Six Nations Round 3: Review

Scotland 19-22 Italy

Much has been said about the new found hope that Vern Cotter has brought into the Scottish camp; how he’s blooded in new young (some foreign born too) faces, and how Scottish rugby has changed, but Saturday’s last-minute defeat was definitely nothing new. The Italian pack had been superior throughout the hour and twe6nationsnty and as back and forwards piled in, Luke McLean even adding his 93 kilograms to the cause, referee George Clancy ran under the post and blew for a straight-arm penalty. Former Scotland under-20 fly-half Tommaso Allan added salt to the wound with a successful conversion.

Jacques Brunel’s men were behind for 79 minutes and however many seconds, they missed 21 tackles and Scotland beat 20 Italian individual tacklers in doing so, but the image of captain Sergio Parisse, knees on the rain-sodden Murrayfield ground, hands up in the air, palms open thanking any powers from above, as his team-mates showed Scotland that a rugby game is to be played until the final whistle summed up the afternoon’s play. Scotland missed Finn Russell’s talent and both Scottish debutants were yellow carded as  Jonny Gray got through 14 tackles as his borth Richie missed out through injury. England are up next for Cotter’s men, and the Calcutta Cup has been in England’s hands since 2008, another chance for change in 2 weeks’ time maybe?

France 13-20 Wales

It’ll be a long time before Dan Lydiate forgets his off-load that led to Dan Biggar crossing in the corner of Stade de France to stretch Wales’ lead on Saturday evening. Lydiate will receive the plaudits, mainly as being a link-player is not something that the former Dragons openside isn’t too well known about, but his current Ospreys team-mate Rhys Webb with his snipe and pass to Lydiate highlighted why he’s the only true option at scrum-half for Wales. The Parisian fans whistled as Dusautoir led his team off the field in their final competitive fixture before the Rugby World Cup, France lost, but showed improvements. Morgan Parra proved his worth, despite being ruled out for 10 weeks with a knee injury suffered in the match, Sofiane Guitoune and Brice Dulin brought a well-needed spark, but Phillipe Saint-Andre might look to add a heavier ball carrier than Clermont’s Damien Chouly. Saint-Andre bemoaned his side’s 50% goal kicking success rate; Camille Lopez blamed his tee, but 9 points were wasted and the former Sale Sharks wanted to see his players to start taking responsibility for the defeats they have suffered. Gatland praised his front eight, Luke Charteris deserves to keep the jersey for Ireland in two weeks time, and Scott Baldwin did his name no shame either. Wales are still in with a shout of the Championship; France are not, but Le Crunch in Round 6 should get the blood pumping.

Ireland 19-9 England

In winning their 10th match on the trot, Joe Schmidt’s side not only claimed the favourites tag for the Six Nations, but are undoubtedly Europe’s number one team with a coach who can tactically outfox every other coach in world rugby. His side won the possession and territorial battle with a 20% swing mainly through kicking in open play. A box kick from superb Connor Murray led to their opening try which was caught and grounded for the 5-pointer by Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw, the only Galway-based player in the matchday 23. His centre partner, Jarred Payne managed to nullify the threat of Jonathan Joseph, but the Bath man was in need of a quiet game after two storming performances in Round 1 and 2, but Payne is yet to show his attacking ability in the number 13 emerald jersey. Dan Cole and Cian Healy went head-to-head literally, Paul O’Connell, was, as always, warrior like and got through 12 tackles, the Munster man being linked with Pau for next season. The Irish half-backs outclassed Stuart Lancaster’s, George Ford given a lesson in game control by Jonny Sexton, who did not, unlike last week, have much defensive work to carry out, but Alex Goode deputised comfortably for Mike Brown. England face Scotland for the Calcutta Cup and Ireland cross the Irish Sea to Cardiff. Many thought it would be the ‘Dublin Decider’, but it could well be the ‘Cardiff Clincher’.