Six Nations 2014 – One Glorious Day


Why can’t we ever do things the easy way? Sexton off with his neck braced, a French penalty opportunity thankfully swinging wide, a missed touch finder, a moment of panic from Kearney, a turned scrum. This titanic struggle had every feature that usually leads to an Irish loss yet for once we actually got the rub of the green. Just another demon Joe Schmidt has exorcised I suppose.

But in the year of BOD, Ireland have finally clinched a second Six Nations title. They did it in style, seemingly the key to winning in Paris is to score three tries, and most importantly of all now in retrospect is that France showed up and we actually got a game out of it. Wales in 09, sure, it was huge. But we cannot lose sight that back then Ireland could have won the championship with a loss of 12 points or less, the pressure against Les Bleus was massively increased. And aside from the wayward boot of Sexton, few players showed anything but the highest intensity imaginable. The hits were huge, the runs were more precise than anything seen thus far. The belief was pulsing.

Schmidt and O’Connell have both been adamant since the final whistle that as great a day as this may have been, it is only the beginning for Ireland. Popcorn rugby as it may be now in hindsight, that is not how Ireland want to be closing out games in the future. A well earned championship it may be and the duck of Stade broken finally, but there is still the loss to England. I’m not trying to be a pessimist here, simply I for one find it refreshing that after a win of the magnitude, with so many dark days erased as a result, it still hadn’t escaped the grasp of many that there is still work to be done. By contrast to the Slam in 09,there are clear signals coming from the Irish squad that consistent levels of brilliance and nothing less will do.

And of course, we need to remark on that brilliant ambassador of the modern game. Brian O’Driscoll has played his last in the green jersey, and how fantastic it is that he was anything but a passenger for his past hurrah. Fitting too that Sexton’s injury meant he saw out the eighty minutes, nobody deserved to be on the pitch for that final shrill blast of the whistle more. He may have great days like this to come yet for Leinster, but thankfully the squad were able to give him the greatest, the one he deserved most.
France 20 – 22 Ireland

Wales and Scotland provided a little bit of circus style fun before the Parisian dream as the Scots found themselves down to fourteen men for the majority of the game. Hogg was sent off, harshly, for a late charge on Biggar, what is a yellow on any day of the week, but hardly a red. Wales as a rule were able to win back a lot of favour with some well taken tries, though still beneath it all there’s a little bit of pace and spark missing from their outfit and Scotland even nearly clawed back a try even with their disadvantage.

Still, the result was about right for the two sides in it, and Scotland need some serious shaking up. Cotter will take great strides towards that, but you have to feel that based on his caretaker coaching stint, problems will arise from Scott Johnson taking on the director of rugby position. Time is also not on their side with the next Six Nations unlikely to be too different from this year and the World Cup following right after. We wait with baited breath.

For Wales, still no need to panic but some thing is certainly going wrong. The impact that providing the bulk of a Lions squad, and starting team for the majority of tests, cannot be underestimated however, just look at Ireland in the 2010 Six Nations and their summer and autumn will tell the full tale. In all, a disappointing Six Nations but hands off the panic button for now.
Scotland 3 – 44 Wales

The warm up nail biter ahead of Ireland France came from England’s exploits in Rome. Needing a seemingly unattainable points haul to put pressure on Ireland, they did their finest. Were it not for Sarto once again providing the sole Italian spark, taking five points from England, they likely would have pressed on to make Ireland’s two point win irrelevant.

They have been the team of the tournament alongside Ireland and you have to commend them, five more minutes of concentration against France and they would have had the title. As it turned out it isn’t their year but they are in a great position ahead of hosting the World Cup next year. As for Italy, well what can be said. Similar to Scotland, the summer is now crucial and they need to erase all of the backward steps taken this season so far. Brunel is bringing a great style to them, but there is still an issue of belief and finishing ability that needs to be resolved, the sooner the better. Until then they will remain the whipping boys that they unfortunately finish this Six Nations as.
Italy 11 – 52 England

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