A round-up of the action from the fourth round of the Six Nations
IN A NUTSHELL
Wales 23-16 Ireland
Immense defence by Wales and a second-half try by replacement Scott Williams took Wales to a thrilling win over Ireland at the Millennium Stadium.
Four penalties from Leigh Halfpenny gave Wales a 12-0 lead in 13 minutes, Johnny Sexton replied with three penalties on the occasion of his 50th cap but a drop-goal by Dan Biggar ensured Wales led 15-9 at half-time.
Ten minutes into the second half Ireland put Wales under sustained pressure, battering away inside the 22 for more than six minutes, but Sam Warburton and his men held firm – roared on by the home fans – then created a try for Williams, who dummied his way inside Tommy Bowe and ghosted over the line.
Halfpenny missed the conversion and after Ireland narrowed the gap to 20-16 when Wayne Barnes awarded them a penalty try as they drove to the line, the stage was set for a nail-biting finale. Wales forced a penalty which Halfpenny kicked after 75 minutes and Ireland could not conjure another scoring chance, so their skipper Paul O’Connell was denied the chance to celebrate his 100th cap with a win.
England 25-13 Scotland
England had been tasked with starting this Calcutta Cup match well and they certainly came out in attack mode, Luther Burrell bursting through after just 50 seconds but Stuart Hogg’s tackle prevented an early try. In the fifth minute Jonathan Joseph did dart over, however, cutting a great line off George Ford, and it looked like England were in for a comfortable afternoon. That was not how it turned out.
Scotland kept the ball in hand well and were rewarded when Mark Bennett crossed in the corner midway through the half and two Greig Laidlaw penalties to one from Ford meant the Scots led 13-10 at the break. England came out firing in the second period, much as they had in the first. This time it was Ford who crossed under the posts, darting between two forwards in Rob Harley and Euan Murray.
Much of what followed was scrappy, with numerous errors, aimless kicking and penalty calls disrupting the flow of the game. England, in particular, blew a few chances, but Jack Nowell produced a final flourish to go over in the corner in the 75th minute. The 12-point winning margin puts England top of the Six Nations table on points difference, setting up an exciting final weekend with England, Ireland and Wales all still in the title mix.
37 – The number of tackles made by Wales lock Luke Charteris. He also stole three lineouts.
461 – The metres of territory Ireland made, compared to 195 for Wales.
26 – The number of tackles missed by Scotland, compared to 16 by England.
161 – The number of metres made by Jack Nowell, the only player to rich triple figures.
“Sam today was outstanding. A lot of our players ran themselves into the ground. We had to dig deep,” Wales head coach Warren Gatland
“Those defensive sets were one of the most exhausted I have been during an international, ever. The attitude was second to none,” Wales skipper Sam Warburton
“I felt at 20-16 we were back in the game, inside a score away from them and we attacked pretty positively from the restart and got up towards halfway and then gave up a penalty which allowed them to go further in front, which was really disappointing and reflected our endeavour and not our accuracy today,” Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt
“We’re delighted by the opportunities we created, but equally when we look back at the tape and the opportunities we missed, it is frustrating. It’s about composure, execution and patience. We should have scored probably six tries,” England coach Stuart Lancaster
“Overall we’re disappointed, but there were some positive things in the game. We’re moving in the right direction. I saw spirit out there and a lot of courage. The players are playing for each other,” Scotland coach Vern Cotter
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