Monday, February 27, 2006

Six Nations Round-up 3

Dear oh dear oh dear. Well, first things first. Italy continued to impress and France continued to baffle, putting in a woeful first half performance but improving in the second half. France looked flat to begin with, and must try to maintain a higher level of performance throughout a game and not rely on twenty minute passages of play if they want to make an impression in the World Cup.

Wales were demolished. They looked great in the first 15 minutes, aggressive and penetrating. Then it all fell apart. Ireland cranked up the pressure, helped by Jones going off. Gavin Henson must surely have hoped to have made a positive impression after both a long lay off and a controversial book. Unfortunately he really struggled, making important mistakes and looking well off the pace. After the game he even said he felt like jacking it all in - probably nothing more than a disappointed over-reaction but hardly indicative of a happy team.

And England v Scotland. Well, Scotland defended magnificently, making almost all their tackles. In attack they did lack creativity, with only one or two try-scoring chances in the game and very few runs. What they did well was to get the play in England's half and wait for the penalties. The commentator at one point said that the match was proof that tries weren't needed to make a good game. I'd argue almost exactly the opposite - had the game been Leicester v Wasps the on dit would have been that constant handling errors and poor conditions had ruined a potentially good game. What made it a classic was the fact that Scotland won the Calcutta Cup - no more, no less.

If I may be allowed a small hint of carping - I felt that England should have been awarded a penalty try just before the first half - the Scottish pack went down three times, deliberately, on their five metre line. When they did the same thing against Wales they had a try awarded against them - consistency? If that had been given the game might have been very different. Putting that aside, even if Scotland didn't deserve to win England deserved to lose. Watching Ben Cohen muffing a simple pass gave me an evil flashback to big Ben Kay knocking on two metres from the line in the World Cup Final. Kay had an excuse - he was a second row. Cohen (and Lewsey and Ellis who also had shockers) need to take a long hard look at the basics. And Andy Robinson needs to make up his mind who's captain. Pulling off Corry after an hour just hands an unnecessary advantage to the oppo.

So, all to play for, money for the title perhaps still marginally with France, and it's been six years since England won in France. But then, it was six years since England last lost to Scotland.

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