A rundown of the drama on the last day of the championship
What a finish! Super Saturday certainly lived up to the billing on the final day of the 2015 Six Nations. Wales set the bar high with their 41-point win over Italy in the opening game but Ireland met the challenge with relish as they comfortably saw off Scotland to move top of the table on points difference. And so England had to win the final game at Twickenham by 26 points to win the title. After an incredible contest they fell six points short of their goal, finishing second in the Six Nations for the fourth consecutive year, while Ireland secured back-to-back titles. Here’s how the three games unfolded…
IN A NUTSHELL
ITALY 20-61 WALES
The first try of the game came with Leigh Halfpenny at first receiver. He clipped a beautiful grubber through for a grateful Jamie Roberts to dot down. Italy roared right back, though, with Giovanbattista Venditti piggy-backing his pack’s maul and slipping through traffic – including Roberts – to score his own try. The conversion made it 13-11, but with a dazed and stiff Halfpenny subbed off, as Biggar kicked the three-pointer, it was a tiny blip and with Liam Williams at 15 it all opened up.
He scored Wales’ second after an opportunistic tap-and-go from Rhys Webb. He made the third with a great kick-reception that he used to feed George North, who’s converted try made it 28-13 in Wales’ favour. North then got his second minutes later. Then his third. Then Italian lock Quintin Geldenhuys was yellow-carded. Then Webb went over for Wales’ sixth try. It was breathless.
By the time Sam Warburton chugged in for the seventh try, it was apparent that Wales’ pre-match prediction of a 60-point haul was no joke. They got there with a Scott Williams dot.
Leonardo Sarto scored a lung-busting consolation at the death, but the gauntlet was thrown down…
Scotland 10-40 Ireland
Ireland made sure Wales’s stay at the top of the RBS Six Nations table only lasted a couple of hours as they scored four tries to trounce Scotland at Murrayfield and condemn Vern Cotter’s team to the wooden spoon and a whitewash.
Skipper Paul O’Connell got Ireland off to the best of starts with a try in the fifth minute, and Man of the Match Sean O’Brien added the second before Finn Russell hit back, crossing the line for Scotland.
Johnny Sexton kicked ten first-half points and Greig Laidlaw five, so at the break Ireland led 20-10 and had a lot of work still to do.
A try by Robbie Henshaw and a conversion and a penalty from Sexton stretched that lead to 30-10 and after two uncharacteristic misses from Sexton he landed the penalty to put Ireland ahead of Wales on points-difference for the first time.
From there, Ireland kicked on in the last quarter with O’Brien’s second try, converted by Ian Madigan, while Scotland had what would have been a fine try disallowed as Jamie Heaslip knocked the ball from Stuart Hogg‘s grasp on the line.
So Ireland stretched their points-difference out to plus-63 and left England needing to beat France by 26.
England 55-35 France
The finale of this year’s championship was an entertainingly crazy game. With England needing to win by such a big margin and France looking to salvage some pride after a disappointing Six Nations, both sides were happy to give it a lash.
Ben Youngs, superb throughout, got things underway with a try within two minutes and a further 11 tries followed. England demonstrated what they can do with free reign in attack, Youngs and George Ford dictating from half-back and scoring three tries between them. Jack Nowell crossed for two while Anthony Watson and Billy Vunipola also dotted down.
The French made it interesting. Every time England extended their lead in the second period, Les Bleus would peg the home side back so they always had to chase the game. The chance of the decisive try came in the last minute when they were awarded a penalty and nearly the whole team joined the ensuing maul, but France then got a penalty and eventually hoofed the ball out of play – leaving a relieved Ireland to celebrate at Murrayfield.
3 – The number of tries George North scored in a crazy ten-minute spell
599 – The number of metres Wales made with ball in hand
66.7% – Italy’s lineout completion rate, on their own ball
14 – The number of carries made by Paul O’Connell, beaten only by Jamie Heaslip with 15
100% – Scotland’s lineout success rate, and they stole one of Ireland’s too
46 – The number of missed tackles in this game, 24 by England and 22 by France
9 – The number of line breaks made by France. England made eight
“The disappointing thing was conceding that try (at the end) as it was probably a 14-point swing.” Wales coach Warren Gatland
“It’s my first Six Nations with five games in a row and not getting injured – that National Dual Contract must be working!” Wales skipper Sam Warburton
“It’s a competition where you need to develop confidence with victories early on. We had two narrow defeats and a shift in momentum and we got exposed today with a very good team in front of us.” Scotland coach Vern Cotter
“I am incredibly proud of what the players went out and did. If, coming in on the bus today, that margin had been available I would have been ecstatic.” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt
“Firstly, I want to congratulate Ireland on winning the Six Nations title. I said to the squad, I’ve never seen such a courageous performance from them, only to come up short in the end. That ability to keep going was a testament to the spirit we’ve got, backed up by magnificent 82,000 crowd.” England coach Stuart Lancaster