Well, we waited for 2 weeks but, oh boy, was it worth it. It was an action-packed, high drama full of some glorious tries, and here are the Top 10 talking points from the weekend.
One referee escapes criticism while another is unfairly flogged:
Nigel Owens was heavily criticised by some gracious defeated English fans. Decisions that made fans angry- Danny Care’s interception pass and Farrell’s almost hatrick- both of which Nigel got spot on. With Joe Launchbury conceding the penalty that lead to Danny Care almost trotting underneath the posts, Nigel might have been a little slow to give the advantage, however, he did make the right decision.
The referee that should be scrutinised from his performance at the weekend, is in fact Glen Jackson. The former All Black and Saracens Flyhalf was unfair in his assessment of the break down in Dublin: he allowed the Irish a lot more time to get the ball back from attempted turn overs. Now, Wales were not at there best, but with less than 30% of possession, its an achievement that they scored 27 points away from home. However, there were numerous occasions where Jackson got it wrong and Wales should have been awarded more penalties. Even the last two tries Ireland scored, should have been reviewed. The first because Ireland collapsed the scrum as they went forward and Dan Biggar was prevented from tackling Dan Leavy, the scorer of the fourth try, as he was tackled early off the ball. With the second try, the TMO failed to spot clear infringements in the lead up to tries.
Scotland finally win the Calcutta Cup after 10 years:
Well folks, it had been building to this moment for a decade, but finally Scotland have done it and have avenged themselves from the 61-21 drubbing at Twickenham last year. The players that took to the field wearing blue were to a man far better than their counterparts playing in white: they had more guts, determination and a desire to win the game. Impressive performances across board, with particular praise to Captain John Barclay, Hooker Stuart McInally and of course the Outside Centre Huw Jones with his fantastic brace of tries. Scotland’s play was positive, exciting and crucially was always forward looking.
Meanwhile, England looked like an uninspired side, looking for a comfortable win after their narrow victory over Wales a couple of weeks ago. Twice England looked to threaten the Scottish try line and twice they were repelled and sent backwards because of the battle of the break down. England also conceded the most penalties in a match managed by Eddie Jones, and it was certainly England’s worst performance with Jones in charge.
Scotland have brought themselves back into the contest to win the championship. Although, the fact they only just scored one penalty in the second half and not a fourth try, which would have seen a bonus point, could prove crucial if they are to beat Ireland in two weekends time in Dublin.
Ryan Wilson naughty on and off the pitch:
The troublesome loose forward from Glasgow Warriors has been cited from the clash against England after it emerged that there was an eye gauging incident with his opposite number, Nathan Hughes. The action is not deliberate but certainly warrants a ban as that can’t be done in the game. It’s interesting to see that Nathan Hughes has not been sighted for throttling Wilson in the process of the scuffle that took place. This is not the first scuffle Wilson has involved in however, as before kick-off, footage emerged of Owen Farrell bumping into Wilson and the two getting acquainted on a more serious tone in the tunnel leading back to the changing rooms. Wilson now has to be careful as he is Scotland’s first choice Number 8 and needs to set a better example. A committee panel will sentence Wilson on Wednesday.
Are Murray and Sexton the best half back combination in World Rugby?
Ireland were fantastic at home and it all stemmed from the half backs. With a great platform laid by the forwards for Murray to receive the ball back on Ireland’s line, Sexton was able to pass and kick Ireland into advantageous positions and try scoring chances. Sexton did not have a great day off the kicking tee but his interplay with the fellow backs was subline. There has been a talk of Ford and Farrell being some of the best play makers in the world, but Murray and Sexton might be that little bit better. It will be a fantastic battle between the play markers of England and Ireland when they face one another at Twickenham in the penultimate game of the tournament.
Does Biggar have a case or does he need to stop his complaining?
Now with Glen Jackson not having his best game last weekend and with the quick-thinking temperament Dan Biggar has, he can sometimes get frustrated with referees. However, it has to be said that his complaining dampened his impressive return to rugby after the injury he obtained playing against Clermont Auvergne for the Ospreys. Biggar is a fantastic player, no question, however, as an international rugby player, he needs to set an example. Even if you are as competitive as Biggar, you have to match that with the temperament of calmer players like Alan Wyn-Jones and Sam Warburton for instance. If Biggar continues and there are 50/50 calls referees have to make, they’ll penalise the player that has been annoying them throughout the match, which could impact on Wales in the future if Biggar doesn’t improve. The Welsh management say that Biggar is treading a fine-line, so we shall have to see what happens there.
