Winners & Losers From Week One Of The Guinness Six Nations
Latest posts by Stephen Lewis (see all)
- Top Five Performances Of The 2010s: England - June 23, 2020
- Picking England’s 31-Man Squad For The World Cup - May 23, 2019
- Winners & Losers From Week One Of The Guinness Six Nations - February 5, 2019
Pundits described this as one of the most unpredictable Six Nations in recent memory, and boy were they proved right. Wales started the 2019 Guinness Six Nations on Friday with a historic 19-24 comeback victory over France in Paris, before Scotland saw off Italy at BT Murrayfield the next day with a 33-20 victory.
England then rounded off the opening weekend with a brutal 20-32 win over Ireland, abruptly ending the possibility of back-to-back Grand Slams for Joe Schmidt’s men. Here, we take a look at all the winners and losers of an opening weekend packed with action.
You make your own luck in sport, and the Ospreys winger epitomised that after scoring two very opportunistic tries to help Wales to a 19-24 victory, having been 16-0 down at half time. North scored his first try after chasing a seemingly lost-cause kick from Hadleigh Parkes, only for Yoann Huget to fumble the ball over Frances’ try line, gifting North an opportunity to cross the whitewash. The 26-year-old would then seal the deal in dramatic fashion, picking off an intercept pass from Sébastien Vahaamahina (more on him later…) to score his second just 8 minutes from time. It may have not been a pretty affair at the Stade de France, but the two tries from North means that Wales’ quest for a first Championship win since 2013 remain on track.
Blair Kinghorn fully deserved being named MOTM against Italy after scoring the first ever hat-trick for Scotland since Italy joined the tournament in 2000, but his performance was largely due to the influence of Finn Russell. The fly-half has been in superb form since joining Racing 92, and he controlled the Scottish backline with aplomb. His superb cross-field to Kinghorn for Scotland’s first try was a moment of genius, the grubber-kick for Stuart Hogg was sensational, and he also delivered a wonderfully-timed pass to Josh Strauss that set up Nick Grigg’s try. There is no doubt that Russell will be the key man going forward for Scotland in this year’s competition.
Once a winger that relied purely on speed, May has now honed his skills to become one of the best attacking players in world rugby. He scored after just 90 seconds into the game, and was always a threat with ball-in-hand. He provided a lovely kick to allow Henry Slade to score in the second half, but also had a noticeable game in defence, constantly putting Robbie Henshaw under pressure with his chasing game. He is by far and away England’s best finisher right now, and has truly nailed down a jersey leading into the 2019 World Cup. A major mention must also go to England defence coach John Mitchell, who came up with the perfect strategy to suppress Ireland’s game in Dublin.
What was the second-row thinking? After France had worked their way into the Wales half, Vahaamahina decided to throw a ludicrous 20 metre pass that was easily picked off by George North and allowed Wales to score at the other end of the pitch. The pass was a personification of the combustion of the French team, who surrendered the largest lead in Six Nations history. As we mentioned earlier, Yoann Huget also had a howler that gifted North his first try, but at least he managed to cross the whitewash for Les Bleus!
Despite the relatively close score-line, it was a dominant performance from Scotland throughout the game, with Italy only scoring three late tries whilst the Scottish were a man down for the last 10 minutes. Morisi really struggled to influence the game for the Italians, making only 8 metres all game. Whilst his defensive performance was more impressive with 13 tackles (the highest in the Italian backline), he did miss four as well, and Conor O’Shea will be hoping that the Benetton man will be able to do more than just tackle as the tournament progresses.
The Ireland captain was surprisingly quiet in Dublin at the weekend and struggled at times to motivate his side whilst they were trailing. Whilst the decision to go for the corner in the 23rd minute paid off with a Cian Healy try, Best threw a crooked lineout just before half time that led to an Owen Farrell penalty, but it could have been worse as Mako Vunipola had a try ruled out for double movement. Expect a big shift and improved performance from the skipper next weekend against Scotland.