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Six Nations Rewind

Six Nations Rewind: Week Two

After last week’s podcast, SWL looks back at another six memorable encounters from the past, ahead of week two of Six Nations action.

Wales and Scotland kick-off the weekend on Saturday, before Ireland travel to France for what many are already talking up as a title decider, following both sides’ comprehensive victories last weekend.

The weekend finishes with Italy hosting England in Rome on Sunday, as Italy seek an end to a long wait for victory over England, while the visitors look to get their campaign on track following their chastening defeat against Scotland last weekend.

Beginning with Wales and Scotland, we look back on the classic matches fought between these sides.

Wales vs Scotland

  • 2010: Wales 31-24 Scotland

Widely seen as one of the best games in Six Nations history, Wales’ iconic 2010 win over Scotland saw one of the most extraordinary comebacks in the history of international rugby, as the hosts blitzed their visitors in an incredible final 4 minutes (and over-time).

As the game ticked past 76 minutes, Scotland were defending solidly on the edge of their 22 metre line, 24-14 up, before good feet from Shane Williams and then Lee Byrne set Leigh Halfpenny free down the corner and he finished a try, converted by Stephen Jones, to get Wales within three points.

Wales came back again and as the game entered the final minute, Jones kicked a penalty after Phil Godman saw yellow for a trip on Byrne as he raced clear and chipped ahead.

With Scotland now down to 13 men, Wales gathered the ball from the restart with the clock entering the red, and worked their way up the entire field before Shane Williams finished under the posts to send the Millennium Stadium into delirium.

  • 2017: Scotland 29-13 Wales

Scotland produced a stirring fightback to earn their first win against Wales in a decade with a brilliant display at Murrayfield.

Wales burst into an early 10-3 lead, and were threatening to extend it with a number of attacking opportunities, but the Scots managed to reduce the arrears to 13-9 by half-time.

Scotland were transformed in the second-half, and with just three and a half minutes gone in the second period they snatched the lead, before stretching it through a Finn Russell penalty.

After Rhys Webb was agonisingly short of getting Wales back into the game by a superb Tim Visser tackle, the Dutch-born winger extended Scotland’s lead before Russell’s conversion and a later penalty gave his side an ultimately comfortable win.

Which game wins?

Such was the speed of Wales’ comeback in 2010, during an era where tries weren’t always easy to come by in rugby, that it has to be the winner. Despite Wales going on to finish fourth in a pretty forgettable Championship overall for them, this is a win that lives long in the memory.

France vs Ireland

  • 2000: France 25-27 Ireland

Having not won in Paris since 1972 and coming off a 17-game winless run against the French, Ireland arrived at the Stade de France widely expected to face defeat to a side who were coming off the back of a World Cup Final appearance only a few months prior.

But coach Warren Gatland, also the architect of Wales’ aforementioned fight back against Scotland, had his troops playing an excellent brand of rugby at the time.

They still trailed 19-7 heading into the last 25 minutes but France had just missed a golden opportunity to extend their lead after a last-ditch Brian O’Driscoll tackle.

The Irish centre would round off a beautiful move by his side to prove he was going to be a special talent, as Ireland narrowed the gap to five. 

France extended their lead back to eight soon after, but a stunning pick up and finish from O’Driscoll brought the gap down to just one point before a late David Humphreys penalty gave the Irish fans a perfect (albeit slightly belated) St Patrick’s Day party.

  • 2010: France 33-10 Ireland

On the same weekend as Wales’ fight back win against Scotland in 2010, France produced an irresistible display as they destroyed reigning grand-slam champions Ireland.

On a bitterly cold evening in Paris, the early exchanges were played at a very high tempo.

Like this Saturday, the match was billed as a potential tournament decider, and the French quickly put to bed any doubts about their intentions as they burst into a 17-3 lead with tries from William Servat and Yannick Jauzion in a four minute salvo on the half-hour mark.

And though David Wallace might have hoped to have sparked an Irish fight back after Clement Poitrenaud had extended the French lead thanks to a classy offload from Matthieu Basteraud, Morgan Parra and Freddie Michalak each slotted long-range drop goals to give France a thumping win. 

Which game wins?

2000. For what it meant to Irish rugby at the time, the quality of their attacking performance, and the birth of Brian O’Driscoll as a world class talent, with one of the all time great performances in a 13 shirt in any international rugby game ever, it has to be this iconic match.

Ireland will be hoping for something similar this Saturday, with the bookies currently tipping France for a narrow win.

Italy vs England

  • 2001: England 80-23 Italy

A fixture that perfectly epitomised the phrase “a game of two halves” saw England’s visitors huff and puff before Clive Woodward’s men eventually pulled away with a record victory.

Italy led after just five minutes through a Denis Dallan try, and though they had conceded a few tries, still led 20-17 on the half hour mark as England struggled to gain any dominance in the game.

Though Jonny Wilkinson’s penalty on the stroke of half-time gave England a cushion and a 33-23 lead, few would’ve expected them to pull away in as brutal fashion as they did in the second period.

But England broke the Six Nations record for the largest winning margin, most points scored in a game and the game’s 103 points broke the record for the most aggregate points in a championship game as they ran in ten tries (with seven in the second half alone). 

All of these records still stand today, and despite Italy’s growing challenge to compete with their rivals in the competition, it is hard to see when or how the records will ever be beaten.

  • 2017: England 36-15 Italy 

Italy, facing an English juggernaut that had won an incredible 16 games in a row, were forced to think outside the box as they gave the Twickenham crowd a huge scare in this memorable and controversial encounter.

The Azzurri’s tactic of not contesting the breakdown allowed them to have players stood in the English defensive line, flummoxing the hosts, and as England struggled to cope with the visitors’ tactics, Italy went into half-time with a 10-5 lead.

A quick-tap penalty and score from Danny Care got England level, but after Elliott Daly gave England the lead, Michele Campagnaro produced one of the great individual Italian scores to give his side a kick to level things up again.

That went wide from Edoardo Padovani however and England finally adapted, as they attacked through the middle of the vacant breakdown and used deft offloading to eventually pull away, helped by two tries from substitute Jack Nowell.

Which game wins?

Of the three, this fixture has the undoubtedly the hardest two games to choose from in terms of which is better.

The 2001 clash provided us with some dazzling rugby, which the 2017 game severely lacked, but the drama faded pretty quickly once the game reached the last ten minutes of the first half and it was not until the last ten minutes of the second half that English fans could breathe easy in 2017.

I’m ultimately going to back 2017. The 2001 victory was a superb display, but for causing a law change as Italy’s loophole was closed, and the drama and chaos of that first half at Twickenham, 2017 has to be the winner.

Featured Image Credit: Jack Butler

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