This past weekend in Europe, England put on a display of brilliance, France came out with a nail biter win, and Wales finally won their first Test match since crushing Italy almost a year ago. In short, the 6 Nations tournament is composed of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France. Each year during the months of February and March, these six teams compete to be named European Champion. With the World Cup coming up in September, European teams need to prepare for the Tri-Nation teams of the Southern Hemisphere. Last year France dominated competition and won the Grand Slam by going undefeated, but now a revamped English team looks to return their past glory and once again win the tournament for the first time since they won the Grand Slam in 2003.
England-59 vs. Italy-13
Italy, the last team to join the 6 nations tournament in 1999, has never won a championship, and they showed why this past weekend. England put on a clinic in every phase of the game by dominating kicking, rucking, and scrums. So far this tournament Chris Ashton has been the MVP, with six tries in the first two games, and has already tied the tournament record. With three games left to play, teams will need to figure out how to stop this try-scoring machine or watch him power dive in the try zone again and again. By scoring twice in the opening 24 minutes, Ashton gave England a comfortable lead and they never looked back. Flood tallied five more conversions, with the vet Wilkinson coming on to finish the game with three more. England looks like the tournament favorite, but will have a tough test against defending champion France in two weeks.
France-25 vs. Ireland-22
With Ireland looking to bounce back from a dismal performance against Italy last week, Irish coach Declan Kidney went back to ground and pound forwards game. Led by Paul O’Connell and the return of Jamie Heaslip, Ireland scored in the opening five minutes. But some sloppy play by the Irish allowed France to gain ground with scrumhalf Morgan Parra converting four penalty kicks in the first half. Tomas O’Leary closed out the second half with quick pick and go for a try that was reviewed but showed his second effort was just enough to cross the line. Two more converted penalties and a brilliant showing of hands off a scrum that led to a try by Maxime Medard gave France the lead in the opening of the second half. The Irish never gave up, and with the forwards pounding away at the goal line a quick switch from scrum half O’Leary, ended with a try from Heaslip. With less than two minutes to go, French veteran hero, Sebastien Chabal made a critical mistake and the Irish quickly responded. Nearly covering almost 80 meters in a matter of seconds, the Irish looked poised to score, but a knock on by sub hooker Sean Cronin at the goal line gave the French the victory. With two weeks before any more games, the French will need to prepare for their toughest game of the tournament against the English, while the Irish look to regain their composure against the Scottish.
Wales-24 vs. Scotland-6
After almost a year drought without winning a Test match, the Welsh looked poised to win right from the first kick. With James Hook, slashing the Scottish defense, and giving a brilliant off-load to Welsh hero Shane Williams, Wales got the start they desperately needed. Hook then added two more penalties and Wales extended their lead. But two costly errors led to two yellow cards within three minutes by the Welsh. Up two men, the Scottish could only squeeze in one penalty kick by Dan Park. With the Scottish failing to keep a clean ball in the second half the Welsh defense keep strong forcing turnovers. With another Hook penalty added on, and the Scots dropping another pass moments later, Shane Williams secured the win with one more try.