England find Grand Slam glory with three tries in France
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | March 19, 2016
France 21-31 England
- Recalled Red Rose scrum half Care finds gap to grab opening try
- French fly half Trinh-Duc carried off
- English prop Cole also crosses with two Farrell conversions
- Four Machenaud penalties make it 12-17 at half-time
- More kicking from Machenaud after break as Farrell stutters
- Watson try re-establishes visitors’ lead
- England captain Hartley takes blow to head and stretchered off
- Les Bleus lose replacement Xavier Chiocci to sin-bin late on
Grand Slam glory goes to Jones
England wrapped up a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2003 with an unconvincing and narrow 21-31 win across the Channel in France. Tries from Danny Care and Dan Cole were added to by Anthony Watson in the second-half, while Les Bleus’ points all came from the boot of Maxime Machenaud.
A chequered kicking record from Owen Farrell got the Red Rose over the line, and not even injury to captain and hooker Dylan Hartley, who was stretchered off, could take some of the gloss of this result, which was ugly yet definitive.
First foreign head coach Eddie Jones has delivered instant results, steering unbeaten England to just their second Championship in 13 years. He has picked up a team that flopped big time under pressure of hosting the Rugby World Cup and turned them into winners.
When the dust has settled, however, the nature and margin of victories do not make the best reading for the Red Rose with tougher Tests Down Under to come. England are yet to put two solid halves of rugby together during Jones’ reign, evidenced by the lack of emphatic scorelines in this campaign.
England try to take Care of France in first-half
Early penalty kicks from Machenaud and Farrell cancelled one another out, but the Red Rose put themselves in front through recalled scrum half Care exploiting space and being nimble enough to evade a despairing French forward’s tackle.
With Les Bleus losing Fancois Trinh-Duc to injury, Jules Plisson came on – leaving Guy Noves to assess yet another half back pairing. Although Machenaud’s boot allowed the hosts to chip away at the English lead, Mike Brown was on hand to stop opposite number Scott Spedding from bursting clear.
Although uncomfortable at times, the visitors extended their advantage on 20 minutes through determined prop Cole going over. Farrell converted, but missed an overtime penalty and the Red Rose held a 12-17 half-time lead in Paris.
Machenaud put two more penalties over the posts with one from Farrell in between, with England’s advantage cut to just two points, yet it was extended again 15 minutes into the second 40.
“So, you see Watson…”
Number eight Billy Vunipola, who has impressed in this tournament, took on a couple of defenders, found replacement Ben Youngs and he kicked through to Watson wide left for the winger grounded over the line in the corner.
A seventh successful penalty kick from Machenaud made it 21-25 and, as the game and 2016 Six Nations entered its closing stages, Red Rose captain Hartley took a blow to his head when tackling low and was stretchered off.
Farrell steadied his nerves after seeing his radar waver somewhat to kick England into a lead of a converted try and then 10 points, while Red Rose fly half George Ford missed two drop goal attempts. France replacement Xavier Chiocci’s sin-binning was a mere footnote…
Wales rout Azzurri
Italy conceded nine tries for the second successive game, as Wales ran riot in Cardiff to guarantee themselves as Six Nations runners-up. Replacement flanker Ross Moriarty crossed for a second-half brace after Justin Tipuric went off with a head injury.
Warren Gatland’s Dragons showed the teeth they lacked for much of their Twickenham loss last week here, romping home as 67-14 winners – a Welsh record Six Nations victory. Good home side work and poor visiting defending from lineouts, swift breaks and clever offloads were a feature throughout.
Leading 27-0 at half-time courtesy of Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar and Jonathan Davies tries, plus some more solid kicking from the fly half, further crossings by Jamie Roberts, George North and Liam Williams put the hosts out of sight.
Jacques Brunel’s reign as Azzurri boss ended with a drubbing, so Guglielmo Palazzani (earlier sin-binned) and Gonzalo Garcia tries proved little more than a consolation, and replacement scrum half Gareth Davies delivered a coup de grace in second-half overtime.
Wales will tour New Zealand this summer and can be confident of being competitive against the All Blacks, who have dominated this sport with back-to-back Rugby World Cup wins in 2011 and 2015.
All that remains for Italy going forward, meanwhile, is to seemingly confirm Harlequins’ Conor O’Shea as their new boss and hope his new ideas yield something better than a Wooden Spoon.
Ireland end campaign in third with win over Scots
Three Six Nations Championships in a row was always a huge ask for Ireland, given their absences due to retirements and injuries, but the tournament still ended on a high note thanks to a 35-25 home win over resurgent Scotland.
The travelling Tartan Army saw two players, John Barclay and Alex Dunbar (who later scored a try), go into the sin bin. Irish kicker Johnny Sexton also ended his campaign on the sidelines for a lack of discipline as this Celtic clash turned ugly in the second period.
Fly half Sexton’s hat-trick of penalty kicks established a 9-3 lead for the hosts, but Scotland scored the first try (and their 100th since the Six Nations started in 2000) through influential full back Stuart Hogg.
The Irish made their man advantage count when Barclay went to the bin, though, as a TMO review confirmed CJ Stander had grounded the ball over the tryline.
— ITV Rugby (@ITVRugby) March 19, 2016
Hogg and Tommy Seymour then got their wires crossed to gift Keith Earls a second try for Joe Schmidt’s home side. Scottish skipper Greig Laidlaw put a penalty over the posts to reduce their arrears to 21-13 at half-time.
With over 80 per cent possession during the first 40, Ireland continued to assert themselves after the interval and scrum half Conor Murray nipped out from behind a maul to cross for his crossing third of the competition and extend the hosts’ lead.
Vern Cotter’s crew responded, however, and Richie Gray grabbed a try following a swift switch of play. Dunbar was then punished for a tip tackle on Sexton, reducing Scotland by a man again with Devin Toner going over to punish this further.
Once allowed back onto the field, Dunbar crossed to make Tartan team pressure pay, but it was too little too late. Schmidt takes the Irish to South Africa this summer, while Scotland must be careful to avoid being burned on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire in Japan.