said 79.15, and that meant play must continue but with the conversion scored the referee consulted with his assistants and blew for full time. Many will blame the Scottish Lock Jim Hamilton for causing a fight to break out after the ref had awarded the try, but by the laws of the game, the match should of continued and for this reason the Scottish team will feel hard done by as they may have fought back to draw or win.

The game finished 23-26 and Wales enter round 3 with a win under their belts while Scotland along with Italy shall contest the Wooden Spoon encounter at BT Murrayfield on the 28th of Feb.