Sunday, March 22, 2015
England had the advantage of playing third on the final day of the Six Nations, so knew exactly what they needed to edge Ireland to the title - a 26 point winning margin over France. As it was, an epic match ensued, but England came up short when they won 55-35.
It was a battle within a battle, as England put on one of their best ever performances to give themselves a real shot at the title, but the French, playing only for pride, scored some wonderful tries of their own and never gave up in front of a jampacked Twickenham.
On a day when Wales scored 60 against Italy and Ireland scored 40 against Scotland, England's 55 points against arch rivals France simply weren't good enough, leaving a bitter-sweet taste for fans, and players, who came within inches of claiming a Six Nations title.
Ben Youngs, who scored two tries in the pulsating game, was left heartbroken post match.
"I don't really know what to say. I'm devastated... First of all, congratulations to Ireland. From our point of view, we're devastated. We gave it a crack, but you can't let them get back in the game.
"Each time we got a try they seem to get one back and that was the biggest disappointment.
"But we were determined not to leave anything out there or waste any chances. It's not very often you score seven tries, beat France and walk off feeling pretty sick. But at least we have the consolation of winning a big game at Twickenham and showing people that we can finish off moves and score plenty of tries when we play this way," the Man of the Match scrumhalf added.
Coach Stuart Lancaster said he was gutted to come second again, but praised his team.
"I said to the boys that's one of the most courageous performance I've seen from a team. To go down like we did and show the character to come back. It was an unbelievable game of rugby and it was desperately disappointing not to get that try at the end."
"We played some fantastic rugby and those two first tries from France hurt us but it will go down as one of the great games of rugby. Credit to Ireland for winning the championship, they beat us and congratulations to Joe [Schmidt] and all his team."
England, Ireland and Wales all finshed the tournament on 8 points, but Ireland's suprior points difference of 63 (to England's 57 and Wales' 53) proved crucial. France came fourth, while Italy's victory at Murrayfield kept them off the bottom, where Scotland bagged the wooden spoon.
Posted at 8:15 pm | 44 comments
Ireland ran away with things at Murrayfield on Saturday, beating Scotland 40-10 to set them up to retain the Six Nations trophy and celebrate with their travelling fans just a few hours later. It was their first back-to-back Championship title win since 1949.
Powerhouse Sean O'Brien was in commanding form yet again, scoring two tries to add to those scored by Paul O'Connell and Jared Payne, who picked up his first for his newly adopted country. With the result, England couldn't pull them in, despite a valiant effort against France.
O'Brien has since said that the squad have learned some valuable lessons in this campaign, with the loss to Wales last weekend something that ultimately will benefit them in the long run.
"Looking back now it might not have been the worst thing in the world," said O'Brien.
"We know we can learn and move forward. That was the biggest thing to come out of last week; that we didn't do our jobs correctly and we didn't do what we did during the week. If we approach the game like we did, for instance, make sure everyone is going 100 miles an hour, we know we are never too far away."
Brian O'Driscoll reiterated O'Brien's thoughts, stating that a Grand Slam victory might have done more harm than good. "If we had won the Grand Slam, going into the World Cup, there would have been an absolutely insane amount of pressure on the boys.
"That being said, we've won the Six Nations and there's still going to be that pressure and that level of expectation. We're playing with a huge amount of confidence, we've got a very distinct understanding of what our strategy is and what our game plan is.
"Everyone's singing off the same hymn sheet. If we can be fortunate with not losing too many players to injury I don't see why we can't find ourselves in a semi-final - all bets are off when you get to that point," said the Ireland legend.
The victory at Murrayfield equal's Ireland's biggest ever winning margin over Scotland, which was 36-6 in 2003. Most importantly, it gave them enough of a buffer to not only overtake Wales, who were excellent against Italy, but also England, whose 55-35 win over France was in vain.
In the end, the points difference was as follows: Ireland +63, England +57 and Wales +53.
Posted at 6:19 pm | 10 comments
Wales produced an unbelievable second half performance against Italy as they chased the Six Nations title, attempting to rack up as many points as possible in Rome. Leading just 14-13 at halftime, they ended up winning 61-20, putting them in a strong position.
It was a day of mixed emotions for Welsh fans, as they ended up coming third overall, with Ireland in winning and England coming second, within a converted try of snatching the championship.
George North scored a hat-trick, while Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Scott Williams, Rhys Webb and Sam Warburton all scored too, and flyhalf Dan Biggar kicked 15 points with the boot.
Despite not managing to get into pole position, Wales coach Warren Gatland has backed his side to get out of Rugby World Cup's Pool A 'pool of death', that includes England and Australia.
"If we've got the players fit and available we’re good enough to come out of that group and even to the win the World Cup. We have momentum and all the confidence that goes with that", he said.
"We won't be going into the World Cup with any fears of not qualifying from our group.
"There is no fear about playing England at Twickenham or Australia as well because we know we will be in good shape as long as everyone stays fit and clear of injuries. We can go there with some real confidence and belief that we can get out of our group.
"You have sides ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in the world, so that shows how tough it is to get out of that group, while Fiji with preparation will be tough as well. It is unfortunate that you are going to have one of the big teams not making the quarter-finals. That's what has happened to us and we are confident we can get out of that group and progress to the quarter-finals," Gatland added.
