All you need to know about the opening round of RBS 6 Nations matches
IN A NUTSHELL
Wales 16-21 England
What an opener! The build-up had been full of hype and the first game of the 2015 Six Nations produced tension, drama and skill. Wales were favourites and looked in control early on, but they didn’t land a blow in the second half let alone a point.
There was a try apiece in the first half. Toby Faletau showed his strength at a retreating scrum to break, drew the defence and then offloaded to set up Rhys Webb for the opening try after just nine minutes. Then a clever kick behind the Welsh defence from Mike Brown on 16 minutes allowed Anthony Watson to pounce on the ball to score in the corner. Ford slotted a penalty to two from Leigh Halfpenny and a Dan Biggar drop-goal to make it 16-8 at half-time.
It was England who dominated the second 40, though. They looked fired up when they returned from the break and duly delivered, Jonathan Joseph wriggling through the Welsh defence to score under the posts. George Ford converted and added two penalties to close out an unexpected win.
If Chris Robshaw & Co take that form into their game against Italy next week they will surely be two wins from two when they head to Dublin in round three.
Italy 3-26 Ireland
In contrast to the drama of the opening game in Cardiff, this match at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was drab and dull – at least for the opening 65 minutes. The first half was dominated by kicking – not all of it accurate – and errors from both sides meant that there was little opportunity to build momentum.
Four penalties from Ian Keatley to one from his Italian counterpart Kelly Haimona meant it was 12-3 to the visitors midway through the second half. The game then sparked into life with two tries in as many minutes following Leonardo Ghiraldini‘s sin-binning on 64 minutes after Italy had repeatedly offended at the maul.
First Conor Murray burrowed over the line as Ireland opted to run the ball from a five-metre lineout rather than maul it once more, then Tommy O’Donnell, who came into the starting line-up after Sean O’Brien suffered an injury in the warm-up, burst past Andrea Masi to score at the posts. Haimoma looked to have grabbed a late consolation try for Italy but the TMO ruled Sergio Parisse had knocked on in the build-up.
So the defending champions start with a win – but they will surely need to produce a better performance next week if they are to overcome France in Dublin.
France 15-8 Scotland
France had just enough lump and jump to win this one with five penalties to Scotland’s single try and single penalty.
They were on Nigel Owens good side early on. They earned a few three-pointers at the breakdown that were easy enough for Camille Lopez to knock over, but in midfield they were more than happy to miss out Mathieu Bastareaud altogether and hope that the decoy caught Scotland off guard.
It didn’t do that nearly enough – even if Yoann Huget and Wesley Fofana combined well in midfield. Scotland on the other hand, mixed their game well, with Blair Cowan and the Grey brothers carrying hard. But it was Stuart Hogg who carved up the game. Twice he jinked through before a third piece of brilliant tied in France and Dougie Fife scored in the other corner.
It was the only try of the game and with Lopez free to chip away as Scotland’s penalty count rose throughout the second half and France turned the screw in the driving maul, the visitors could only dream of the Tim Visser intercept that never was and the hope of upset that faded in the end.
14 – The number of carries made by both Mike Brown and Billy Vunipola, more than any other player in the game.
21 – The number of defenders beaten by England compared to 14 by Wales.
23 – The number of tackles made by Chris Robshaw, the most in the game. Sam Warburton topped the stats for Wales with 17.
205 – The number of tackles made by Italy, including 25 from Francesco Minto, compared to 106 by Ireland.
65 – The number of metres made by Rob Kearney, more than any other player in the game.
97 – The number of metres made by Stuart Hogg, who was full of devilment
5 – The number of penalties kicked by Camille Lopez from six attempts. It was enough to get him Man of the Match
15 – The surprising number of offloads from France
“That’s a proper Test-match win. We weathered the storm and we were confident if we stuck to the plan our fitness would tell in the last 10-15 minutes. And I don’t think the scoreline did us justice. We left three tries out there.” England assistant coach Andy Farrell
“England have got injuries but they also have a huge amount of strength in depth. Their 10-12-13 combination went well and James Haskell was absolutely outstanding. I can’t see where you’d argue England are massively depleted.” Wales coach Warren Gatland
“They are a very good team (Scotland) and play nice stuff but we were more powerful.” France captain Thierry Dusautoir
“It was one of those days the ball bounced for them and goes over and for us it bounces out.” Scotland coach Vern Cotter
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