Monday, March 16, 2015
Just a week earlier Italy were celebrating at Murrayfield, but their Rome homecoming didn't offer much to be delighted about, as a scrappy match went one way, with visitors France bouncing back to ease to a comfortable 29-0 victory.
France avoided being on the losing side three times in succession following back to back defeats to Ireland and Wales. This result never looked in doubt, despite a poor first half that thanks in part to the wet conditions, included multiple handling errors (reportedly 37 in total) from both sides.
When France did finally turn it on, they did so in style, with fullback Scott Spedding sparking a lovely counter attack that ended with big Yoann Maestri trotting over in the corner.
Mathieu Bastareaud powered over on full time, and the pressure on coach Philippe Saint-Andre was eased somewhat, with his side still in with a mathematical chance of snatching the title.
"In the first half we were able to wear them out physically and we were at their throats in defence," Saint-Andre said after the game. "It wasn't a perfect match but we'll take all the positives from it and today we had a real French team."
The weather hampered the occasion, but Italy coach Jacques Brunel didn't use that as an excuse.
"The rain wasn't our problem, the French defence was, especially in terms of winning the ball and shaping our game. That's where we had problems, not with the weather," he said.
France are now on four points with a match to play away to England next weekend. Italy, on two points, host Wales earlier in the day. England, Ireland and Wales all have six points, and along with France, will be hoping for a perfect performance and a bit of luck come the final day.
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Scotland led at halftime in the Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham but a late try and ten points from the boot of George Ford gave England a 25-13 victory, taking them top of the Six Nations table going into a final weekend that will go right down to the wire.
England's win at home didn't come about as easily as they would have liked, with Scotland making them work had for a victory that included two disallowed tries.
Jonathan Joseph scored early on with some neat footwork but that good start was cancelled out when Scotland's Mark Bennett scored for the visitors. Geore Ford also crossed, before Jack Nowell's late effort proved enough for victory, and sets things up nicely for next week.
With Wales' win over Ireland, any one of the three sides can still win it in the final weekend of play. England's advantage at the top is due to having a points difference of +37 over Ireland's +33 and Wales' +12. All three sides are on six points, so it's all to play for in a week's time.
Wales take on Italy in Rome first up, then Ireland against Scotland at Murrayfield, with England hosting France in the third game of the weekend, knowing exactly what they need to achieve for overall victory. If they can do that, it will be their first Championship title since 2011.
If Ireland beat Scotland and Wales notch up a big total against Italy, England will need to come up with a strong performance against a French side that will be plaing for pride, and would love nothing more than upsetting the English at Twickenham.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Wales put in a sensational defensive effort to end Ireland's unbeaten run with a 23-16 victory at the Millennium Stadium. Scott Williams scored a try and Leigh Halfpenny kicked five penalties for the home side, while Ireland picked up a penalty try.
Johnny Sexton was a bit off with the boot early on but got three penalties and a conversion, while Dan Biggar grabbed a well taken drop goal.
Wales' early 12-0 lead was chopped down by Sexton, and the sides went into the halftime break at 15-9. Wales held Ireland out for long periods of play but the Williams try proved vital to their cause.
"I thought it was admirable the way we came back," Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said. "If it was disappointing at all, it was at the start. We were down 12-0 without having really got into the game."
Brian O'Driscoll paid due credit to Wales' defensive play, giving former British & Irish Lions midfield partner Jamie Roberts a nod in particular, then tweeting:
Ahead of the final weekend, which now involved a three-horse race, New Zealander Schmidt added:
"England are at home again next week against France and they're going to be pretty tough to catch. Wales have got to go away to Italy and I think that will be tough for them but they'll be looking to enhance their points differential as much as they can."
View extended highlights below, with more clips to follow soon. Game of the tournament so far? Who would you say are favourites to win the Championship now?