We'll have more Six Nations highlights and reaction over the course of the next few days
Posted at 2:31 pm | 8 comments
Paul O'Connell and Ireland lifted the Six Nations trophy for the second year in succession as Wales and England couldn't quite do enough to get their points difference above that of the defending champions, despite convincing victories against Italy and France respectively.
Ireland celebrated at Murrayfield shortly after Twickenham's final whistle. Irish fans, who had stayed in the stands to watch England vs France on the stadium big screens, were treated to historic celebrations as the Ireland team took to the field to accept their trophy.
We'll have more highlights and clips from the dramatic day soon
Posted at 7:37 am | 9 comments
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Wales' win against Ireland on Saturday coupled with England's victory over Scotland means that this years six nations will be a three-way race between those two and Ireland.
All the teams are deadlocked on 6 points with three wins each, however England’s superior points difference of 37 see’s them on top of the pile against Ireland’s 33 and Wales’ 12.
Italy vs Wales
Wales kick off the weekend round of matches with their game against Italy. Their recent form has sure made up for their poor start to the campaign with wins against Ireland, France and Scotland giving them an outside shot at the title.
Wales go to Italy knowing that they must win, and win comfortably if their outside shot of the title is to be realized, this will be no mean feat with Italy showing that they poses a real threat after their win against Scotland. However this could all be scarpered should either Ireland or England win their respective games.
Scotland vs Ireland
Whilst Ireland’s chances of a Grand Slam may have vanished following their defeat to Wales, they still possess a strong chance of winning the Six Nations. They face a Scottish side that is yet to win a game this tournament though their own confidence might be wounded following their recent loss.
Ireland have the benefit of knowing how Wales did but with England kicking off after them will be in the tricky situation of not knowing whether to push for points or just stick with the win.
England vs France
England’s superior points difference puts them as slight favourites to lift the trophy and they need nothing less than a win against France to seal the championship. Along with the win they must be sure to secure a sufficient margin should Ireland win and Wales put the hurt on Italy.
They have the benefit of knowing what is needed due to their later kick off but a resurgent French side will be no pushovers.
France in fact actually maintain a very distant shot at the title should both Wales and Ireland lose and they defeat England at Twickenham, they are currently 4th on a points difference of 22. Whilst nothing is impossible the French will need more than a hint of luck to win this years Six Nations.
It promises to be one of the most exciting last rounds of rugby this Saturday and one that is sure to have a few twists and turns as the day goes on!
Who do you think is the favourite to take the title?
Posted at 3:25 pm | 20 comments
Johnson-Fisher took the rugby world by storm when footage emerged of him playing for Oakham U-15's in the NatWest Schools Cup semi-final, a semi-final that they would win mostly thanks to the outstanding performance of this young man.
The victory sees Oakham reach the final for the first time in 10 years, and the subsequent highlights video of Johnson-Fisher's exploits have resulted in a whopping 1.4 million views (at time of writing), with it being featured and shared not only in rugby circles, but also American Football.
The 15 year-old scored four tries in the game, pretty much single-handedly winning it for his team.
His highlights reel shows the impressive combination of pace, power and agility as the young outside-centre was pretty much untouchable throughout the game, effortlessly floating between the flailing Bishop Wordworth's tackles.
His pace and agility should come as no surprise however as Johnson-Fisher is also a decorated sprinter, winning the English Schools Championship junior boys 100 metre title with an impressive time of 10.91 seconds.
This highlights reel has shown that this young man has a bright future ahead of him and if he keeps developing as he is, he will be terrorizing defences wherever he goes.
Johnson-Fischer can seek inspiration from Lewis Moody, another former Oakham pupil, who famously went on to win a Rugby World Cup. The school is probably the only thing they have in common however, with the 15-year-old's running style more akin to someone like Rupeni Caucau.
As if the tries aren't enjoyable enough, that big bump at 37 seconds is epic.
credit: England Rugby
Posted at 11:30 am | 26 comments
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
A few days back you may have seen the impressive drop goal from Germany's hooker, which everyone seemed to really appreciate. Well this time around it's Sale Sharks prop Vadim Cobilas who shows how not to do it if you're a front rower.
In an Aviva Premiership clash between Bath and Sale Sharks a week or so ago, the visiting side's prop, Moldovan Vadim Cobilas, allowed his quick thinking to get the better of him when he realised his team were playing with a penalty advantage.
A poor pass rolled past Danny Cipriani and the eager front rower scooped it up 15 metres in front of the posts, dropped the ball to his right foot and swung for glory. Unfortunately the resulting attempt was far from glorious, as it rolled toward the 5-metre line, having failed to rise above knee height.
Unsurprisingly referee Wayne Barnes decided that Sale had not gained an advantage from the drop goal and awarded the penalty, which Cipriani duly kicked into touch.
Despite ripples of laughter around the stadium and in the commentary box, Cobilas appeared unphased as he quickly took his position in the resulting line-out.
The effort reminds us of the infamous Matt Dunning drop goal in the 2003 Super Rugby season which, despite being successful, hampered the Waratahs chances of a semi-final spot. Dunning's intention, or expectation, was to miss so that the referee would bring play back for a penalty.
Unfortunately for him it sailed through the uprights, going down as arguably one of the biggest gaffs ever on a rugby field, and certainly an unforgettable, hilarious rugby blooper.
Successful or not, front row drop goals are a thing of beauty, so we salute Vadim for trying.
Posted at 1:00 pm | 9 comments