A Champion Emerges in Round 4
It seemed unlikely given how close last year’s Championship was but by the end of Round 4, we had our 2016 Champions with a game in hand. England have emerged victorious after a nail biting victory over Wales. Now only France stand in their way of their first Grand Slam since 2003.
Round 4 had some of the best rugby of the Championship so far, so take a closer look at what stood out at the weekend.
Ireland 58 v Italy 15
Ireland had something to prove heading into their match with Italy. Not only did they need a win against the 6th placed Italy, they needed to show they still had plenty to offer and that the future was bright for a Irish rugby. They certainly did that. By the end of the 80 minutes, Ireland had scored nine tries, some of which were among the best of the tournament so far. Now Ireland will play Scotland for 3rd place in the final round. Not a bad position given the start they had in the tournament.
Of course, Ireland’s success can’t all be put down to their own ingenuinity. Italy did not give their best performance of the tournament. Frequent errors and bizarre decision making led to a number of the Ireland tries. It was a far cry from the Italy that came so close to beating France in Paris but Italy showed consistency is still a key problem for the team. If the rumours are true, Conor O’Shea has got his work cut out for him.
Stand Out Players
J Heaslip: Put in a huge performance for his country and was instrumental in a number of tries.
M Campagnaro: Was a relatively shining light for a team that could not find their rhythm.
England 25 v Wales 21
The anticipation for the England v Wales game was palpable. The previous match-up in the Rugby World Cup had left a sour taste in the mouths of the England players and fans, so this fixture had more than a 6 Nations title riding on it.
By the end of the first half, the anticipation was gone. The English fans were ecstatic and the Welsh were full of dread. England dominated for the first 40 minutes and the 19-0 scoreline at halftime was flattering to Wales who seemed frustrated and had failed to play much rugby.
But the game was far from over. In one of the most exciting final 10 minutes the Championship has seen, Wales closed the gap to 4 points after Dan Biggar charged down a kick and scored a try. England held onto to their lead, and deservedly earned their chance at the Grand Slam this Saturday against France.
Stand Out Players
M Itoje: Has cemented his place in the England squad after one of the best individual performances of the tournament.
D Biggar: Was the spark that brought Wales back to fight until the last second. Continues to have the best kick and chase in the tournament.
Scotland 29 v France 18
It will be a relief for Scottish fans that their win against Italy was no fluke. After languishing at the bottom of the table for the past few years, Scotland are now challenging for 3rd place for the first time since 2013 after beating France in spectacular fashion at BT Murrayfield.
It had looked like it would be another France win after a dismal opening 10 minutes for Scotland. It had been 10 years since Scotland had beaten France and after conceding a try and then losing Finn Russell, it looked as though Scotland would have to wait another year to break their losing streak against le bleues. Scotland did not fall apart however, in fact it was the French that then lost composure and the Scots capitalised.
It is a sure sign of improvement for Vern Cotter’s men. Scotland are now chasing a 3rd consecutive 6 Nations win on Saturday. It would be the first time in the Championship for them since 1996. The battle for 3rd place will be a must watch.
Stand Out Players
S Hogg: Surely one of the players of the tournament, Hogg had a sensational game. See above.
G Guirado: Continues to be an inspiring leader for the French. His early try made it look like it would be business as usual at Murrayfield.