Friday, March 13, 2015
We recently posted a great video featuring Johnny Sexton, tracking his rise to prominence from schoolboy to Ireland's most valuable player. This latest video from the popular All It Takes series sees the inspirational Paul O'Connell ahead of his 100th Test.
O'Connell, who's career has seen him win some of the most prestigious domestic and international honours in the game, is set to make his 100th cap this weekend against Wales, as Ireland continue their quest for a second successive Six Nations title for the first time in their history.
With contributions from the people closest to him; including Paul's father Michael O'Connor, Ronan O'Gara and Johnny Sexton - this short film documents O'Connell’s journey from the local parks of Limerick to today, as he approaches his 100th cap for Ireland.
"I played my whole career with [Paul] and I've seen what one person can bring to an organization. He's very special in terms of the ability to deliver the right message [to the squad] at the right time," said former Irish international out-half, Ronan O'Gara.
As he warmly reminisced of their time together as Munster, Ireland and Lions teammates, O'Gara remarked; "At times you can see steam coming out of his big red head."
An Official Ambassador for Three, O'Connell said; "I’ve never struggled for motivation. 100 caps have flown by; I wish I had 100 more in me!
"Some of the best days of my life have been in green, and I'm immensely proud to reach this milestone and am looking forward to creating even more memories with this team. When it's over, I'm sure I’ll allow myself some time for reflection and this documentary will help me do that."
“#AllitTakes - Paul O’Connell” is part of Three’s Irish international rugby team sponsorship activity. This is the third instalment of the series which also features Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
If you missed out on any of the Super Rugby round 4 action that took place over the course of the weekend, the Shortball is here to give you a quick recap. Sean Maloney talks us through some of the best tries of the week, the biggest hits and everything else in-between.
Look out for Frans Steyn's big tackles, including one that earned him time in the naughty corner, as well as Israel Folau almost swallowing a rugby ball, and an attack on Wycliff Palu's manhood.
If you're in Australia, you can watch Rugby HQ on Thursday, 8.30pm AEDT on Fox Sports 2
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
There were some stunning tries scored in Round 17 of the Aviva Premiership in England. Christian Wade dazzled, Eliot Daly was like a slalom skier and Sinoti Sinoti barrelled his way over. Above are five of the best, with a full highlights wrap from all games on page two (or below).
Which is your favourite try of the round?
Monday, March 09, 2015
Hawick beat league leaders Heroits 6-3 in the mud of Mansfield Park on Saturday to go through to the Scottish Cup final in a match that had it's fair share of controversy. There was a red card, and the end to the match was something seldom seen on a rugby field.
The second half was scoreless despite Heriots dominating, even when down to 14 men following a red card to flyhalf Stuart Edwards for a dangerous tackle.
With time up and trailing by 3, Heriots launched an assault on the line that lasted all of an unbelievable 10 minutes and 38 seconds, with no less than a whopping 66 phases of play.
Hawick, with former Scotland winger Nikki Walker in their ranks, defended manfully for an incredible period of play that included not only excellent discipline, but some great tackling to boot. The handling and ball retention by Heriots in such conditions was equally impressive.
With the referee in the hotseat for all of ten minutes, it came down to the 66th phase for him to make the biggest call of the match, ruling that Max Learmonth's attempt at a try was held up by Greg Cottrell, so the final whistle was blown on an extraordinary ending to a club rugby match.
"Just sheer blood and guts in that second half," said skipper Rory Hutton, who was spear tackled earlier in the match. "The boys dug deep. There were some massive hits going in with the Heriots boys running at full pelt. I imagine there will be some sore bodies tomorrow."
Hawick will take on Boroughmuir, who won at Glasgow Hawks, in the final at Murrayfield on April 18th.
All phases below, plus view a quick round up from the match, including the red card, on page two
Credits: Audio courtesy Radio Borders. Commentary by Stuart McFarlane and Dale Clancy.
Filmed by Stuart Cameron for BordersRugby.net