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Six Nations Wrap: Scotland embarrass Wales with record win, wounded Ireland end France winning streak in classic

11th February, 2023
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11th February, 2023
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Scotland playmaker Finn Russell has been at his creative best in a crushing 35-7 bonus-point win over Wales in the Six Nations at Murrayfield, a record victory in the contest.

It was also the first time since 1996 that Scotland had won their opening two matches in the competition as they lifted the Doddie Weir Cup, named in honour of their former player who died last November.

Hooker George Turner, replacement fullback Blair Kinghorn and No.8 Matt Fagerson all added to a brace from wing Kyle Steyn on Saturday as Scotland ensured it would not be a third year running in which they beat England in the opener but then lost to Wales.

The Welsh dominated territory in the first half but their numerous visits to the Scotland 22 failed to provide points, with their only try in the game via hooker and captain Ken Owens.

Scotland are second in the Six Nations table with 10 points from their two games, only behind Ireland on points difference, while Wales have yet to break their duck as the return of coach Warren Gatland has failed to change their fortunes so far.

It was a first win for the Scots over Wales in Edinburgh since 2017, having lost five of the previous six meetings at all venues, and it beat their previous record winning margin of 25 points set 99 years ago in 1924.

“It was a great game and a great result,” Russell said at the post-match presentation. 

“We knew we had struggled to back up the first game in the past. I was just doing my job out there, making the other boys look good.

“You can see the continuity in the squad, the boys are on the same page and that helped us attack like we did today. The defence also shut them out so a good performance all round.”

It was the second week in a row that Wales started slowly in the opening 20 minutes and they again struggled on their own lineout, adding to the mounting list of concerns for Gatland.

After two Russell penalties, Scotland scored their opening try as Turner burst clear from a driving maul and showed good strength to get the ball down under pressure from two defenders.

Wales had 70 per cent of the territory in the first half and stayed in the game as Owens barged over from a driving maul. 

They trailed 13-7 at the break, with wing Rio Dyer dropping the ball with the tryline gaping on the stoke of halftime.

Scotland turned up the heat in the second period with Russell taking charge as he controlled the game.

He laid on two tries for Steyn, first with a brilliant offload in the tackle and then an intelligent cross-field kick that was perfect for the wing to dot down.

Russell had a hand in the next two scores as well, another kick providing the attacking impetus for Kinghorn to go over before his long, looping pass was perfect for Fagerson to run onto and score.

Ireland end France winning streak in classic

In Dublin earlier, Ireland ended France’s 14-match winning run with a 32-19 bonus-point victory over their biggest rivals for the Six Nations title in a breathless game between the world’s top two teams that really lived up to its billing.

A gripping first half on Saturday featuring four tries — three of them to Ireland, including an amazing one-handed finish from James Lowe — gave way to a more attritional but equally absorbing second half.

France hung on grimly until centre Garry Ringrose went over for the match-clinching 73rd-minute try.

France, the defending champions, lost for the first time since November 2021 against a team they’d beaten in their last three meetings.

The top-ranked Irish are now firm favourites for a first Six Nations title since 2019, having opened the tournament by collecting five points for hammering Wales 34-10.

“It was a huge game, two great teams going at each other,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell said. “The fighting spirit was great but we also played some great stuff.

Both teams scored stunning tries, with Damian Penaud getting France’s with an effort that began with the winger bursting out of his own 22, exchanging passes with flanker Anthony Jelonch, and then holding off two would-be tacklers to sprint over the line.

Lowe’s was different — and might have been even better. 

Short of room in the left corner, the New Zealand-born winger took off in the air under a challenge from Penaud and managed to ground the ball one-handed near the flag with his body virtually horizontal over the touchline. 

(Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Footage appeared to suggest one of his feet had scraped the grass while out of touch – but the try was given.

Lock Tadhg Beirne and key five-eighth Johnny Sexton went off injured in the second half for Ireland, who have a two-week break before their third match, away to Italy.

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France, who won in Italy in round one, host Scotland next with their ambitions of back-to-back grand slams having been extinguished.

The Irish played like they had a point to prove, with France the only major nation they hadn’t beaten since Farrell took over as coach after the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Either side of Lowe’s try were scores by fullback Hugo Keenan — off a clever move from a ruck where Australian prop Finlay Bealham was first receiver and deceived the French with an inside pass to Keenan — and the other prop Andrew Porter, who barged over in the 27th.

Porter’s try came while France were down to 14 after Uini Atonio was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle on Rob Herring, whose face was struck by the shoulder of the French prop as he came crashing in for the tackle.

France didn’t concede any more points without Atonio but that was only because of some impressive last-ditch defending, notably from Antoine Dupont, who showed remarkable strength to hold Ireland’s other Aussie Mack Hansen away from the tryline despite being off-balance.

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Thomas Ramos booted over a penalty to trim France’s deficit to 19-16 before Atonio returned only for Sexton to kick his own with the last action of the half to re-establish Ireland’s six-point lead.

And that was the cushion Ireland had heading into the final 10 minutes, after Ramos’ 62nd-minute dropped goal, before Ringrose shrugged off a French tackler in a rampaging run down the left flank and trundled over to kill off the hopes of France and its 6000 travelling supporters.

© AAP

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