The 6 Nations Story So Far…

With the first two rounds of fixtures completed, this years RBS 6 Nations Championship is starting to heat up. Spectacular tries and controversial celebrations in the bag, only one team has really come out of the blocks flying.

England have started the championship in superb form; thrashing Italy at Twickenham and beating Wales comfortably in what was predicted as a potential ‘banana-skin’ fixture. Their opening win in Cardiff confirmed England as a strong favourite for not only the championship but a Grand Slam as well.

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Predictions of a tense, brutal battle were correct, and the free-flowing match captivated the spectators. Neither team managed to get a foothold in the game, and with both sides playing expressive attacking rugby the momentum shifted without warning. Wales’ lacked efficiency and there ill-discipline meant England’s Toby Flood could stretch the gap time and again through his trusty right boot. Wales fought gallantly but ultimately fell short, resulting in England’s first victory in Cardiff for 8 years: the game finished 19-26.

To quote a certain blogger;

“It was snakes and ladders on a rugby field. And in a contest of relentless ebb and flow, England emerged from the rubble with a precious victory.”

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Confidence rife in the England camp they went into the next fixture with Italy predicting of a demolition job; and that’s how it turned out. Italy were no match for a powerful England side and as a result the English ran out comfortable 59-13 winners, scoring 8 tries in the process. Four of these tries were scored by winger Chris Ashton, who’s controversial ‘swallow dive’ celebration has sparked much debate. However his ability cannot be questioned, and his rugby league type supporting runs have rejuvenated the English attack. Having scored 6 tries in two matches so far, England coach Martin Johnson won’t care how they are scored as long as Ashton keeps up his rich vein of form.

Chris Ashton's spectacular 'swallow dive'

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Italy, in contrast to England, started well in their first match but lost any sort of momentum when they were thrashed at Twickenham. The Italians will have taken a great deal of confidence from their close-fought battle with Ireland in Rome, losing 11-13. A strong defensive performance in the Stadio Flaminio gave them a good platform to grab an opening day win but a catalogue of errors from both sides meant neither could get a foothold in the match. And with time running out, substitute Ronan O’Gara provided a crucial drop goal which gave Ireland the points.

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Consequently, Ireland went into their second game with confidence and hoping to build on their momentum. Welcoming reigning champions France to the Aviva Stadium the Irish knew they would always be in for a tough challenge. The home side made a confident start, scoring twice in the first half and going in 15-12 at half time, but as is so often the case discipline was to blame for their downfall. Giving away 6 ‘kick-able’ penalties over the course of the match, and on top of winger Maxine Medard’s penalty, Ireland were the architects of their own collapse, eventually losing 22-25.

French winger Medard slides over for their only try

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Previous to the match in Dublin, Frances opening game went as well as most predicted winning against Scotland in Paris. The French ran out 34-21 winners in the Stade de France and put on an impressive attacking display. Four tries, a penalty and a drop goal helped defeat the Scots, who managed to score 3 tries of their own. A good attacking display from Scotland was not enough as their defence crumbled under the pressure the French created. However, the future looked bright for Scotland with many predicting them to run Wales close the following week at Murrayfield, and if they played as freely as they did in Paris there is no reason why they couldn’t.

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Scotland welcomed Wales to Edinburgh in what was predicted to be a tight affair, but what turned into an embarrassing display from the Scots. Hoping to build on momentum following an impressive display in Paris the Scottish fans were expectant. Instead, they witnessed a lackluster Scottish performance rife with errors and lacking in penetration. The Wales line stood firm, and even with two Welshman in the sin bin the Scots could not capitalise. Two tries from Shane Williams and four James Hook penalties meant Wales raced to a 6-24 win.

Fullbacks Hugo Southwell (Scotland) and Lee Byrne (Wales) clash at Murrayfield

The men from Cardiff have had mixed fortunes so far in the tournament. But having lost to England in the first game of the championship their title charge looks somewhat frail. It remains to be seen whether the 2009 Grand Slam champions can mount a serious challenge, and their next game away to Italy could be a real test.

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Results:

Sunday 13th Feb

Ireland 22 – 25 France

Saturday 12th Feb

England 53 – 13 Italy

Scotland 6 – 24 Wales

Saturday 5th Feb

France 34 – 21 Scotland

Italy 11 – 13 Ireland

Friday 4th Feb

Wales 19 – 26 England

 

For upcoming fixtures check out the 6 Nations Preview article.

 

Elliot Busby

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