Well, Ireland have won the 2014 6 Nations Title after beating France in a heart-stopping final match, 22-20! It’s Ireland’s first Title win since 2009 and Ireland’s first win over France since 2000. The contest finished what had been an amazing day of rugby and a terrific 6 Nations’ tournament.
ENGLAND V ITALY
England still had a slim chance of winning the Championship going into their game against Italy but they needed to win the game by at least 50 points to stay in the reckoning for the Title. They didn’t quite manage that in the end, but they came very close. England eventually put Italy to the sword, 52-11!
Italy started the stronger team, putting the English scrum under pressure, which led to Italy gaining 2 penalties. England responded by scoring 2 great tries, both by full-back Mike Brown. Brown has been England’s stand-out performer during this tournament.
Things got worse for Italy in the 2nd half, with England adding another 5 tries. Italy managed a try 10 minutes before the end, after winger Sarto intercepted and ran in but at this stage it was little more than a consolation, as the score was 45-11 to England. England managed another try just on full-time to finish 52-11.
Although England failed to win the Title in the end, they should still be very pleased with their performance and their campaign overall. Though their play was somewhat disjointed and their scrum was unsettled they showed that they have a very potent back-line and should be able to build on that.
Italy, on the other hand, have had a poor tournament. While they challenged the English they still come away from the 6 Nations with a record of 4 losses from 4 games. All the progress they made last year seems to have evaporated. They’ll need to step up their performances if they want to compete in next year’s tournament and the World Cup.
WALES V SCOTLAND
While England were expected to make short work of Italy, few could have predicted the route Wales would inflict on Scotland. 51-3! Scotland had already suffered heavy defeats earlier in the tournament, from England and Ireland but Wales managed to score more points than either of those teams, combined!
Scotland’s fall started when full-back Stuart Hogg was red-carded 20 minutes into the game after a late-challenge on Dan BIggar. The referee had originally issued a yellow card but changed his mind when he saw the incident replayed on the big screen!
Hogg is the best player Scotland have at the moment and they completely imploded when he left the pitch. Scotland were already at a disadvantage after their captain, Kelly Brown was taken off with concussion.
Wales were already 10-3 up when Hogg was sent off and they kept piling on the tries. They scored 6 more tries, including braces for Jamie Roberts and George North. It wasn’t all plain sailing for Wales though, as they lost their captain, Sam Warburton, to a dislocated shoulder.
It was the same injury that put Leigh Halfpenny out of commission last weekend. Both players will now be out for around 4 months and will miss Wales’ tour to South Africa. On the plus side, Halfpenny’s replacement, Liam Williams, played well, even scoring a try.
It was a terrific performance by Wales, who had recovered well from their loss to England last week. They end a disappointing campaign on a high note. They were unable to achieve their 3rd consecutive 6 Nations Title, but still come away with a good record.
Scotland have been dire throughout this campaign and were only saved from the Wooden Spoon by winning a very close game against Italy. Their high point was a close loss to France. Their low point was today’s match, the highest score against them in many years.
IRELAND V FRANCE
Brian O’Driscoll finished his international career in style, helping Ireland to their 2nd 6 Nation’s title in 6 years. The legendary centre was pivotal throughout the game and was awarded his 2nd consecutive Man 0f The Match title for his efforts.
Machenaud opened the scoring for France with 2 early penalties before Jonny Sexton took a great try at the 20-min mark. Sexton failed to convert, though, which kept France in the lead, 6-5! Trimble touched down soon after, to put Ireland in the lead, 12-6.
Sexton missed a conversion and a penalty, though, and those 5 points could have ended up proving costly for Ireland. France aren’t going to be out-done and score their own try soon after a brilliant cross-field kick. The TMO judges it a try and France go into the break, 13-12 ahead.
France put Ireland under pressure at the start of the 2nd-half, but Trimble intercepts from out of nowhere to run most of the length of the field before passing to Sexton, who canters in. Ireland now lead, 19-13! Sexton adds a penalty to increase Ireland’s lead to 22-13.
At around the hour-mark, France score another try and reduce Ireland’s lead to 22-20! The last 20 minutes are going to be painful for fans of either side. Ireland’s woes increase when the Talismanic Sexton is stretchered from the field with 10 minutes to go. Ian Madigan comes on for his 1st appearance in the 2014 6 Nations.
The last 10 minutes are agonisingly painful for fans of both teams. Twice, France have a chance to win the game but are denied both times. First a penalty attempt goes wide and then their try is disallowed. Ireland managed to hold on to win!
Ireland were saved from the jaws of defeat (much like in 2009, when Stephen Jones missed a penalty which could have won the match for Wales. Instead he missed and Ireland were awarded the Grand Slam).
So Ireland have won the 6 Nations Title, only their 3rd since 1985 and have ended their 14-year bogey in France. A terrific end to a very good Irish campaign. Their performance was patchy in places but they still achieved some impressive victories.
France saved their best performance ’til last but it wasn’t good enough to achieve victory (though they were unlucky when they failed in both their penalty and try attempts). Still, they have been really poor this season, they’re only really high point a very close win over England.
The performance may have been too little too late for Phillipe Saint-Andre. The French Federation will have to move quickly if they want him gone in time to get a replacement to coach France through next year’s tournament and the World Cup.
And so we say good-bye to Brian O’Driscoll as an international rugby player. He’s left us all some great memories over the last 15 years when he has been undoubtedly 1 of the greats of his generation and 1 of the best ever.
As well as great memories he leaves behind some terrific achievements as an international player as well. He retires as the world’s most capped player (141) and also 1 half of the World’s Most Capped Centre Partnership, with Gordon D’Arcy . O’Driscoll is also Ireland’s top try scorer with 46 tries. 26 of those tries he scored in the 6 Nations, making him the 6 Nations top try scorer as well!
He also played a major role in Ireland’s most successful era, helping Ireland win 4 Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam and 2 Championships during his career. He leaves Irish rugby in much healthier form than when he came onto the scene.
He will be sorely missed but he also leaves behind a tremendous team: The Kearney Brothers, Andrew Trimble, Gordon D’Arcy, Jonny Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry, Peter O’Mahony, Paul O’Connell, Devin Toner, Cian Healy, Mike Ross and Rory Best. All had great tournaments.
Not to mention the injuries to players like Sean O’Brien, Tommy Bowe and Luke Fitzgerald, who will be great when they return. There is also the likes of Simon Zebo, Keith Earls, Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan waiting in the wings. And, Stephen Ferris is finally on the road to recovering from injuries that have kept him out of the game for nearly 2 years!
Irish rugby is in very good health at the moment and should be for a while to come. There are still a few kinks to work out, but overall Joe Schmidt has done very well in his first 6 Nations Irish coach. Long may it continue! And Thanks Brian for all the memories!