Six Nations 2012: Lessons from a dramatic weekend of rugby
What did we learn from another weekend of pulsating Six Nations rugby which saw Wales narrowly beat England at Twickenham?
Farrell is the future
After playing in the centre in England’s first two games, Owen Farrell was given the huge responsibility of mastering England’s back line from fly half in his Twickenham debut. He did not disappoint. As well as an almost faultless kicking performance, the youngster formed a promising partnership with the bristling Lee Dickson at scrum half, and he showed the kind of improvisation and fluidity that was so lacking in England’s opening matches. His assured performance and the return of Manu Tuilagi at centre ensured England actually played some rugby, something their fans have been starved of all too often in recent history.
Wales can win ugly
All the focus before the game was on Wales’ sparkling back line. The combination of power, pace and skill was meant to be too much for England to handle, but the hosts defended admirably and arguably deserved more from the game. But for a Welsh side hyped up as Championship favourites, this was a landmark win at fortress Twickenham. Despite bullish defence from the hosts, the Welsh matched them and showed just enough attacking flair to see them home. Scott Williams’ late flash of inspiration certainly deserved a try. But perhaps more telling was Wales’ dogged determination to hold on and seal the Triple Crown, typified by Leigh Halfpenny’s extraordinary intervention to deny David Strettle in the dying seconds of the game.
Ireland brush off cobwebs to kick-start campaign
Ireland looked like a side who had endured a miserable start to their Six Nations campaign following a 23-21 defeat by Wales and the postponement of their vital clash in Paris earlier this month. Italy, yet to secure a win away from Rome since joining the Six Nations, made a bright start as an early penalty and Sergio Parisse’s Try kept the visitors in touch with Ireland at 10-10 five minutes before half-time. But a rampant display in the second half saw Declan Kidney’s men brush aside the Azzurri challenge, and add some much needed glean to the scoreline.
Italy’s Botes continues to struggle
Tobias Botes endured a disappointing kicking display during his side’s narrow 19-15 defeat by England at the Stadio Olimpico. The 27-year-old missed a couple of penalties against Stuart Lancaster’s new-look outfit which would have narrowed the visitors’ lead to a single point. Scrum-half Botes struggled in similar fashion at the Aviva Stadium at the weekend, and his three failed attempts in the first half left Ireland seven points clear at the interval, instead of handing Italy a two-point advantage. Italy, a limited team at best, simply cannot afford to waste these kinds of chances.