What an absolutely incredible final weekend we had to the 2015 6 Nations. It went right down to beyond 80 minutes in the last game of the “super Saturday” to see who was going to win this year’s 6 Nations crown.
Italy v Wales
The first game of the weekend was Italy v Wales. With Wales going into the match with the worst points difference compared to England and Ireland, we needed to pile on the points to stand any chance of lifting the 6 Nations Championship this year.
After a disappointing first half, in which Italy were a match for Wales, the half time score was 14-13 to Wales. But, within the first ten minutes of the second half Wales moved up another gear, and ended up piling the points on to eventually win 61-20, meaning that England would have to win by at least 16 points in their match against France, and Ireland would have to win theirs by at least 20 points. Apart from letting in a last minute try, which is because Wales were trying to run it from everywhere, it was a nearly flawless second half display by us.
Scotland v Ireland
The second match of the day was Scotland v Ireland, with Ireland not only having to beat Scotland to retain their 6 Nations crown, but to win by at least 20 points. I didn’t see this game as I had to drive somewhere, and unfortunately it was not on Radio 5 but only on Radio 5 Sports Extra, which my car radio cannot get. So I only got a few updates of the score, but much to my disappointment Ireland not only won, but won 40-10, so putting themselves above Wales in the final table on points difference.
Now, all eyes turned to Twickenham, to see if England could beat France by 26 points, in order to overhaul Ireland’s points difference.
England v France
As it typical of the French, they shocked everyone by putting in a pretty decent display, much better than their woeful exhibitions in pretty much all of their other games this Championships. But, England were just too strong for them, and with 5 minutes to go the scoreline was 55 to 35. One converted try and England would win the Championships. With just some two minutes to go they had a penalty, kicked for the corner and from the line-out used a driving maul to try to score.
They then got penalised in the tackle, and so France had a penalty. By this time the clock was passing 80 minutes, so all France had to do was kick to touch and the game would be over. But France decided to run the ball from their try line, and came within a hair’s breadth of losing the ball back to England. It was nail biting stuff, but finally sense prevailed and France kicked the ball out of play and the game was over. England had come close, but had just fallen short of getting the 26-point margin they needed.
And so, after an incredibly exciting final day, Ireland retained their 6 Nations crown, with England coming second and Wales third, with only points difference separating the three countries.
There had been some discussion in the week as to whether it was fair on Wales and Ireland that England would play after them and therefore know what winning margin they would need. When it is the final day of the English Premiership in football all the matches start at the same time. So, some people have suggested that this is the way the final weekend should be in the 6 Nations.
Personally, I think it rather adds to the excitement when you have games like today played one after the other. Yes it is true that both Ireland and England knew what margin of victory they needed, but the tension in the last 5 minutes of the England v France game when they were within a converted try of getting the margin they needed was incredible. There have been three 6 Nations in a row now (or maybe 4?) when who would win the title has come down to the last weekend, and even the last game. I would leave it the way it is.
Reflections on the 2015 6 Nations
Scotland, despite showing promising signs of improvement, finish with the wooden spoon, not a single victory in the whole tournament. But, I think they are on the right path and I expect them to do better in next year’s tournament.
Italy beat Scotland, but that was their only victory. They seem to play well for the first half, and then run out of steam and get well beaten in the second half of most of their matches.
England are, for me, the most impressive team in Europe at the moment. It pains me to say this, but I think Stuart Lancaster has put together a really good squad, and they are playing with inventiveness and flair, not something usually associated with English rugby. They scored the most tries in this year’s competition, and with home advantage in the World Cup, Wales are going to find them tough to beat in the group match we have against them.
Ireland are a well coached side. They are not spectacular in their play, but what they do they do very well. Apart from their loss to Wales, they deserved to win each of their matches in this year’s 6 Nations, and did so comfortably.
And so to finish with my own country. Apart from a poor second half performance against England, Wales would have not only won the Championships, but would have won the Grand Slam. So, that is a positive. But, in that second half performance against England, they were completely overpowered. That is worrying. But, again on the plus side, Wales improved as the tournament went on (as we always seem to do, we are slow starters), and if we had been playing England in Cardiff in our last match and not our first I wouldn’t mind betting that we would have beaten them.
And, beat them of course we need to in our World Cup group game, otherwise we will not get out of the group. Most Welsh rugby fans are optimists (or delusional 😛 ), and I think with the several months that Warren Gatland will have with the side from June through to October, that Wales can give both England and Australia a good fight in the group stages. We have two warm-up games against Ireland (home and away), and with the fitness and strength work that I know Gatland has been doing with the Welsh players during this 6 Nations, I think we can build on our improving performances in this tournament. We shall see!