Six Nations showcased plenty of northern talent

Not a bad assessment at all, Harry. I'd spare a thought or two for Scottish captain, Greg Laidlaw, he kicks, snipes, hassles, harries and is one of the better players alongside Hogg and Gray. Heals doesn't seem to have won much plaudits in any teams of the tournament and yet he made some critical interventions and go-forwards in some of Ireland's games, the best of them being his try-saving, Championship winning tackle on Hogg at the death to prevent Ireland losing 7 points on their winning margin. Sexton waxed and waned and overall, I'd give the plaudits to Ford for coming of age. For Ireland, their most important player was the least obvious - Mike Ross shored up the TH role in quiet but determined fashion - Ireland's scrum stayed rock solid throughout and was never an issue - he still has it at 35. O'Connell and Jones were brilliant for Ireland and Wales. I thought Johnny Gray was superb, as was Devin Toner, and Lawes as you point out. Back three? Sarto and Venditti for Italy were superb on occasions when given the ball and licence to run. Hogg was outstanding - particularly in last line of defence. I thought Rob Kearney had a poor tournament overall, either carrying an injury or else loss of form and pace. rugby.net ran an assessment tracker of all players during the tournament, and their top 4 for each position at the end looked like this. Props - Marler, Cole, Ross, McGrath Hookers - Best, Hartley, Baldwin, Ghuirado Locks - O'Connell, Wyn Jones, Gray, Maestri Flankers - Robshaw, O'Mahony, Warburton, Haskell No 8 - Vunipola, Faleteau, Parisse, Murphy Scrum-half - Murray, Youngs, Webb, and Laidlaw Out-halves - Ford, Biggar, Sexton and Lopez Centres - Joseph, Henshaw, Payne, Davies Wings - Nowell, Watson, Williams, Bowe Full-back - Hogg, Halfpenny, Kearney, Brown

6 days ago
Ireland win the Six Nations to emerge as World Cup targets

Inaccurate - England v Italy - second round - 6 tries to 2. And if you watched the Wales v Ireland and thought it was rubbish then perhaps you should stop watching rugby. Incidentally, in the first week of the Rugby Championship last year, there was just one try scored between the four teams. NZ got three bonus points in the whole tournament. SA got 1 and Australia and Argentina got zero. It's not all about scoring tries, much less four of them every match.

6 days ago
Ireland win the Six Nations to emerge as World Cup targets

Reposting this from an older 6N article: he 6N finale may have been entertaining to watch with all its tries and successive chase targets. But they were special circumstances. As Bakkies rightly points out above, you could argue that what won Ireland the title was not that they reached a certain score for themselves, but rather that they prevented scores against themselves. Wales were behind on the scoreboard for most of the first half, with Italy taking two well deserved tries. Wales got a successful penalty kick just before half-time to give them a slender one point advantage. Without doubt, they came out in the second half and played Italy off the park. But like Ireland in 2007, also against Italy in the final match, Wales lost concentration towards the end and Italy took advantage and 7 points off their total. Up to that point Ireland had been staring at a 28 point margin against a side that had lost by 7 to France and 12 to England away and just by 3 to Wales at home, albeit losing to Italy hadn’t helped. And suddenly 28 became 21 – psychologically boosting Ireland just before they kicked off. In the Welsh game, it was Italy who first posted points on the board. And continued to do so – 20 points in all. Despite having two men sent to the bin. At Twickenham, England were the first to get points on the board. And then promptly conceded sufficient scores to France to give them the lead. And having re-established a commanding lead at half-time, England found themselves needing even more by the 60th minute. By that time, the French didn’t seem to care about the result, they just kept punishing England’s lack of defence. In 20 mins of the second half, France scored 15 points. 5 minutes later, it was 20 points. If their kicker had been on form, it would have been another 12 points on top of that. At half-time, England were ahead by 12 and they knew they needed 14 points to win it. They had 40 mins to shore up their defence, maybe force some penalty points to put themselves into a commanding position with fresh legs on the field to extract the remaining points. Instead, they let the French right back in it and set themselves what turned out to be an insurmountable task, even if the French looked like they wanted to play for another ten minutes as the match clock struck 80 minutes. Ireland got their points on the board early. Their captain touching down in the first 5 minutes followed by a penalty. They were up 10 points in the first ten minutes. Cooler heads prevailed. Scotland got a penalty and Ireland responded with a try. They slowly extended their lead but didn’t go wild. Scotland’s persistence pays off and then get a try. Ireland regather and extract another penalty. They have a 10 point margin at half time and looked in control. When they come out for the second half, Ireland were clearly determined that whilst they need more points, they were not going to let Scotland score again. 10 mins later, they were up by a further 10 points and within a point of surpassing Wales’ target. Within 30 minutes to go, Ireland could afford to be patient. It’s another 10 minutes before Sexton kicks them past the Wales target. Scotland are suffocated for the next ten minutes, and the pressure eventually tells with Ireland scoring another try with ten minutes to go. They now have a 30 point margin and English mouths take a gulp as they see their target jump to 26 points against France. Like the Italian match, there was one final moment. Not of attack, but of defence. With three minutes to go, Stuart Hogg was part of a great attacking break for the Irish line, he brilliantly stepped past two Irish defenders and dived over the line for a certain try. Out of nowhere, comes the flying tackle of Heaslip who hits Hogg as he’s diving and uses his hand to dislodge the ball from Hogg’s grasp. No try. That was a seven pointer right there. Scotland’s loss in the match. England’s loss on the margin. And ultimately what proved to be Ireland’s winning of the title. For all the tries and tribulations of Super Saturday, defence still matters.

23 Mar 2015
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