Review of Game Week 3 of the Six Nations - France v Scotland, Wales v England and Italy v Ireland
All round I had a pretty shitty 24 hours worth of sport with England's defeat in the cricket followed by Spurs loss at Burnley all capped off with Wales victory over England in the Rugby. Still without the bitter I guess we wouldn't be able to enjoy the sweet, let's just hope that fortune favours my sides in the coming week!
France v Scotland
You've got to feel a little bit for Scotland in this one given that France had barely bothered to turn up for their first 2 encounters of the tournament before suddenly and in true French style deciding that they did remember how to play Rugby afterall.
That being said the Scots themselves were poor from the off and but for a couple of TMO decisions that didn't go in the host's favour Scotland could have been on the end of a real shellacking in Paris on Saturday lunchtime.
Both these sides offer arguably the best value for money for the neutral supporter such is the propensity to try and throw the ball around and play from almost any point on the pitch. For Scotland, though the same kind of errors that cost them 2 early tries against the Irish 2 weeks ago and eliminated any chance of them getting back into that game were also evident within this display. By comparison most of what the French tried came off and by the end of the match you could see the confidence pumping through a side that has endured a terrible run of results of late. The French crowd enjoyed the spectacle as the free flowing attacks of the home side were greeted by waving Tricolore and endless renditions of La Marseillaise
However, it could have been so different for Scotland had they have taken advantage of the French being a man down due to Huget's yellow card midway through the 1st half when the scores were 10-3. Indeed Scotland managed to orchestrate some very promising field positions but they ultimately lacked the cutting edge to make the opportunities count. Having witnessed the way that the French subsided to Wales in the opening match of this year's Six Nations a score then would surely have changed the whole complexion of the match.
Scotland will point to the fact that they were without multiple big name players including their flying full-back Stuart Hogg who spent the afternoon up in the BBC's television studios doing a very bad job at hiding his disappointment in the performance (you're meant to be neutral Stuart) and Finn Russel who sustained a head injury while playing club rugby between the Ireland and France games. With big tests against Wales and England to come Scotland will need to regroup quickly or else they will find themselves closer to the wooden spoon than the championship.
Wales v England
It hurts on so many levels to lose to the Welsh and within my family at least the rivalry is intensified by the fact that my Mum's side of the family come from that part of the British Isles. In fact, my Mum is only half Welsh but that half seems to become doubly prominent any time the Welsh rugby team starts to win. Her normally mundane Southern English accent suddenly transforms into that of a girl from "The Valleys" and she begins singing Welsh hymns and regaling us with tails of her summer holidays spent on the Gower. We watched the game at my sister's house and at one point I did have to remind her that she would need a lift back home and that it was a good few hours walk from where we were.
The game itself was a real disappointment from England's point of view.Our tactic of kicking it in behind the Welsh defence in the same manner that we did against the French never looked like it was going to bring many rewards. Not only were the Welsh better prepared for that eventuality but England's execution of the skill was below par for the full 80mins. The hope, presumably, was to play a territorial game and put the misfiring Welsh line out under pressure. England to their credit did seize on a Welsh mistake in the first half as they turned a ball over at the maul before the impressive Tom Curry spotted a hole in the Welsh defence to go over for a try.
10-3 at half time was probably about right as England had dominated Wales in the tackle, regularly pushing the Welsh forwards back over the gain line and at the breakdown executing a few crucial turnovers. For me The turning point in the game came about 10mins into the 2nd half. England came out looking hungry with a willingness to be more direct in their play. Wales were pinned back in their own 22 and you felt it was only a matter of time before England got the chance to extend their lead to at least 10points.
Had that have happened then I think the overall feel and atmosphere within the stadium would have been very different. Instead England gave away an unnecessary penalty at a line out that they were already putting under immense pressure on via legal means. The kick to touch and resulting line out saw England infringe once more and Wales ultimately came away with 3 points. The play was a minimum 6 point swing in Wales' favour and the home crowd sensed blood in the water.
England kept plugging away at their box kicks hoping to turn a tiring Welsh defence but by this time Dan Biggar had entered the fray and he was more than happy to send the ball back with interest. England were rattled and unable to adapt. We saw very little of the big ball carriers such a Tuilagi and Vunipola and while Cokanasiga only had about 12mins on the pitch I’m not sure he got the ball in hand once. It was the epitome of a one dimensional display against a typically well drilled and disciplined Welsh defence. A victory would have seen England with one hand on the trophy and a clear sight of a Grand Slam. We are now reduced to hoping that other results go our way.
3 down 2 to go
Again I didn't watch the Italian match although I understand Ireland were pushed fairly hard and had to respond with a couple of late scores in order to obtain what could be a crucial bonus point.
Scotland's defeat means that we are now down to a 3 horse race although the men from the North of the border could yet play a large part in determining which direction this championship heads in. They host record breaking Wales in the next round while England can get back to winning ways against Italy and Ireland play France. If all goes to form and the top 3 win those games then the last weekend of fixtures could well come down to a thrilling finale as Wales take on Ireland and England host Scotland who will not be looking to do the olde enemy any favours.