With so much to play for there were high hopes that we'd see some good games in the fourth round of the 2021 Six Nations Championship, and contests last weekend certainly didn’t disappoint. Captivating, brutal and exciting we were all reminded what real competitive sport is about.
Italy vs Wales - 48-7
Italy at home could have been a difficult game for Wales, but Wales were clinical from the start. 15 points up in 15 mins and 20 in 20 minutes, by half time Wales had their bonus point (4th try) and the game, was effectively over. It would have been easy for them to ease up after such a good start, but Wales just kept piling it on.
Ken Owens Wales Hooker had scored two tries by half time. Alun Wyn- Jones their lock was brutal and showed why he’s a world-class operator even at thirty-five years young!! Dan Biggar at fly-half was excellent again and must now be in Warren Gatland’s sights for this year's Lions squad. Wales wingers, Josh Adams, and Louis Rees-Zammit (LRZ) were on fire. In fact, LRZ might just be playing his way into consideration for the player of the tournament.
Italy just couldn’t get the basics right. The Italian defence wasn't well enough organised; combine this with limited possession and a rampaging Welsh team and its easy to see why it went so wrong for the Azzurri (Italy). Once again Italy showed they can pass the ball, but they ran out of ideas by phases four or five of possession. That said, they stayed in the fight to the end and Monty Ioana’s try in the last quarter was a great piece of skill.
There’s a lot of noise going on about whether Italy should remain in this competition going forward. They are a young side and they can improve, but they just don’t seem to move forward on a year to year basis. I’m not sure that being beaten by 20, 30 or 40 odd points is helping them.
Wales played as a team and thoroughly deserved the win, they now find themselves one game away from a Grand Slam. Bring on France tomorrow. What a game! What a way to conclude this year's competition.
England vs France – Le Crunch!! 23 – 20
For me, this was the match of the tournament so far. I am English, and I know we won, but it’s not the result (however fantastic it was to see us win) that makes me say this, it was the way the game was played. Both sides wanted to entertain, it was end to end stuff, with the lead changing hands throughout. In fact, the game was only decided in the last two minutes and even then it was the thickness of a blade of grass and the 1st intervention by the Television Match Official (TMO). For my money, they got it absolutely right when they awarded Maro Itoje’s his try.
France started well, Dupoint, their world-class scrum-half, scoring a quick try. England responded with skill, precision and a clinical attack resulted in a great try for Anthony Watson.
Matthieu Jalibert at fly-half continued to pull the strings for France. Brice Dulin at full-back was a rock under the high ball. Damian Penaud on the wing constantly threatened and England trailed 17-13 at the break. Cyril Baille their prop showed some outstanding skills, but England stood firm and finally displayed the cutting edge they have been so sorely lacking in this year's competition.
Tom Curry on the flank epitomised England's newfound spirit, he just never stopped tackling, hitting breakdowns, and generally thwarting the French. Ben Youngs at scrum-half showed that he can match Dupoint as a threat. Owen Farrell as Captain was calm personified. Luke Cowan-Dickie England's hooker along with the rest of the front row played well and provided the platform for the team on which the rest of the team could build. George Ford was at his best with incredible vision and accurate passing he pulled the strings for England. Any of these men could have been the player of the match, but on the occasion of his 50th cap for England, it went to Anthony Watson. A mention should be made for Max Malins, in his first start at full-back, whom I thought played extremely well.
What a game, blink and you missed something, by the end whatever Nation you support, you had to draw your breath and congratulate both sides for a wonderful game.
Scotland vs Ireland 24 -27 Win for Ireland
With the scoreline as tight as this you’d have hoped that this would have been an exciting and captivating game, but it just wasn’t. Ireland got off to a solid start and then threw a proverbial green blanket over the match. Scotland seemed to struggle to find a way to get past Ireland or indeed to play with the intensity or flair they showed in previous games.
Maybe the week off didn’t help but I just expected more from both sides to be honest.
Scotland played well in patches but were probably lucky to be only four points adrift at half-time. Ireland played better generally throughout the game and Scotland did well to come back the way they did in the second half. The last quarter of the game was better from both sides, but something was missing in this fixture. Ireland just seemed to suck the life out of the game with great defence and a very pragmatic approach.
Finn Russel at fly-half for Scotland wasn’t able to stamp his genius on the game and was later taken off with a concussion. Stuart Hogg at full-back played well and moved to fly-half when Russel went off. Hamish Watson once again proved how tenacious and strong he can be for someone who is comparatively small for an international flanker, his try was pure determination and fight. Huw Jones who came on in the centre, as a finisher, showed real go forward punch. In the end, Scotland gave away too many penalties. They coughed up 10 in the first sixty minutes. That's just too many when you have a man like Jonny Sexton Ireland’s fly-half playing on the other side. He took full advantage including converting the penalty to win at the death.
Paul O’Connell’s, Ireland's defensive coach, stamp was all over this game. He for one would have delighted at how his forward pack played and the team defended as a whole. Tadhg Beirne playing on the flank again for Ireland (he can also play lock), led by example and was named player of the match. Tadhg Furlong the Ireland prop lite up the game with a piece of dazzling skill (worthy of any top-class back) when he sidestepped two opponents inside his own 22. Robbie Henshaw showed the class he is but for me, this was the Jonny Sexton show, his calmness to convert that penalty at the death was exceptional.
Next weekend would have been the final weekend of the competition, but Scotland vs France fixture was postponed, to the following Saturday and looking at the table there’s still so much to play for: https://www.sixnationsrugby.com/table/
Wales can win the Grand slam but lose to France and apart from the Triple Crown they could come away empty-handed from the competition. France can’t win the Grand Slam but if Wales lose to them they could still win the Championship. England needs to win against Ireland to end up third or possibly better. Ireland could end up third if they win though – that’s going to be a match and a half. Scotland are probably out of the running for a top-three place, but they could still impact final places as they are yet to play France!! They should win easily against Italy. Italy, unfortunately, look destined not to win a game and collect the “Wooden Spoon”
I think we need a maths genius to work out the possible permutations but one thing’s for sure this is going down to the wire.
Author: Giles S