GUINNESS SIX NATIONS
First Round Fixtures
Italy at home to France for the first fixture and it has to be said that France went out to put their stamp on this game. By half time with the score 3-24, the French were home and dry. In an impressive performance, they ran tries in from Cretin, Fickou, Vincent, Dulin, Dupont, Thomas (2) which combined with the excellent kicking from Jalibert (6 conversions and 1 penalty ) saw the final score of 10-50 put France on top of the table.
Now I’ll remind you all of my words here months ago, when I said; “As I said earlier, check the odds to see what price the French are for the Six Nations outright” and based on their performance against Italy this made sense. This was based on the final match in the Autumn series, and my comments are here.
So the next match is England who will be looking to storm out of the starting gate in an explosive fashion and lay down their own marker…..
The next game was favourites England at home in fortress Twickenham against Scotland, who seem to still play hit and miss rugby. Great one match, then poor the next game then average the third. England would have already seen the French scoreline, but wouldn’t be expecting to better that against Scotland, but would feel confident about the victory.
How wrong could this be? A game producing one single try, which was scored by van der Merwe for Scotland. Farrell kicking 2 penalties for England and Russell managing the same for Scotland the 6-11 final score stunned the England camp.
Well played Scotland, good and deserved victory, only took 38 years…..
So to give this some perspective for those old enough to remember these things:
The last time that Scotland won at Twickenham, the world was a very different place.
* A pint of beer cost 62p.
* Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ was top of the UK charts.
* Larry Holmes was WBC heavyweight champion.
* The average UK property price was £23,335.
* Sega and Nintendo released their first video game systems.
* ‘Gandhi’ swept the board at the Oscars.
* British police series ‘The Bill’ aired for the first time.
* A loaf of bread cost 28p.
* ‘Octopussy’, the 13th James Bond film, was released in cinemas.
Wales Vs Ireland
Sunday saw this fixture between two teams who have had a dip or blip in recent form. These 2 sides are both well matched, but like Scotland can go from looking like world beaters in one game to being very average in the next.
The 14th minute straight red card for Irelands flanker O’Mahony was certainly going to impact the game. Juggling a back into the scrum for some of the scrummaging would leave possible gaps in the Irish backs. Halftime scoreline though of 6-13 to the Irish seemed to indicate that playing with 14 men wasn’t such a hindrance. A wonderful pick up and go try from lock Beirne, a conversion and 2 penalties from Sexton showed that Ireland were here to try to win this game.
With both North and Rees-Zammit scoring tries for Wales in the second half, they took the lead and as the clock was turning red the simple thing was to put the ball out for the final whistle. For some reason this didn’t happen and when Ireland regained possession they began to counter attack. Needing a try to draw or a converted one to snatch victory, this was the incentive they needed. A penalty awarded to the Irish and the obvious option was the ball down towards the corner and then the line out. If they could take a clean lineout then the catch and drive could possibly see the all important try being scored.
Replacement fly haf Billy Burns though could only watch in dismay as his kick went dead, much to the relief of the Welsh. Thanks in part to the impressive 11 points from Leigh Halfpenny they had clung on for a home victory.
Peter O’Mahony who was the first ever Irishman to be sent off in the Six Nations has also picked up a 3 match ban. This means he’ll miss the Sunday clash against France, which will be the pick of this coming weekends fixtures for me.
Saturday sees England entertain Italy, in a fixture that England really do need to bounce back from and rack up a shedload of points. Wales travel to Scotland in what should be an entertaining fixture as the current second placed team takes on Scotland who are third for now.
Already we are seeing England and Ireland playing must win games, with the Irish one facing the stiffer opponents for sure.