Sport

2013 Six Nations set for dramatic conclusion

With two games remaining, the Six Nations is set up for an explosive conclusion.

Photo: Welsh Rugby Union
Photo: Welsh Rugby Union

The first game of the weekend was in a sodden Rome, Italy playing host to Wales. Territorial kicking from both sides dominated the game, as they struggled to combat the difficult conditions. Handling errors were rife, but the kickers put points on the board. Three Leigh Halfpenny penalties gave Wales a 9-6 lead at half time.

A fortunate bounce of the ball gave Wales their first try, deceiving Italian defenders to allow Jonathan Davies to collect and score. Italy pegged Wales back with another Kris Burton penalty, but a well-worked try from Alex Cuthbert killed the Italians off. A late Halfpenny penalty meant Wales ran out 26-9 victors.

Hopes are still alive for England, as they look to end a ten-year Grand Slam drought. A much-improved France side troubled England at HQ, scoring the first try of the game. French wing Wesley Fofana found a gap and evaded some poor English tackling for a superb try. This was converted, but England’s Owen Farrell hit his third penalty of the half as they went in at 10-9 to France.

Farrell soon reinstated England’s lead with his fourth penalty. In the backs it was a battle between the powerful centres, England’s Manu Tuilagi and France’s Mathieu Bastereud, one that Tuilagi would come out on top of. Tuilagi reacting quickest to a loose ball to give England a 17-10 lead.

Farrell was replaced late on by Toby Flood, who kicked a further two penalties. The French had the wind knocked out of their sails by the try and could muster just a further penalty, leaving England 23-13 victors.

The final game of the weekend was between Scotland and Ireland in Dublin. The Scots were atrocious in a first half where the Irish dominated, but only a solitary penalty was scored, not reflective of their utter dominance in possession and territory.

An uncoverted try from Craig Gilroy gave Ireland an 8-0 lead, which combined with their continued control of possession  made them the favourites. However the Scots fought on and were rewarded four times by the boot of Greig Laidlaw. Ireland’s kicking was poor and Scotland kept alive their Championship hopes with a 12-8 win.

England sit pretty atop the table with three wins from three after a tenacious victory over France. Their cross-channel counterparts are a stark contrast, propping up the table after losing all three games.

Wales and Scotland are tied on four points, and meet this weekend in what could set up a tantalising title clash at the Millennium Stadium in two weeks’ time. A Wales win would likely mean the victors of their final game, against England, would be champions.

Scotland’s defeat to England earlier in the campaign means they need big wins in their final games to overturn the points difference England hold over them. Their win over Ireland in Dublin spelt the end of any Irish challenge for the title. Instead, they are battling it out with Italy and France for the dubious Wooden Spoon. Neither Ireland nor France have ever placed last in the Six Nations.

05/03/2013

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callumhansey



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