The first weekend of February is always a big event for Rugby fans across the globe, and whilst the wait for the return of the Six Nations was shorter than usual, fans were eagerly awaiting the return of international test rugby. Here is a round up of all the weekend’s action.
Italy 10-50 France (HT: 3-24)
The Tournament kicked off in the early afternoon in Rome in the beautiful Stadio Olympico. Last year’s runners up, France, hit the ground running as they soundly defeated the Italians with last year’s Player of the Championship, Antoine Dupont, running the show right from the start, earning himself player of the match along the way. The talented Scrum Half assisted all three of Frances first half tries, giving them a 24-3 leading going into the interval, before capping off his performance with a try of his own and a further assist, before being rested at the hour mark.
Whilst Italy where able to score a 63rd minute consolation as Luca Sperandio crashed over the line, the result raised questions amongst both fans and pundits about the Azzurri’s place in the tournament.
The Italian’s last win coming in Round 3 of the 2015 Tournament, a 22-19 win in Scotland.
Former Wales and Lions Captain, Sam Warburton was particularly vocal about the Italians performance, saying that they “aren’t good enough” and called for the introduction of promotion and relegation from the tournament.
|Italy: (3) 10|
|Try: Sperandio Pen: Garbisi Con: Garbisi|
|France: (24) 50|
|Tries: Cretin, Fickou, Vincent, Dulin, Dupont, Thomas (2) Pen: Jalibert Cons:Jalibert 6|
England 6-11 Scotland (HT: 6-8)
In Saturday’s second fixture Scotland secured an historic victory at Twickenham, their first win in the stadium since 1983, regaining the Calcutta cup on the 150th anniversary of their rivalry with England. The Scottish RFU marked the occasion by having the name of a player from the first meeting between the two sides printed on the Jersey of the current side.
England went into the match looking to retain the cup after last years 13-6 victory at Murrayfield
Much like 150 years ago, the visitors were first to put points on the board as fly half. Finn Russell slotted home his first Penalty of the afternoon after just five minutes. Duhan van der Merwe’s first half try and further Russell penalty, proved enough to hand the defending champions their first home loss in the championship in three years.
England struggled right from the beginning, conceding seven penalties in the first 17 minutes. Head Coach Eddie Jones quickly took the blame for the loss “It’s one of those days,” he said. “I didn’t get preparation right. We didn’t play well enough so when we don’t play well enough it’s the responsibility of the coach.”
The coach did also mention that four of his players were suffering after having not played a competitive fixture since December 6th and that they couldn’t get up to the speed required for test rugby.
|England: (6) 6|
|Pens: Farrell 2|
|Scotland: (8) 11|
|Try: Van der Merwe Pens: Russell 2|
Wales 21-16 Ireland (HT 6-13)
The final fixture of the weekend took place on Sunday afternoon as Wayne Pivac’s Wales took on visitors Ireland.
The hosts started fairly strongly scoring a penalty after 6 minutes, before Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony was sent for an early shower after replays showed the flanker making contact with the head of Tomas Francis whilst attempting to clear out a ruck.
Referee, Wayne Barnes was left with no choice but to red card the Irish man, who earned the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first Irishman to be sent off during a six nations fixture.
Despite being a man down the visitors rallied maintaining possession well and actually went into the half ahead 13-6 after a try from Tadhg Beirne. The Visitors also limited Wales to adding just one further penalty, despite the man advantage.
After the break the host came out the stronger of the two, as George North scored an early try swinging the momentum back in the favour of the Dragons, before youngster Louis Rees-Zammit scored a nice try to mark his Six Nations debut giving the host a lead that they maintained for the rest of the match.
A poor decision from Gareth Davies set up a nervy finish for the hosts after the scrum half effectively kicked away possession just 15 seconds from time, with the gap still being within a single score. Davies was spared any embarrassment after Irelands Billy Burns overhit a kick into touch, calling time on the match.
Despite coming away with the victory, many Welsh fans still question the appointment of Wayne Pivac after winning just 3 matches last year.
|Wales: (6) 21|
|Tries: North, Rees-Zammit Cons: Halfpenny Pens: Halfpenny 3|
|Ireland: (13) 16|
|Tries: Beirne Cons: Sexton Pens: Sexton 2, Burns|
Next Weekend’s Fixtures
England vs Italy 13th Feb 14:15 GMT
Scotland vs Wales 13th Feb 16:45 GMT
Ireland vs France 14th Feb 15:00 GMT
Image Credit: David Roberts – Creative Commons License