The Winners & Losers From Round 2 Of The Six Nations
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Another round down.
The weekend saw another scintillating round of Six Nations action, with Ireland putting in an attacking masterclass to see off Italy 56-15, England edging past Wales 12-6, and the boot of Greig Laidlaw helping Scotland overcome France by 31 points to 26.
With a break this weekend, we take a look at the standout performers from the weekend, and those that struggled over the three games.
There are many Irish names we could’ve chosen here, with Jacob Stockdale, Keith Earls, and the Ireland midfield all looking very impressive. In fact, it would have been easy to include their entire backline as ‘Winners’. But Murray was a standout performer, providing quick tempo from the rucks to allow the backline to play on the front foot. His kicking was much improved from last week as well, constantly putting the Italians under pressure and allowing Ireland’s back three to contest in the air. Much has been made of Ireland’s preference to use tactical kicks rather than run the ball, but Murray showed the critics how Ireland’s backline can play when receiving quick ball.
The former captain showed his composure in the victory against an ever-improving French side, slotting 22 points with the boot to get Scotland over the line. It looked like it could be France’s day when Teddy Thomas scored two sublime tries to help give them a 20-14 lead at half-time. But the 32-year-old scrumhalf showed his experience, controlling the game well and constantly keeping the scoreboard ticking over in the second half. Laidlaw has looked sharp since returning from a serious injury, and now looks set to keep hold of the nine jersey for the duration of Scotland’s campaign.
The Harlequins fullback has been slated by fans for his seemingly indifferent performances for England since Eddie Jones took over, but Brown silenced many of them with a MOTM display against Wales. He was solid under the highball, coping well with Wales’ kicking game and looked to run the ball whenever possible. He also showed a willingness to pass the ball more frequently in order to get Watson and May involved in the action. A minor altercation with Scott Williams dampened an otherwise impressive performance from Brown at Twickenham.
His performance at the Aviva Stadium was exceptional, and Henshaw may well have obtained the MOTM award had he stayed on for the full 80 minutes. However, the centre was forced to leave the field in the 45th minute with what has proved to be a tournament-ending injury. We wish him a speedy recover. So unfortunate.
All eyes were on the Scarlets playmaker on Saturday after Eddie Jones’ comments about his inexperience, and the fly-half failed to produce the goods in greasy conditions. His kicking out of hand was ordinary when compared to that of Owen Farrell, and he failed to ignite the attacking threat that Wales produced last week against Scotland. No one can know knows if Jones’ comments affected his performance, but Wales looked more at ease when Gareth Anscombe slotted in at 10.
It seems harsh to put Eddie Jones as a ‘Loser’ having overseen yet another England win, but his comments in the last few weeks have become hard to ignore (and this comes from an Englishman!). Whilst many would say that Eddie takes the focus off his team, and mind games are a part of sport, the way he has spoken about the likes of Patchell and Alun-Wyn Jones, and his attack on the media following England’s victory could be seen as signs of disrespect for the opposition. Something a national head coach should not be seen publicly doing. No one can question Eddie’s quality as England coach, and his ability to turn them around has been nothing short of mesmerising. But, his bluntness and brutish comments should not become a regular occurrence in the build up to matches.
We cannot write this article without acknowledging the Gareth Anscombe ‘try’ that was not given on Saturday. It seemed clear on the replay that he had beaten Watson to the ball when it was grounded, and just managed to place his hand on it. As the new rules state, there does not need to be any downward pressure anymore when scoring, merely a hand on the ball whilst it is in the in-goal area on the floor. As such, the try should have stood, but this was not the view of Glenn Newman. The TMO should be there to consult and advise, but not to actively make decisions. If Garces (the referee on the day) had seen evidence of grounding, why not overrule Newman and award the try? Many fans have argued that the TMO is having too much influence in the modern game, and the incident will only add fuel to the debate that will probably rage for many years to come.