Huw Jones overtakes William Wallace as Scotland’s hero:
William Wallace would have felt a disturbance in the force, a little difficult as he was hung drawn and quartered but still, he would have felt the sleeping slumber of Scotland break with a roar. Huw Jones had one of the games of his life against the English last Saturday and certainly made his opposite Johnathon Joseph look less than average. His pace, power and speed were all important in both of his tries. The first one was opportunistic after a lapse in concentration from the England backs and the second was brute strength to score with Anhtony Watson and Mike Brown on top of him. Even though it’s not for another three years, Jones is certainly making a case to be an option for Outside Centre for the British and Irish Lions when they tour South Africa in 2021.
Murrayfield is proving a key factor for Scottish success:
The Scots have now won an impressive 9 out of their last 10 fixtures at Murrayfield, only a narrow defeat to the All Blacks the only stain for a very good record at their ground. Along with the confidence that Gregor Townsend brings to the side, the optimism in the players and their form recently, the stadium of the Scottish National team has proved to be a key factor in keeping the Scots motivated to win fixtures there. England and Ireland have built this up at Twickenham and the Aviva Stadium respectively, and now Scotland have done the same. The trick now for the Scots is to replicate that passion and fire away from home, and to adapt quickly to how teams are playing in front of them, playing with an alternative game plan if needed. There were marginal correct calls made by Nigel Owens during the match but for the players, the Murrayfield atmosphere would have encouraged them to carry on to seek victory, proving to be a significant difference to the final result.
France and Italy play the dullest match of the championship so far:
Les Blues and the Azzuri have not played well in the championship and it was certainly an uneventful game in a great stadium in the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Eventually the French power was too much for the Italians. For 60 minutes, it looked like Italy were in the game, however, charismatically they crumbled and with the likes of Mathieu Bastareaud crashing over, the French bulldozed the Italians. Machenaud at Scurm Half kept the score line ticking over from the tee for France. Neither side looked to be incredibly threatening in attack and France are the first nation not to pick up a 4-try bonus point against the Italians. Having said that, it was a slightly better defensive Italian performance, as their average points conceded prior to that game in the Championship was 45, but with France only scoring 34, it’s a minor success.
Italy have now got the Wooden spoon, unless they can have an upset against the Welsh and then the Scots, but this doesn’t seem likely. France have left themselves a lot of work to do before they face England in Le Crunch in Paris in just over a week.
Whispers of a Grand Slam for Ireland:
Finally, Irish fans can start to dream of the Grand Slam. If they were to win against Scotland, they could be the overall winners of the Championship should England fail to get all 5 points on offer in their game against France. Ireland won the Championship back in 2014, but have not won a Grand Slam since the Golden Generation of 2009. Could 2018 be the year, who knows? They certainly have the composure with Sexotn and Murray and the new exciting talent with James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale. Ireland’s record at the Aviva Stadium has been imperious lately so Scotland will have a hard time to try and get the win. If the Scots manage to capture the spirit of their performance against England and bring it to Dublin, then it should be a much closer game than many might anticipate. And at the end, there is, of course, the trip to Twickenham, which has not been a happy hunting ground for the Irish in recent times.
Chris Farrell, another centre option for Ireland, gone in the blink of an eye:
Farrell played very well on debut, even winning the Man of the Match award against Wales. However, news from Tuesday stipulated he has gained a knee injury and now Schmit has the very difficult task to fill the Number 13 Jersey. Garry Ringrose of Leinster has not played much rugby and with the prospect of Huw Jones coming towards the Number 13 channel, Schmit may have to go with experience to fill in the gap left by Ringrose, Henshaw, and now Farrell. Keith Earls and Fergus McFadden could be employed here as both have filled the position before for Ireland, however it is neither player’s best or favoured position. With 10 days before the game against Scotland, Schmit will have time to see who the best new partner is for Connacht’s Bundee Aki.
You can catch with the highlights of the action from the 2018 Natwest 6 Nations and the Aviva Premiership on BURN FM Live Player with the Brum Rugby Show between 8-9pm on Sundays.