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Six Nations 2021 opening weekend review: England humbled by Scotland

England suffered a shock defeat to Scotland, Wales held on against 14-man Ireland, and France showed why they were serious contenders in the opening weekend of the Six Nations.

England 6-11 Scotland

Scotland humbled England in a memorable 11-6 victory over their rivals for the first time at Twickenham since 1983.

On the 150th anniversary of the first ever contest between the two, Gregor Townsend’s side dominated from the start, winning scrums and lineouts on their way to a gargantuan 78% possession in the first half.

Scotland should have had a bigger half-time lead than two points as three missed kicks, along with a Finn Russell sin-bin, somehow kept England in the game well into the second.

Ultimately, Duhan van der Merwe’s try proved decisive, with man-of-the-match Russell also kicking two penalties for the Scots.

England constantly leaked penalties, 15 in total, and never got going in attack as the likes of Anthony Watson and Ollie Lawrence barely touched the ball.

Eddie Jones’s side clearly missed forwards Mako Vunipola and Sam Underhill as Scotland dominated the front-row and back-row match-ups.

Maro Itoje’s relentlessness around the ruck to put pressure on Ali Price’s kicks was a bright spark in an otherwise feeble attempt by England to defend the Calcutta Cup.

Wales 21-16 Ireland

Billy Burns’s moment of madness was a strange conclusion to a fascinating game at the Principality Stadium as Wales defeated 14-man Ireland 21-16.

The Irish red card that defined the match came in the 14th minute, when Peter O’Mahony recklessly swung his arm at the head of Tomas Francis when trying to clear out a ruck.

Two Leigh Halfpenny penalties had put Wales ahead but Ireland took the game by the scruff of the neck and Johnny Sexton kicked two penalties of his own.

Robbie Henshaw then picked a superb line after running back towards the blindside, before Tadgh Beirne scrambled over to end the half 13-6. 

However, Ireland began to tire and Wales took control through tries from George North and Louis Rees-Zammit.

The final twist of the game came in the 83rd minute as Burns kicked a simple penalty to touch dead to end the game when his Ireland side had a good chance to steal the win.

It was a freak occurrence that you wouldn’t wish on any player, but it highlights Ireland’s need to develop greater test experience at fly-half. 

Regardless, it was a very impressive and spirited Irish performance. 

Wales can take confidence from the victory, and it certainly relieves some of the pressure on head coach Wayne Pivac.

Italy 10 – 50 France

The Six Nations opening weekend kicked off, as it so often does, with a team getting a comfortable and anticlimactic win against Italy, in this case France.

Antoine Dupont starred as France put seven tries on the Italians, scoring one himself and assisting three more in an hour, and matching the tournament mark he set last year.

The best of them were his grubber kick for Gaël Fickou to dot down and a sumptuous offload for Arthur Vincent to finish. 

The audacious dummies of Stephen Varney deserved to be rewarded with points but a lovely chip from Luca Sperandio created the only try for the Azzurri.

Teddy Thomas finished two tries in the second half after dazzling with his feet, and he and Vincent impressed when carrying in space.

Dylan Cretin opened the scoring after four minutes and France never looked back, with Brice Dulin scoring their other try.

Italy looked like a young side still finding their feet. Their attacking structure was threatening, but the execution was not good enough to stay in touch with Les Bleus.

You can check out all of SWL’s Six Nations coverage here.

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