*Ireland dominate Scotland, 28-6
*France overcome England in brilliant game
* Wales struggle to beat Italy
Well, Ireland got its 6 Nations campaign off to a great start with a strong win over Scotland, 28-6! Ireland started slowly but turned on the pressure in the 2nd half, eventually scoring 3 tries. The win puts Ireland at the top of the 6 Nations table, due to the higher points difference in their match against the Scots.
The day got off to a terrible start for Ireland, when it was announced that giant lock, Paul O’Connell had been ruled out of the match with a chest infection. Luckily, his replacement, Dan Tuohy of Ulster, put in a great performance and O’Connell was hardly missed, though the line-out failed at times (for both teams).
Ireland started slowly and took a while to get into the game. It was Jonny Sexton who woke the crowd and the players up with a great break and a run of about 50 metres which almost set up a try for the supporting Jamie Heaslip. Heaslip was stopped just short of the line but Ireland retained their momentum and Andrew Trimble soon touched down for the 1st try of the game (Ireland showed some new spirit by running the ball rather than taking the penalty. Luckily the gamble paid off).
Ireland chose the same tactic again, running the ball, risking advantage rather than taking an easy 3 points. It paid off again and new skipper Jamie Heaslip was not denied a second time (Heaslip has matured a lot in recent years and wore the captain’s armband well).
Scotland kept up the fight with good defensive work, but their fatigue soon showed (it’s always harder for a defending team to keep up the momentum) and Rob Kearney capped off a great game for him with a try to celebrate his 50th cap. It was all over for Scotland and all they had to show for their efforts were 6 points from 2 penalties.
It was great for Ireland to start the 6 Nations with a win. While an impressive performance overall, Ireland are not at peak form yet and will need to be much better if they are to have any chance to beat France or England, especially when facing the countries away from home.
FRANCE V ENGLAND
It was one of the best games of rugby in recent years. France found the form and spirit that has been missing from their game in recent years and achieved their best 6 Nations result in 3 years. France started strongly, scoring 2 tries early on, the first in less than a minute. France were soon leading by 16-3.
England soon got back into the game and came right back at France and soon England were winning, 21-16 going into the final quarter of the match. England, though, failed to hold their lead and though they got another penalty, France scored the winning try towards the end. Both teams showed tremendous form throughout the game and will provide a very stiff challenge to any of the other teams.
WALES V ITALY
Wales had a very tough time against a spirited Italian side. The Welsh failed to get a handle on the game and Italy kept themselves in the game until the end. Both teams scored 2 tries apiece but it was Halfpenny’s superior kicking that gave the Welsh the victory, 23-15. Italy showed a great willingness to run the ball.
Wales put in some great passages of play but failed to completely silence the Italians. The Welsh will need to be much more ruthless if they hope to retain their 6 Nation’s title. Both France and England have shown how strong they are and either team would beat Wales on their respective performances.
3 victories and 3 completely different matches in the opening round of the 6 Nations. Ireland dominated a pretty poor Scotland; France narrowly beat a determined England and Wales struggled to win against a spirited Italy. While Ireland currently sit on top of the 6 Nations table (due to superior points difference) they are by no means leading the tournament.
Ireland’s next game is against Wales at the Aviva, Saturday at 2.30. Both teams will be looking to improve on their performance. Wales will be encouraged by the return of their captain, Sam Warburton, while Ireland’s Paul O’Connell will hopefully be fit enough to play.