by Eoin Togher
The first weekend of the 2017 Six Nations was full of exciting moments. From Irelands disappointing loss to Scotland, to the epic battle between England and France, it was a great curtain raiser for the prestigious competition. It sure looks like this Championship will be one to remember.
The opener to the competition was the clash of Ireland and Scotland. One that many believed Ireland would stroll through after an impressive Autumn series. However, Vern Cotter’s men had different intentions.
They ran out of the blocks and scored three tries in the opening 29 minutes, Alex Dunbar touched down after an impressive lineout move and man of the match Stuart Hogg scored two impressive individual tries to give his side the edge.
All Ireland were able to contribute in the first half was a try by Keith Earls and a penalty by Paddy Jackson, which led them to be trailing 21-8 at the interval. However, they dominated in the second half.
Ian Henderson ran over for the first try which was converted by Jackson to reduce their deficit, but Jackson was the one to grab the score to give his side the lead after he latched onto Conor Murray’s pass to run to the line for the try.
Unfortunately for the Irish, Scotland were able to dig deep and produce a late rally which got them the win, thanks to two late penalties by Greig Laidlaw which won the game for the Scots at a score of 27-22.
Ireland Head coach Joe Schmidt branded Ireland’s second-half fightback too little too late, admitting the defeat represents a huge dent to any title chances.
“We arrived about 15 minutes late to the stadium and we were late for most things all first-half,”
“We were sluggish, we got some really good field position in the first half and didn’t convert. That was frustrating.
“They got too much room to move, we were sluggish to close that space down and missed a few tackles.
“We were on time leaving the hotel it just took a long time to get to the ground.
“Those things happen, it’s not an excuse for being late for things in the first half, it’s probably a reflection of the way the start of the day went for us.”
“Our recovery was 40 minutes too late but there were solutions that were demonstrated. But the key is we’ve got to start better.
“One of the things that’s a danger is that when you consistently deliver something you tend to just have an expectation it’s going to happen.
“We have tended to start well in recent Test matches, so for us not to start well, there was certainly a sluggishness of thought and movement in the first-half.
“I think the solutions are there but we’re going to have to make sure we start better than that in Rome next week.
“The slow start definitely wasn’t down to complacency.
“Sometimes you can have an expectation that things will unfold but when they don’t you have to take account of that and make sure they unfold by getting done what you need to get done. And we didn’t really.
“The start was a real problem today, and it is unusual. It’s only happened a couple of times in the last few years, and we’ve paid dearly for it.
“We fought our way right back into the game but once you’ve done that you’ve got to be able to go on and win those moments there that we didn’t quite win.”
It was a disappointing weekend for the Irish as any hopes for a Grand Slam have been flushed away. They will have to regroup quickly, as they travel to Rome next Saturday to take on Italy where they will hoping to get their campaign restarted.
Elsewhere in the competition England took on France in an exciting encounter at Twickenham on Saturday. France were looking to end England’s long winning streak and finally get a good start to the Six Nations.
The French had a strong first half matching England throughout the first half, as both teams scored three penalties each to go into the break at 9-9.
After a slow start to the second half France responded to the hosts penalty, thanks to a try by replacement prop, Rabah Slimani which was converted by kicker Lopez who had a great day from the tee.
It looked as if the away side may have been stealing the victory, as they were able to keep the English at bay. Until, centre Ben T’eo broke through to run over the line for the hosts which Owen Farrell converted to win the game for his side at a score of 19-16.
In the last game of the weekend Wales took on Conor O’Shea’s Italy on Sunday. After falling behind to Italy, it looked as if Wales were in trouble. However, they were able to regroup and dominate the game and win 33-7. The Welsh were able to win the game thanks to three converted tries and four penalties which gave them a win and put them on top of the Six Nations table, but they will be disappointed that they missed out on the crucial bonus point.
It was surely a weekend to remember with some exciting rugby. Fingers crossed the excitement continues and we get treated to the same standard next week.