Well, the 6 Nations got off to a very disappointing start for Ireland! They faced a depleted Welsh side, at home in the Aviva Stadium, but were unable to win a very close match with the final score, 23-21.
Ireland were denied the win by a poor refereeing decision, when a tackle by flanker Stephen Ferris was judged to be illegal, and Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked a last-minute penalty to snatch victory for his side.
It was a poor decision by the referee, but Ireland played most of the match on the back burner. They started strongly but seemed to lose their way soon into the game. They had no answer to the Welsh backs, especially, who played superbly.
Teenage wing George North looks to be a real star, he barrelled over the Irish backs like they weren’t there. Centre Jonathan Davies was also a force, scoring a brace of tries.
Ireland were lucky that the score wasn’t higher, as Wales missed a number of kicks, and were also denied a try by the Television Match Official (TMO).
There were some nice moments by Ireland; Tommy Bowe set-up a great try for Rory Best, before scoring one of his own; both Heaslip and O’Brien made strong runs. But they soon ran out of support as their team-mates failed to anticipate their moves.
Wales played much better as a team, linking, and supporting in rucks and mauls. Ireland played more as individual’s. Despite the great Welsh play, though, Ireland could have almost won the match, but for the poor call on Ferris.
This wasn’t the first poor call by the ref, either. And both related to tackles. Welsh lock Bradley Davies performed a horrendous spear tackle off the ball and was sent to the sin-bin for ten minutes. It should have been a yellow card, which was confirmed by the citing commission that have given him a 7-week ban, meaning he’ll miss all the 6 Nations. Ferris, on the other hand, was cleared of any wrong-doing and is free to play against France on Saturday.
It was an unfortunate result as Ireland could have easily won the match if they had closed off the last few minutes. O’Gara was brought on 3 minutes before the end, which doesn’t make any sense. He should have been brought on a lot sooner so he could have made more of an impact on the game.
Ireland had everything going for them before the match started, they had the better motivation (losing to Wales in the World Cup quarter-final, and losing on another bad referee decision in last year’s 6 Nations), and seemingly the better team, but they just didn’t perform on the day.
Ireland will need to play much better if they are to have any chance of beating the French (nothing new there). Of course, we lost 3 times to the French last year, and that was when they were going through a rough patch.
The French had a rough tough time against Italy, with the 2 team’s matched in the forward’s. Italy were let down by their back’s, who played poorly, and weren’t able to cope with strong running from Rougerie and Malzieur, especially. Those 2 will cause Ireland problems.
It was a stuttering start by the French, they are usually under-cooked against Italy (they lost to them last year), but they will be much more motivated against Ireland. We actually did very well against them in last year’s 6 Nations, but were poor in both games during the summer series.
France have brought back Imanol Harindorquoy in the back row, which gives them possibly the strongest back-row in world rugby. Ireland’s back row are very good but they aren’t really living up to their hype.
We have seen great performances by this Irish team before, we need to see it again. Beating the French in Stade Francais would be a terrific notch for this team.
Italy were unlucky to lose the match against France, 30-12. The score wasn’t a fair reflection on their efforts. They will have a tough game against England, who were lucky to beat the Scots, but will be buoyed by their win.
The Scotland-England game was similar to our game against Wales in that the seemingly weaker of the 2 sides ended up winning.
England have had a torrid time and have gone through a number of changes. Scotland seemed to be fielding their strongest side in a few year’s but they let themselves down badly, and gave the victory to England.
Scotland looked the stronger of the 2 sides but were let down by their own mistakes. England were lucky to scrape away with the victory, but they will be stronger going into their next match and give Italy a very tough time (although everyone would like to see Italy win the game).
Scotland against should be quite an exciting game. Scotland will be ruing their missed chances against England and looking to play much better. Wales will be wanting to improve on their good start.
The opening 6 Nations weekend has finished with the 3 favourites each winning their respective games, albeit not overly impressively, and none of the 3 looked unbeatable. France versus Ireland should be a great game, and Wales v Scotland, but the real contests now look to be between France, Wales and England.
My money is on Wales to achieve something special. They have the talent and now have the belief in themselves (something we seem to lack) to do great things. France are always a threat, but I think Wales can match them.