Call me a miserable bastard, but the first Saturday of the Six Nations was a crap start to the tournament, with nothing really of great note to say about either of the games.
There was no great surprise in World Cup finalists France beating Italy 30-12, nor anything about the game to really shout about – no matter how many times we’re told that this was revenge for France’s humbling loss last year. France played their effective counter-attacking game and won because they’re one of the favourites to win the Six Nations; and, despite all their effort and ambition, Italy lost because they’re Italy.
Scotland v England failed to deliver too. Any game between the two inevitably gets built up, and on occasion they deliver the goods – this time they didn’t. Riddled with mistakes throughout, England came away with the 6-13 victory thanks in large part to the wastefulness of the Scots.
But then we get to Sunday’s game. Ireland v Wales was a proper Six Nations game: exciting, controversial, competitive.
In an exhilarating, keenly fought game, where the lead changed hands five times, it looked like Ireland had claimed the win – until the award of an 80th minute penalty, which was converted by Leigh Halfpenny to give Wales the 21-23 victory.
Most of the talk after the game concerned the awarding of two yellow cards for dangerous tackles. Stephen Ferris’ tip tackle on Ian Evans resulted in the 80th minute penalty for Wales – which by the letter of the law was correct – but it didn’t compare to Bradley Davies off the ball tip tackle on Donnacha Ryan, which could’ve broken Ryan’s neck, and should have been a red card.
But the game should be remembered for being a great contest rather than for a dangerous tackle. Hopefully the rest of the tournament keeps up with the high standards set by Sunday rather than Saturday.
By Peter Simpson