Ireland 19-9 England

Ireland beat England quite comfortably to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive, while ending England’s. England only came into the game after Ireland scored their try and Sexton went off. Even though England came into the game more, Ireland were able to keep them out and prevent try-scoring chances until the end, although England’s try was ruled out for a forward pass.

The keys to the Irish victory were their chases from tactical kicks, discipline and winning the breakdown. In contrast, England gave away too many penalties and struggled at the breakdown. This match was between the two strongest teams in Europe, but Ireland (with Sexton on) were much better at controlling the game and deserved their victory.

France 13-20 Wales

Wales edged a tight game against France by seven points. Both teams spent a lot of the game trying to bash their way through, which seemed strange considering that when they sent the ball wide or played with any tempo, they looked dangerous. The big difference between the two was the kicking; France missed too many kicks at goal, whilst Wales only missed the one. At the top level, that can make difference and it proved to be so in this game.

Scotland 19-22 Italy

A penalty try for Italy in the last minute gave them victory over Scotland. The game began with a flurry of points and tries were exchanged. Just before half time, an Italian penalty hit the post, but the chasing players were able to get the ball and score a try; however, Scotland took a one point lead into half time.

The second half was different, with over 20 minutes before the first points were added to the score; the points were from a penalty, giving Scotland a four point lead. The Italians laid siege to the Scottish line in the last ten minutes, with tries and mauls. After another maul was pulled down, Scotland had a player sent to the sin bin. Another maul, also taken down with seconds left, led to the award of the penalty try, with the conversion being added after the time had expired to give the winning three point margin.

Both teams looked to play some rugby, but generally the precision was lacking. This resulted in both teams struggling to keep the scoreboard ticking along, but kept the game tight. I don’t think either team will win another game in the Six Nations this season, particularly because Scotland struggle to take chances and Italy struggle with kicks at goal.

Scotland 23-26 Wales

Wales won a tight game thanks to superior finishing. Scotland started well and had a lead, but the yellow carding of Finn Russell saw Wales score quick 10 points to take a lead. Wales were the better for much of the second half, but couldn’t make the pressure count until 10 minutes from time. Scotland applied lots of pressure, but a try in the last minute was too little, too late.

Scotland are playing well, but are not finishing off the chances that they are creating. Wales have a gameplan that they are sticking to, but seem short of ideas when that is not working. Both teams still have lots of work to do.

Ireland 18-11 France

Ireland were able to see out a late French charge following the only try of the game and win their second game of the tournament. All the Irish points came from penalties. The game was very tight and there were few try scoring chances throughout. Both sides were well organised, but there were few signs of invention. Ireland play England next and if England play with pace and width, they could trouble the Irish; the French certainly seemed to in the last 10 minutes. However, England’s defence will need to be good as Ireland controlled plenty of the ball today.

England 47-17 Italy

England recorded a comfortable victory over Italy thanks to a great period in the second half where England ran in 4 quick tries. Italy started the better and scored in the opening 5 minutes in the corner. Italy continued to threaten, but an injury to Mike Brown caused a long delay. England coped with the delay better and looked to gain the initiative after the break. Vunipola soon scored a try, given by the TMO, which looked a little fortunate. It was soon followed up by Joseph running in from the halfway line. An Italy try in the second half saw the lead cut to just 8 points, before England started to cut loose in the last 25 minutes, with Joseph grabbing another from the halfway line. There was a late consolation try for Italy in the last couple of minutes, which also saw their only successful kick in the match.

England need to start better, especially as Ireland away is the next match. The team played well, particularly in a ten minute period in the second half. Jonny May looks dangerous when he has the ball in hand and is making a break, but there were mistakes in defence. Joseph was deservedly named Man of the Match.