Wales edged out Scotland and France saw off Ireland, while England came from behind to beat Italy in Round Two of the Six Nations.
Scotland 24-25 Wales
Wales had the label of ‘lucky’ thrown at them from all sides after Saturday’s narrow victory over Scotland at Murrayfield.
The win came partly due to Zander Fagerson’s red for reckless play on Wyn Jones similar to Peter O’Mahony’s red card against the Welsh last week.
Wales were efficient as they took 15 points from a minute and a half in the opposition 22, and showed heart to come back from a 17-8 halftime deficit.
Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg had put Scotland ahead at half-time, but they struggled to maintain their lead.
For Wales, tries from Wyn Jones and Liam Williams were added to by two from Louis Rees-Zammit, the second of which was an absolute stunner.
Even Hogg’s second try following Fagerson’s red card was not enough to prevent Wales from once again showing their ability to control games from defence under Wayne Pivac.
The red certainly saw a swing in momentum, but Wales are beginning to develop the habit of winning.
Ireland 13-15 France
Les Bleus escaped Dublin with their first win at the Aviva Stadium since 2011.
Like against Wales, Ireland appeared to dominate the flow of the game with their high bombs but failed to create chances from the possession gained.
France, meanwhile, were lethal, and their try after half an hour was their first real foray into the Irish half.
Bernard Le Roux’s yellow card for tripping didn’t slow them down at all, as they produced some magnificent offloading and support running before Charles Ollivon scored, and repeated that for Damian Penaud’s try.
James Lowe was inches away from scoring but he grazed the touchline, while Ireland’s try was quite lucky as Ronan Kelleher snagged a ball off a lineout France appeared to steal and ran away to score.
Though it was close on the scoreboard, Ireland again failed to threaten the try-line consistently, and Andy Farrell and his halfbacks now have a week off to find a solution.
France cemented their place as tournament favourites, though future opponents will be encouraged by Ireland’s kicking strategy. Expect the blue back three to face countless more bombs before the tournament is over.
England 41-18 Italy
Defending Six Nations champions England bounced back from their opening day slump against Scotland to triumph over Italy on Saturday.
Despite Italy taking the lead with an early Monty Ioane try, England’s combination of energy and key moments of individual brilliance helped them overcome the Azzurri for the 28th consecutive time.
Wingers Anthony Watson and Jonny May were especially decisive, putting in inspired performances and scoring three tries between them.
Watson was man of the match, showcasing his dazzling feet by dancing his way through a blue wall in the 26th minute for his first try.
He followed it up in the second-half with a 60-metre interception after catching Paolo Garbisi’s attempted pass.
The highlight of the game came with May’s acrobatic leap over a defender to score a photo-finish try when he looked to have run out of room.
Despite individual magic and a comfortable final score, however, England’s six-try win was far from flawless against an Italy side who are clearly building for the future.
Eddie Jones’s men repeatedly made 18 errors handling the ball, while Ben Youngs had an uncharacteristically sloppy game and Owen Farrell was investigated for indiscipline.
The victory was likewise dampened by back-rower Jack Willis’s horrific knee injury just after he had been substituted on and scored a try.
England’s stars reminded everyone why they were favourites heading into the tournament, but they will have to overcome tougher tests, notably Wales in two weeks, in order to retain the championship.
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