Six Nations Review: England and Ireland pull ahead of the rest
This round of matches delivered the same results as the respective fixtures last year, yet the final day drama of last year was not quite matched in this years second round.
Predictably after all the attention on the matter, the weekend began with another incident of concussion, after Mike brown was knocked unconscious during a brave collision with the Italian Masi. The Italians who had started brightly, scoring early with skipper Parise, resumed from the extensive delay to find England a few gears higher than before.
Jonathan Joseph again starred as England ran in 3 first half tries but were in truth very fortunate to have a 10 point half time lead, given how well Italy had played. Second half, England, as in Cardiff, really turned on the intensity and dominated, scoring a further 3 tries. Joseph, Cipriani and Nick Easter, now the oldest Englishman ever to score, all crossed the line. Italy however continued to threaten and 2 tries from centre Moressi were more than deserved.
At Murrayfield Scotland were crippled by their own ill discipline and the relentless boot of Lee Halfpenny. Wales were again physical and direct but scored a lovely breakaway try when the home side were reduced to 14 through scrum half Rhys Webb. Scotland will be disappointed they did not score more than 2 tries themselves, as chances close to half and full time eluded them and kept them behind an improved Wales. Even a last minute try from prop Jon Welsh (yes Welsh) for Scotland was not enough to clinch a first win against the Welsh in 8 attempts.
Just when you thought France could not get any worse, then came the first 65 minutes in Dublin. The performance against the Irish in the last 15 minutes was intense, precise and purposeful, causing all kinds of problems for the superb Irish defence, who were eventually breached by huge replacement back row, Taofifenua. Unfortunately the first 65 minutes were perhaps the most inept, clueless, unstructured, uncommitted, and uninspiring performance seen for years.
Phillipe Saint Andre continues to baffle pundits and media alike, even pre match he admitted he did not know which French side would turn up! The visitors showed they have great quality but predicting dour and amateurish performances from Les Bleus is increasingly looking wiser. In fairness to Ireland, they took advantage of the French mediocrity and were deserved winners without having to overextend themselves. Concerning for England ahead of what appears to be a title decider in Dublin, was how Jonny Sexton seamlessly slotted back into fly half and to top form.
The week break will have given all sides time to assess and recover, and surely we can expect the Anglo-Irish showdown in Dublin to reignite the tournament in style.
Image courtesy of theguardian.com