ENGLAND WIN TRIPLE CROWN BUT IRELAND STILL TOP 6 NATIONS TABLE

* IRELAND THRASH ITALY
 
* O’DRISCOLL M.O.T.M. ON HIS 140th APPEARANCE
 
* FRANCE BREAK SCOTTISH HEARTS
 
* ENGLAND WIN TRIPLE CROWN
 
* IRELAND REMAIN TOP OF 6 NATIONS TABLE
 
Well, it was another terrific weekend of 6 Nations’ action! Ireland started slow but eventually put Italy to the sword, 46-7. France got a last-minute penalty to overcome Scotland in a very close match, 19-17. And, England proved too much for Wales, eventually winning their match, 29-18 and with it also winning England’s 1st Triple Crown since the golden era of 2003 (when England also won the Grand Slam and World Cup).
 
IRELAND V ITALY
 
O’Driscoll was phenomenal in his record-breaking, last-home appearance. Setting up 3 of Ireland’s 7 tries and making himself a nuisance around the field. His performance was typified by the fact that he received the Man Of The Match award, despite leaving the field 20 minutes from the end, though the great man himself admitted that his award may have been more to do with the occasion than his performance, though his performance still ranks up there with his greatest games.
 
Jonny Sexton was superb as well, showing no signs of his earlier injury or suspected fatigue. Sexton scored 17 points, including 2 tries. Also touching down were Andrew Trimble, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Fergus McFadden (who replaced O’Driscoll, to a standing ovation from the home crowd!) and Jack McGrath. Italy were reduced to a solitary converted try, but they didn’t go down without a fight.
 
Ireland got the ball rolling with an early Sexton try, set up by O’Driscoll, but Italy were able to cut down subsequent threats by their hosts and proved to be the more capable of converting pressure into points when winger, Sarto, touched down before the half hour mark. The conversion made the scores level at 7-all. Sexton regained the lead with a penalty, before a great Trimble try, again set-up by O’Driscoll, put Ireland at a 17-7 lead before the break.
 
Ireland were able to assert more dominance over their opponents in the 2nd half, and 5 more tries were scored by the home team. Sexton failed to convert any more but his replacement, Paddy Jackson, converted the final 2 tries. Ireland now head to Stade France for a show-down with the French and a 6 Nations trophy very much in their sights.
 
SCOTLAND V FRANCE
 
Neither team had impressed before this match, though France were expected to achieve a relatively easy victory. Instead, the Scots shocked their home crowd, as well as everyone else, by putting in a spirited performance, even providing some champagne rugby, which not many believed they were capable of.
 
Indeed, adventurous play was once the hall-mark of the French, but they have been a shadow of their former selves for a few years now and were reduced to achieving points by penalties in the 1st half. Scotland, on the other hand, chose to run with aplomb and managed to score 2 tries, through Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour. Duncan Weir put in an assured performance at out-half, kicking very well, though 2 errors cost the Scots the game.
 
Scotland were all set up for a 3rd try, which would have likely sealed the win, the French were camped on their own try-line. However, Weir’s pass went astray and French wing Huget was able to intercept and run the length of the field to touch down. Weir also had a chance to win the game with an admittedly difficult penalty but his attempt drifted wide. France crushed Scottish dreams with a last-minute penalty, winning the game, 19-17.
 
Heart-breaking for the Scots, who were the better team on the day. France were pretty abysmal and it looks like it’s time for a new French coach. While the Scottish pack have been somewhat wayward in this competition, the French scrum and line-out have been equally poor. France having been 1 of the poorer sides in the tournament. Having said that, France still retain a slim chance of winning the 6 Nations title, if they manage to score high against Ireland and England fail to dominate Italy.
 
ENGLAND V WALES
 
England put in a terrific performance to beat Wales and claim their first Triple Crown in 11 years. England dominated the Welsh for the whole game and some inspired running and rock-solid defence sealed the victory for the English team. England have probably been the form team in this competition (their hard-fought loss to France the only blot on their copybook) and look set to achieve some great things in the years ahead.
 
England were not without their faults but they proved too much for the more experienced Welsh side, and Owen Farrell easily won the battle at number 10, completely overshadowing  Welsh out-half Rhys Priestland, who was a spent force long before he retired at the hour mark. The English were able to nullify the illustrious Welsh backs and managed to score 2 great tries, through Danny Care and Luther Burrell.
 
Burrell almost got a 2nd try but he was thwarted by heroic defence from Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny. Unfortunately, Halfpenny suffered a serious injury in his heroics and has been ruled out for the rest of the season, which is a real blow to Wales. As well as being a great player, Halfpenny was Wales’ chief source of points, being their goal-kicker (indeed he had scored all of Wales’ points during the match).  
 
England seem to have usurped Wales as the dominant team in Europe, however the tournament finishes next week. England have been the most consistently good team this year and have been a superb team over the last 3 years (since Stuart Lancaster became coach). Indeed, England have come 2nd in the last 2 6 Nation’s competitions and have so far won 11 of their last 14 6 Nation’s games (losing only won match in 2012 and 2013 and their early loss to France this year). A great record.
 
We now come to the final weekend of what has been a terrific, exciting competition. It looks set to be an intriguing final series of matches. Scotland and Wales always provide an exciting contest and England will want to do 1 better than Ireland against Italy. But the real head-liner next weekend will be France’s game against Ireland.
 
Ireland are currently leading the 6 Nations table and if they manage to beat France they will win the Championship. For France to win the Championship they have to inflict a heavy defeat to Ireland and hope that Italy can keep England close. Ireland have a lot of momentum going into the game, and have the added incentive of O’Driscoll’s last-ever international, but they will be playing against a French side terrified to lose a home game in front of their own fans who are liable to give them a frosty reception. It’s a great way to end the 6 Nations! Can’t wait!   

 

 

 

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