Sunday, March 19, 2006
Six Nations - Final Weekend
Well it's over! The Six Nations Championship is finished for 2006 and we have a champion (France), Triple Crown winner (Ireland) and a Wooden Spoon holder (Italy). However, if you are a Wales or England supporter, there is very little to be happy about, - this season's championship was one that had to be endured rather than enjoyed! Apart from, obviously, France and Ireland, both Scotland and Italy have much to be pleased, - if not proud about.
Italy 10 - 13 Scotland
This was a scrappy match in which defenses held the outcome to the match. It was Italy that opened the scoring with a Mirco Bergamasco try, converted by Ramiro Pez giving them a 7 point lead, but Scotland came back with a try from Chris Patterson, who converted his own try and Ross added a drop-goal to give the Scots a 10 - 7 lead at half-time. Early in the second half, the Italians came back at Scotland and eventually won a penalty to level the score at 10 - 10. That was how the gamed stayed until almost the last gasp when a penalty by Patterson sealed the win. Both sides have much to look back on with pride from this championship; Scotland's wins against France and England in particular must give pleasure, while Italy's draw at Cardiff, - their first ever away point, - and the fact that they were never totally out-played must give them heart.
Wales 16 - 21 France
This match was another won in the last few minutes of the game, when French flair finally put to rest Welsh endeavour and hard work. The first half quite definitely belonged to Wales who scored a try, one conversion and a brace of penalties, to which France could only reply with a couple of penalties of their own. However, the second half was a much more even affair, with the balance of luck falling to France who scored 2 trys and conversions and another penalty to sink Welsh hearts. For France, this championship has been one of progression. From a poor start against Scotland to their almost imperial win over England last week, they look every inch the World Cupp contenders many pundits see them. Wales, on the other hand, are rapidly going in the other direction. From Grand Slam winners last season to a shadow of themselves this season. The problems, as always with Wales, is as much off the pitch as on it. Losing a coach half-way through a major tournament speaks volumes.
England 24 - 28 Ireland
This is not an England season I wish to remember for long. In many ways, this was an absorbing match, but throughout the game, it was Ireland that seemed to be the more disciplined and controlled, with many ideas and tactics to fall back on. England, on the other hand, seemed a very disjointed and rudderless outfit. At times, the England phase play was back to something like the old days, but they couldn't convert that possession to scores. By half-time, Ireland had a 11 - 8 lead, and even after the break, couldn't really breakaway. At times, England's defense was immense, - it had to be. Borthwick managed to score his first ever England try, but that didn't seem to spur the English on. Andy Goode, on for the injured Charlie Hodgson, missed too many kicks which could have made a difference. In the end, a late try to Ireland gave them a well deserved Triple Crown. Like France, Ireland have shown signs of growth and development during this Championship, while England seem to have totally lost their way. There are only 18 months to the World Cup in 2007, not long for them to get their act back together.