Tuesday, March 24, 2015

That'll do Joe, that'll do...

After what can only be described as one of the greatest 6 Nations Saturdays of all time, Ireland have retained their title. Back to back championships certainly don’t come along often for any country, let alone that little green island next door to the Brits.

The day started off with Italy v Wales. The first half saw some surprisingly good rugby from Italy and Vendetti sneaking over the try line. Leigh Halfpenny was injured by leading with the wrong shoulder when going into a tackle on Vunisa. He took a strong knee to the head and was removed from the pitch. During the second half however, the tempo changed with Wales running riot scoring 8 tries over a tired Italy. Once they started they couldn’t stop, North scoring 3 of their 8 tries found his feet in the game. The match finished with Italy suffering a heavy defeat, 61 – 20.

Then all eyes turned to Murrayfield to watch Scotland v Ireland, by this time Ireland knew they needed 21 points to top the table. But even that may have not been enough to win the title with England still to play with the advantage of knowing exactly what was needed of them. Realistically 21 points wasn’t going to do it, but the Irish definitely weren’t going for the bare minimum today. As an Irish rugby supporter, I did not underestimate the ability of Scotland’s backs to make huge breaks as we have seen this year from players like Stuart Hogg.

Captain Paul O’Connell went over for the first try of the match after just 4 minutes of play but that was not the most impressive of the day in my opinion. Sean O’Brien made a break after an Irish lineout and managed to thunder his way over the line to score the first of his tries. He showed surprising acceleration for a man of his size. A lapse in concentration let Scotland outhalf Finn Russell score a try but as no one tackled him he managed to find himself a better kicking position under the posts to complete the conversion.

Jared Payne had been relatively quiet up until this match but went over for his first try in an Irish jersey after receiving a well timed pass from none other than Johnny Sexton. Sexton had an okay match, but seemed to lose his nerve after missing 2 kicks. Thankfully he got the next penalty to nudge Ireland into the 21 point margin they needed.

Jamie Heaslip’s try saving tackle was unbelievable, a perfect example for young players watching, never EVER give up. Shortly after O’Brien pushed his way close enough to score a try with an outstretched arm. Conor Murray set him up perfectly for the try. Madigan unfortunately missed a late penalty and the game ended 40 – 10.

It was now a case of waiting to see how England would perform against the French in Twickenham. A long, long match for Irish fans but for any spectator it was a sight to behold. It certainly wasn’t a boring way to end this year’s 6 Nations. A 12 try game is a rarity. A well worked first try got the ball rolling so to speak for England.

They went on to score 7 tries, although France did reply with 5. Some huge, smashing tackles from the likes of Courtney Lawes on Jules Plisson had us wincing and wide eyed. It was quite the spectacle. Young players like Ford and Youngs have proved themselves to be more than capable and with good timing ahead of the Rugby World Cup. England let the title slip away from them for the 4th year in a row despite a valiant effort, it just wasn’t enough. England v France was probably the most thrilling of the entire competition.

With despair for the English in Twickenham and elation for the Irish in Murrayfield, it certainly turned out to be an incredible 6 Nations. I could not have predicted it to have turned out this way however as I somehow found myself a bit bored at times during this competition.

3 Irish players have made the 12 man shortlist for player of the tournament Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray and of course, Paul O’Connell. From an Irish perspective O’Connell has been immense this year as always leading by example, earning the respect from both his teammates and international players. According to Henshaw and probably the rest of the world, Paul O’Connell is just an unbelievable leader… and to be doing what he’s doing at the back end of his career is unreal. I think he’s an inspirational guy. He led and everyone else followed.” If it is to be his last 6 Nations it was quite a way to go out, back to back championships and finishing on such a high note against Scotland. With this man holding the reins Ireland are serious contenders for the RWC final.

Emma McGarry - Hugely interested in all aspects of rugby. Supporter of Irish and Leinster Rugby. "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad" - Brian O'Driscoll
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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019