Updated: Six Nations Rugby Championship; Ireland 31, Wales 7; Scotland 30 England 21; France 13 Italy 13.

Live Blog: Ireland 31 Wales 7 f/t

A lot of people seem to be worried that complacency and over confidence could undermine this Ireland side. The thing is, a lot of them are only one bad game away from losing their place. With players of the calibre of Keenan, Ringrose, McCloskey, Hansen, O’Brien, Ross Byrne, Casey, Bealham, Kelleher, Healy, Ryan, Henderson, Baird, and Conan, waiting in the wings, you can’t afford to get too comfortable in your position. And that is before you consider young turks like Ahern, Prendergast x2, and newbie Oli Jager coming through.

Ireland are on top in every phase of the game with almost all the territory and 75% of the possession. Wales have conceded 7 penalties in the first quarter and Crowley is flawless off the tee. 10-0. Ireland’s line-out is the only hiccup so far. It’s men against boys, despite some very game defence by Wales. 17-0

This has been a solid, if not flawless first half by Ireland against a game Wales side. The Irish line-out and a slight maul malfunction are the only problems so far. Bundee is killing them in midfield. Frawley has had a Rolls Royce ride at the back so far. This defence will take a lot out of Wales and you would worry about how they will cope in the end game. H/t.

Ireland concede a very harsh penalty try and yellow card for a slight changing of the bind against Beirne which has little bearing on the play and could hardly have decreased the probability of a try. But the game gets loose and Wales get into the game for the first time. Beirne and some subs come on and change the momentum back to Ireland with Aki (who else?) crossing the line, but a knock-on is called a and the try is disallowed.

Wales have fought well but are lucky to be still in this match. Despite conceding many penalties, the ref has not wielded a yellow can for repeated and cynical offences. Ciaran Frawley, who has been “frawless” scores the crucial try. 24-7. The bench is having a big influence and Baird goes off on a couple of gallops. Jager is having a tough time, Ireland lose their dominance in the scrum and the game loses a little shape.

James Ryan draws a yellow for tackling within 10 yards of a penalty, but it is incredible how Wales have avoided a yellow so far. Cian Healy hold up Wainright and a determined Wales attack is repulsed. Despite its youth and inexperience, this is a good and game Welsh side who only concede the bonus point try to Beirne in the 81st. minute.

The bookies got it about right with about a 24 point difference. How, on the balance of play, Ireland conceded two yellow cards and Wales none is strange, but in fairness to the Welsh, they stayed in the fight to the end. Crowley added value every time he got the ball both in attack and in defence, and it would be hard to fault any of the Irish 23. Ireland will be happy they got the bonus point win, but this was no facile victory. Ireland will have a few things to work on ahead of the England game.

Ireland need to work on their discipline and their line-outs. Bealham will come back in, together with Keenan and Ringrose if fit. Gatland will be pleased his young side are still making progress, but England will pose more of a challenge up front, especially in Twickenham. Another step up will be required!

 

Live Blog: Scotland 30  England 21 f/t

England score a text book backline try early on. Fagerson has to go off for a HIA and could be a big loss as their 18, Millar Mills, is very inexperienced at this level, and concedes two penalties straight away. Irish referee, Andy Brace, has trouble getting the scrums to form correctly. Both sides passing is very inaccurate, but England are winning the kicking game. 10-0 on 15 minutes.

A great Scotland move by their centres leads to a line break and brilliant try by Van Der Merve and Russell nails the touch line conversion 10-7.A knock-on by Furbank off a poor pass by Ford leads to a great try by Van Der Merve who showed real pace outflanking the English defence. Russell again kicks the touchline conversion, and incredibly Scotland are ahead 14-10 despite being on the back foot for much of the match.

