An eerie piece of magic happened yesterday on a rugby pitch in Twickenham, - just south west of London. England won a rugby match!
Moreover, that match was against this year’s potential world cup finalists, France.
It has to be said that although France did turn up in person, they didn’t in spirit. They looked flat-footed, slow to react and very devoid of ideas. Very much like England did against Ireland two weeks ago! They rarely competed in the loose, and when in possesion, tended to go backwards and sideways. They only had a couple of decent mauls and a lot of their rucks were turned over. One telling statistic that explains this is that England managed to create over 100 phases to 33 by France.
In contrast, with 8 changes of personel, and a new captain, England looked a totally different side to the one that surrended to Ireland at Croke Park. Although at times, England looked ragged and made silly mistakes, that was more than made up by spirit, endeavour and sheer guts. Led by 35 year old Mike Catt, by the time the first half whistle came, England were on the front foot, and although down at the interval by 3 points, looked the far happier side.
The second half saw England, basically set up camp in the French half. On the rare occasion when France did manage to cross the half-way line, the move, more often than not, ended in a turnover, and in seconds they were back in their 22, defending their line.
From what I could see, all the England players put in a performance for the first time in this 6-Nations, - though all made mistakes as well, which a more positive side than France, would have exploited and punished. None-the-less, this was a good positive start to England’s long road to recovery.
As for the other games, in a very close match, Ireland edged out Scotland by 19 points to 18 at Murrayfield to win the Triple Crown while Wales lost to Italy, - Italy’s second win in a row! This was the first time that Italy have managed to win back to back matches and marks a real step up for Italian rugby. Wales were very upset at the end as they felt the referee had misled them out of the chance to win the game, but on balance, Wales didn’t deserve to win.
Next weekend sees the last matches in this year's Six Nations. France take on Scotland in Paris - God help the Scots now; Italy play Ireland in Rome, which has now become a tough one for Ireland and England take on Wales in Cardiff. All I'm looking for now is that England step it up a gear or two and aim for a full 80-minute performance.