Some shone and some struggled in the second round of RBS Six Nations matches, but there were even more thrills and spills in the Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12.
JJ steals the show
Jonathan Joseph helped England turn pressure into points with three really well-taken tries during their 40-9 RBS Six Nations win over Italy in Rome. With England just 11-9 up after 52 minutes, the outside centre intercepted a pass from Leonardo Sarto to Michelle Campagnaro and ran in from the Italy 22 to score.
Five minutes later Joseph called for Danny Care to put in a kick through the defence after England had driven a lineout close to the Italy line. Care executed with perfection, the ball bounced up kindly and Joseph snaffled it and dived over.
He completed his hat-trick on 70 minutes, this time showing great strength to muscle his way over the line from five metres out with two defenders hanging off him. Before the end Joseph put in a marvellous kick off the outside of his boot for Anthony Watson to chase up the left and only secure defending from Luke McLean stopped another try.
Scotland’s Duncan Taylor gave a great performance in a losing cause against Wales on Saturday. The centre made a superb try-saving tackle on Tom James when Scotland were leading during the second half. The Wales wing raced out of defence up the left, but Taylor made great ground to chase across the pitch, then timed his tackle perfectly to stop a certain score. Late in the game Taylor scored a lovely try of his own, taking a fine scoring pass from Ruaridh Jackson and beating the defence to touch down.
Centre of attention
Jamie Roberts was named Man of the Match in Wales’s 27-23 RBS Six Nations win over Scotland on Saturday. For the second week in a row the centre put in a monumental performance. He cut a great line to score a try which took Wales from 16-13 down to 20-16 up, made eight carries to keep Wales on the front foot, in defence he brought off nine tackles and even won a turnover. George North also gave the home fans at the Principality Stadium something to cheer as he scorched in for a vital try with ten minutes to go, exploiting poor defence by Scotland.
Two tries each from Nathan Hughes, Charles Piutau and Dan Robson took Wasps to an astonishing 64-23 win over Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens at Allianz Park. Hughes also set up Robson’s second try with a strong break. Thomas Young and Jimmy Gopperth were the other try-scorers, while Josh Bassett’s storming sprint down the left wing created Youngs’ score.
Newcastle Falcons beat Leicester for the first time since 2009 and while Friday’s 26-14 triumph was inevitably a great team effort, a few players deserve a special mention. Simon Hammersley started and finished a try which took the Falcons from 6-0 down to 7-6 up, with a long run out of defence, then cut a good line from the 22 after smart work from Alex Tait.
The Newcastle pack also had an immense game, with Nili Latu and Will Welch to the fore. The forwards created the pressure to set up Adam Powell’s try which made it 20-9, and helped earn the penalty chances which Andy Goode kicked.
All Hale Haley
Mike Haley was a hero for Sale Sharks in their 23-17 win over Exeter Chiefs, helping them to back up last weekend’s 10-3 triumph over Leicester with another win over high-flying opponents.
Danny Cipriani tried a snap drop-goal when Sale were 10-0 up, the ball bounced back off the upright and Haley flipped it up with his left foot, grabbed it and strode over the line for a real opportunist’s try. Johnny Leota and Nev Edwards scored the Sharks’ other tries.
Friday night was a special one for Ulster loosehead Callum Black. He led the team out for their Guinness Pro12 clash with Glasgow Warriors as he was making his 100th appearance for the province, then put the icing on the cake by scoring his first try for Ulster, helping them to a 13-10 win which retained their place at the top of the table. Plaudits also go to Man of the Match Craig Gilroy.
Scarlets outside-half Aled Thomas came off the bench to kick four penalties, including one at the death, to take his team to a 22-21 win over Edinburgh and keep them in touch with the leaders of the Guinness Pro12.
The Scarlets were 16-6 up as the hour mark approached but then tries from Cornell du Preez and Alex Toolis looked like securing the win for the Scottish side, before Thomas struck.
Sam sews it up
Sam Davies picked up the Man of the Match award after scoring 16 points as the Ospreys beat Munster 21-17 in Cork. The Opsreys are the first team to defeat Munster there for three years. Davies spotted a gap and darted over the line for a try, was held up just short as he attempted to score a second, and he kicked a conversion and three penalties. He missed the conversion of Owen Watkin’s try, and a penalty, but still played a major role in taking the Ospreys to a win which keeps them in touch with the top four.
Two Under-20s players are on our Saints list this weekend. First up is England U20 hooker Jack Singleton who scored no less than four tries in Friday’s 42-7 win over Italy U20.
Wales U20 replacement Billy McBryde is also a Saint after coming off the bench in the 79th minute of the match against Scotland, with the scores tied at 15-15, and winning the game for Wales with a last-ditch penalty.
No one expects match officials to get everything right, but it is fair to hope they might not err when they use the TMO. However, during Saturday’s Wales v Scotland match referee George Clancy and his team managed to award what turned out to be a crucial try to Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies when he had been in an offside position at the moment Jamie Roberts tapped down a high ball at the start of the move.
Clancy used TMO Graham Hughes to rule on whether Roberts had knocked the ball on, but when it was shown that he hadn’t, Clancy awarded the try and didn’t penalise Davies for offside. As Wales won the match 27-23, it turned out to be a score of some significance.
Of course, Scotland made their share of errors too, not least John Hardie and WP Nel who both fumbled and knocked-on at crucial times.
Ireland have won the last two Six Nations titles but seem to have blown any chance of making it three in a row as last weekend’s draw with Wales was followed by a 10-9 loss to France in a mostly turgid game in Paris. Ireland had 58% of the territory and 50% of the possession in the first half but only managed to build up a 9-3 lead.
They made zero – yes, zero – line-breaks in the game, just one solitary offload and missed 17 tackles. Yes, they were hurt by injuries, but they really have to find a way to create some tries and give their supporters a bit more to cheer.
Worcester Warriors find themselves well and truly in the midst of a relegation battle in the Aviva Premiership after their 16-14 home defeat by fellow-strugglers Bath and a few key mistakes proved costly.
Warriors’ director of rugby Dean Ryan was unhappy that referee JP Doyle and his team had missed a deliberate knock-on by Ross Batty as Cooper Vuna fired out what could have been a scoring pass to Gerrit-Jan van Velze. If the offence, in the shadow of the posts, had been spotted Worcester would have had a match-winning shot at goal, but they had already earned a few of those and missed them.
Ryan Mills pushed a penalty wide of the posts late in the game, Tom Heathcote fired another one wide and Ryan Lamb had a drop-goal attempt charged down.
Toothless Tigers and sorry Sarries
The Leicester team which lost 26-14 to then bottom-of-the-table Newcastle Falcons on Friday night were placed firmly in the doghouse en masse by their director of rugby Richard Cockerill. The win lifted Newcastle up two places in the Aviva Premiership table and cut the Tigers slightly adrift from the top two.
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“I am bitterly disappointed with that performance,” Cockerill told BT Sport. “What we did tonight wasn’t acceptable from a Leicester point of view. We knew they would be tough, very direct and we knew they would be well organised and we were none of those things. We need to have a hard look at ourselves and make sure we start putting a few things right.” Ouch.
Saracens might also have expected to be in from a tongue-lashing from their boss Mark McCall after losing 64-23 to Wasps at home, but all McCall could do afterwards was look back on the great form his side have shown for months on end and say: “Today it went really badly wrong. We have got to respond to it and I’m sure we will.”