By Katie Field
You wait 21 matches for your first Test try, then score two in two weeks. That’s what has happened to England full-back Mike Brown, who is in the form of his life and played a major role in his nation’s Calcutta Cup win over Scotland on Saturday.
Brown scored the second of England’s two tries, was their best ball-carrier, making 114 metres in 11 carries, and also defended well on the few occasions that Scotland did ask questions of their visitors. There were plenty of other star performers for England in their emphatic 20-0 win, but Brown was deservedly named RBS Man of the Match and will hope to do it all again in front of a Twickenham crowd, versus Ireland on 22 February.
The Johnny and Joe show
In the week long build-up to the Ireland v Wales match, former Wales internationals talked on television and in the newspapers about Wales not needing a “plan B” because none of their Six Nations rivals had worked out how to stop their “plan A”.
There won’t be so much smugness in evidence after Ireland’s 26-3 demolition of Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
New Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has a reputation for being a master tactician and he delivered in spades, coming up with a game plan to blunt Wales’s strongest attacking weapons. Then, Johnny Sexton executed the plan to perfection, taking all the right options and kicking accurately out of hand and from the tee to pilot Ireland to the most comfortable of wins.
New Zealand’s Sevens team were disappointed to lost 12-7 to Fiji in their first pool match of the Wellington Sevens on Friday. They responded in the best possible fashion by winning their next five matches without conceding a single point, and so taking their home tournament title in style.
The Kiwis beat Spain 55-0, France 47-0, Canada 24-0 in the quarter-final, England 31-0 in the semi-final and South Africa 21-0 in the final. Sherwin Stowers scored eight tries and Scott Curry and Tim Mikkelson ran in four each.
Their legendary coach, Gordon Tietjens, said: “To bounce back and have no tries scored against us after losing to Fiji was really pleasing. It was a case today of making no mistakes and we coped brilliantly.”
London Irish skipper George Skivington did something no other Aviva Premiership captain has done so far this season – led his side to victory at Saracens. Skivington, who was celebrating his 150th appearance for the Exiles, made it a day to remember by scoring one of Irish’s three tries as they defeated the league leaders 22-13 at their Allianz Park home.
His try was one of two which came just minutes before half-time, crucially enabling Irish to go into the break 22-8 up instead of just 10-8.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith was understandably delighted with the win, saying: “We came into the game with a very simple plan but we had to execute it. We knew if we were to have a chance today we would have to out work them and because they’re a massive work rate team.”
Far from Bonny Scotland
If Scotland fans thought their team played badly in Dublin last weekend, there was even less to cheer this week as the home side were downed 20-0 by England at Murrayfield. Any loss in a Calcutta Cup match is bad for Scotland, but a whitewash is unforgiveable and there are bound to be recriminations.
What possible reason can there be for so many Scotland players to play so badly at once? Have they lost confidence in caretaker coach Scott Johnson, who controversially dropped his skipper Kelly Brown for this match? Vern Cotter is due to take over as coach at the end of the season, allowing Johnson to become director of rugby, so is this period of limbo having an adverse effect on the players?
One of the worst areas, for the second week in a row, was the lineout, Scotland losing five of their own throws, just like in Dublin last weekend. In 2006 they went through the whole Six Nations without losing a single one of their own lineouts. How times change.
Scotland were poor in all areas, with only David Denton looking at all threatening going forward. They missed 27 tackles, conceded 16 penalties, and spent barely any time in the England 22.
Everyone in the Scotland camp needs to shoulder their share of the blame for the shambles and find some answers – fast.
Losing their heads
In these days of television match officials, there is no hiding place, so quite what possessed Italy prop Michele Rizzo to head-butt and then punch his French opposite number Rabah Slimani as a scrum broke up in the final ten minutes of their Six Nations match is anybody’s guess. And Slimani blotted his own copybook by butting Rizzo back before the punches came in, so both players were sent off by South African referee Jaco Peyper.
Yes, rugby is a brutal contact sport and foulplay is far from unusual, but head-butting is one of the less acceptable forms of illegal physical contact, and in this instance the double red card took the gloss off some truly magical rugby by France in their 30-10 victory.
The results of three of the weekends Aviva Premiership matches swung on late, late scores, with Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints and Harlequins all snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
It is cruel when individual errors at the death cost a team dear, but such is the nature of sport and players know that a moment of brilliance can make you a hero – such as Sam Smith’s wonderfully taken winning try for Quins against Wasps – whereas a single error at the wrong time can make you a villain.
Two players were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time this week. Exeter Chiefs No 8 Kai Horstmann let George Pisi slip past him to score the late try which Stephen Myler converted for Northampton’s 17-16 win at Sandy Park, and Worcester replacement Leonardo Senatore was the unfortunate man who was penalised by referee Andrew Small for not rolling away when the Warriors were leading Leicester 22-20 in the final stages of their clash.
Toby Flood stepped up to kick the difficult penalty and Worcester’s hopes of a first Premiership win were dashed once again. Sport can be very cruel sometimes.