The Winners & Losers From Round 3 Of The Six Nations
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All to play for.
After a week’s break, the Six Nations returned to our TVs, and it was one of the most pulsating weekends in recent memory.
France beat Italy 34-17 in a relatively low-key affair, in what was their first win in a year. Ireland saw off a late charge from Wales to keep their Grand Slam chances alive with a 37-27 win in Dublin. And a superb Scotland stunned England at Murrayfield 25-13 to win the Calcutta Cup for the first time since 2008.
With just two more rounds to go, and the tournament now blown wide open, we examine the winners and losers from this weekend’s action…
The Scottish back-row.
Finn Russell put in a sublime Man-of-the-Match performance during Scotland’s win, but his ability to play on the front foot was in no small part due to the performance of the home side’s back-row. John Barclay, Hamish Watson and Ryan Wilson terrorised England at the breakdown, contributing greatly to the mass number of turnovers (13) conceded by the visitors. They looked fierce around the park, and forced a number of key penalties in crucial moments of the game. A special mention must also go to Huw Jones, who scored two scintillating tries (it must not be remembered that Scotland had not scored a try against England over nine games at Murrayfield). It was a fully deserved victory for Scotland, who finally hold the Calcutta Cup for the first time since 2008.
Yacouba Camara was official Man-of-the-Match, but it was the Toulon centre that stole all the French headlines, with an outstanding return to international rugby against the Italians. Bastareaud caused chaos, scoring one try and helping to assist Hugo Bonneval score on another occasion. The 29-year-old beat six defenders- a team high- from fifteen carries. After being scrutinised for his ban following the use of a homophobic slur, Bastareaud has clearly put the incident behind him and is now focusing on playing his best rugby for Jacques Brunel.
What a debut for the Munster centre. After being handed an opportunity after an unfortunate injury to Robbie Henshaw, Farrell took full advantage of his opportunity. He handled the occasion superbly well, with his first half performance particularly impressive to watch (8 carries over forty minutes isn’t a bad return). It didn’t stop there for Farrell, who went on to make 8 tackles in attack and make 41 metres in defence. With this sort of performance, expect Chris Farrell to dazzle in Dublin for many more years to come.
Perhaps it is unfair to scapegoat the replacement back-row after the entire England team produced a lacklustre performance. But his yellow card in the 66th minute was a key moment in the game. England had started to work their way back into the game, with Owen Farrell going over and two more attempts at getting over the whitewash disallowed by the TMO. However, the momentum swung (pun not intended) as Underhill was yellow carded for a no arms tackle on Jamie Bhattie. With England down to 14 players, Scotland had the resolve and the patience to hang on for victory.
There have been many times players have attempted 50/50 passes in rugby, and in the case of Gareth Anscombe, that 50/50 was the difference between a possible win and a definite loss. Having spearheaded Wales’ late surge against England two weeks ago, the playmaker was once again pulling the reigns for Wales in the dying stages of the match, this time against Ireland. With only one minute left, and his team only 3 points down, Anscombe attempted a loop pass that would have created an overlap for Wales. However, Jacob Stockdale (who also shone in Dublin) saw the pass coming a mile away, and intercepted to race away under the posts and secure victory for Ireland.
With only two rounds to go, only Italy are mathematically out of the title race, and Wales and France must rely on other results to stand any chance of being crowned champions.
You would have to say that Ireland are now firm favourites, but if this weekend has proved anything, it’s that you can never predict what will happen in the NatWest Six Nations.