Wednesday, March 28, 2007

France wins Six Nations

March 21, 2006

The Six Nations tournament wrapped last weekend with three incredibly close test matches that each went down to the final whistle.

The Red Terror hasn't viewed the tests yet, but I did listen to all the audio commentaries live, and the matches were nailbiters all.

Italy ran Scotland very close but were shaved 13-10 in Rome. A surprisingly good tournament for the Scots, and not a dreadful result for Italy, but they will doubtless be kicking themselves for missing two possible wins in the tournament and going winless.

Defending champion Wales had an awful tournament and were playing for place of pride and perhaps depriving France of the silverware. They came to play in front of the home fans and led France early by 10 points, but Europe's best team clawed back into the test and prevailed 21-16 to put themselves in the cat-bird seat. The only way they could lose the championship was if Ireland could pull off a record victory over England at Twickenham.

And in fact, less than 24 hours after St. Patrick's Day, Ireland rose to the occasion and defeated a turgid England 28-24 with some last-minute heroics and the benefit of some dodgy referee decisions. But really, England have no-one to blame but themselves. And well done Ireland, that's three wins in a row against England.

Alas, Ireland needed to defeat England by 34 points to win the Six Nations, and they fell 30 points short. So France chilled in their tuxedos at Millenium Stadium and waited to pop the bubbly.

Final table - W-L (point diff.):

FRANCE 4-1 (+63)
Ireland 4-1 (+34)
Scotland 3-2 (-3)
England 2-3 (+14)
Wales 1-3-1 (-55)
Italy 0-4-1 (-53)

The obvious winner of the tournament is France, but Ireland and Scotland can also boast an impressive tournament. Ireland finished level with France at four wins and recorded a Triple Crown against the Home Unions. Scotland was predicted by myself and many others to be scrapping Italy for the Wooden Spoon, but shocked the rugby world by defeating both England and France, which many people would have imagined a 500-1 longshot. The obvious loser is Italy - they came close in a pair but still came up with doughnuts. Those are growing pains and to be expected. So the bigger losers are Wales, the defending champion that lost a coach amid turmoil and conceeded a point differential worse than Italy's; and England was simply embarrassing. Ex-All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick summed them up thusly: "Andy Robinson’s side strikes me as one of the dullest teams on the planet, not just in its style of play but also when it comes to applying a bit of grey matter when it counts."

Overall, this years tournament was exciting for the closeness of the matches. But truth be told, the skill level was not high and lack of try-scoring made for some dour rugby.

Rugby Planet picks over the pessimistic state of England here; selects their Form XV here; and awards their Player and Moments of the tournament here.

In other news, the Super 14 tournament is really heating up. That contest will be the focus here for the next few weeks. There's lots of catch-up, but in the meantime I strongly recomment you visit The Silver Fern website for comprehensive coverage and commentary. Check the box on the left margin of that website to access all the goodies.

Back shortly...


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