This has been a good first half with both sides improving on recent performances. To an extent Scotland are living off scraps, but England are feeding them plenty despite being on top in the tight. On this showing either side will give Ireland a real test. h/t

Finn Russell conjures another bit of magic for Van Der Merve to score his hat trick. Another great conversion from Russell. 24-13. The TMOs have been noticeably quiet today and reverses his own call against Genge. Apparently you are allowed to shoulder charge your own player. Forde kicks the penalty . I haven’t seen a place kick missed today! 24-16

For all their depth of playing resources, the combined age of the two English scrum halves is 68. Finn “Messi” Russell kicks another penalty, and this is beginning to look like Scotland’s day. Russell’s 17th. successful kick in a row makes it 30-16 but 21 year old Feyi-Waboso – just on the field, scores a great try. 30-21.

Healy comes on as a blood substitute for Redpath. England are running out of time, but still engage in box kicking against a dominant Kinghorn in the air and then Lawrence passes into touch. MOTM Van Der Merve is yellow carded for a dangerous tackle but it’s too late to help England. Scotland have taken their chances brilliantly and too many mistakes have undermined England. England are trying to play more positively, and this has been a good match. Both teams will give Ireland a real test.

 

—Updated for France Italy Match

Live Blog: France 13 Italy 13 f/t.

A 961 to 866 almost 100kg difference in pack weights gave France a big advantage in scrum and maul up front. Tuilagi and Atonio alone scaling 300Kg between them. The first 1,000 Kg pack is in sight, but can they run for 80 miniutes?

France start as if they are going to barge their way through the Italian side, but butcher several try scoring chances with poor passing, knock-ons and ill-judged kicks. France lead 10-0, but it could have been 30. It has the feel of a training ground joust rather than a tense test match. Danty gets a yellow card plus bunker referral for a terrible head on head upright tackle which will surely upgraded to red, and Italy kick the penalty. Italy must have felt they got out of jail when they were just 10-3 down at half time.

The red card is confirmed and France have lost a 10 through injury and a 12 through foul play – all with a 6:2 split. Incredibly, Italy could win this, but  Italy keep trying to bash it up through the middle, when that is where France are superior. Finally Italy start spinning it around and make real headway. Capuozzo finally gets in in the corner. Garbisi nails the touchline conversion for 13 all with 9 minutes to go.

Now missing Atonio and Tuilagi, the 7 man French scrum can no longer hold the Italian scrum. The French are out on their feet and Garvbisi has a kick to win the match. The ball falls over. Garbisi is running out of time and rushes his kick. It hits the post…couldn’t have been closer. F/T 13-13.

France continue their downward spiral. Italy did not have to play particular well to draw the match, and could well have won it.

 

Ireland u.20 43 Wales U.20 8

Ireland started off looking nervous and let a few high balls find green grass before they found their mojo. What is it with Irish teams and re-starts? This team conceded a couple of very soft tries off restarts against Italy where they were a long way off the heights they had reached 6 days earlier against France. Even Sexton’s Ireland rarely created anything off re-starts. They were just a way of re-starting the game. They are an attacking weapon for some other teams.

Ireland’s scrum was also in immediate difficulties against Wales. Mike Ross’s comments about Irish schools rugby not encouraging the development of props (because of the rule that school scrums cannot move forward more than 1.5 metres) comes to mind. Things improved after the replacement front row came on, but Ireland’s first choice tighthead, Andrew Sparrow, injured against France, will be needed back in harness against what is reputed to be a big England scrum which destroyed this Welsh pack. The first priority for Ulster Coach in waiting, Richie Murphy, has to be to fix the scrums and re-starts.

But Ireland were on top everywhere else, and soon made light work of a game but limited Welsh side. There are a few players in this Irish team who look like they could make it big in the professional ranks. Brian Gleeson was outstanding against France at no.8, but unfortunately has been out injured since. Evan O’Connell has been a great captain, Bryn Ward and Sen Edogbo effective back rows, and Hugh Gavin and Ben O’Connor have been outstanding at the back. Jack Murphy has been almost flawless with the boot. England will represent a much bigger challenge, but if they play as the did against France, a third Grand Slam in a row is a distinct possibility.

Italy u.20s beat France u.20 for the first time in their history with their scrum demolishing the French scrum in the process. This puts our problems in the scrum against them in a better perspective.


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