By Felix Bolton | Contributor
As the 2021 Six Nations gained momentum in round two, rugby fans were treated with spectacular solo efforts and down to the wire action. Ahead of a much needed recovery week, Europe’s best took to the field once more, in search of Six Nations bragging rights.
The opening fixture of the weekend saw Italy travel to Twickenham, for England’s successive home game of the tournament. After an early Italian try, England were able to gain a foothold in the game. Despite their often stagnant attack and questionable discipline, Eddie Jones’s side crossed the whitewash six times, handing Italy their 29th Six Nations loss in a row.
An impressive brace for Anthony Watson and a characteristically physical performance by Tom Curry were overshadowed by a flying Jonny May on the stroke of halftime. With the clock in the red, May bounded towards the line, leaped over covering defender Luca Sperandio and dotted the ball down. The acrobatic finish will undoubtedly be a contender for try of the tournament, and places May second on the all time England try scoring list. Whilst Italy’s losing streak will heighten scepticism regarding their involvement in the tournament, positives can be taken from the Azzuri’s performance. A dynamic backline troubled the sturdy English defence, with youthful half back pairing Steven Varney and Paolo Garbisi maintaining a quick attacking tempo. However, for Italy to compete with their European counterparts, a complete 80-minute performance and greater defensive guile must be developed.
Wales’ red redemption
A pristine Murrayfield pitch hosted the eagerly awaited clash between Scotland and Wales. After a historic win against England last weekend, Scotland began as marginal favourites, taking on a Welsh side looking to build on an eventful victory against the Irish. An efficient opening 30 minutes saw the home side romp to a 14 point lead, before Wales responded effectively through Louis Rees-Zammit, cutting the deficit by five before the break. The key moment came at the 52nd minute mark, as Wales were once again helped by a red card. Zander Fagerson’s reckless collision with the head of Wyn Jones saw the tighthead trudge off the Edinburgh turf, leaving his teammates to defend a slender lead. Eerily similar to Peter O’Mahony’s dismissal last week, Wales had little time for deja vu, and were able to move ahead courtesy of a Wyn Jones try. A brave Scottish resurgence led by talismanic captain Stuart Hogg proved fruitless, as an outstanding chip and chase try from Rees-Zammit ultimately sealed the win. Still only 19, Saturday’s brace now means Rees-Zammit has four tries from just six games in the Wales jersey, proving the hype around the young talent to be real. Moving forward, can Wales win a Six Nations game without an opposition seeing red?
Immovable French force
Sunday’s game saw a threatening French team win a tight, cagey affair against Ireland in Dublin. Even without notable game changers Johnny Sexton and Connor Murray, the home side were able to control much of the possession, however lacked attacking creativity when it really mattered. Tries from Charles Ollivon and Damien Penaud lifted France to a commanding lead, but they were unable to capitalise on Irish errors. A game dominated by aerial battles, Ireland ultimately struggled to break down a robust defence, proving to be their downfall. Trailing by two points in the final play of the game, Ireland found themselves camped on the halfway line, seeking a penalty or a long range drop goal to win the game. After 17 phases and little territorial progress, France smuggled the ball from Irish hands and snatched the win. Epitomising the preceding 80 minutes, Ireland’s predictable attack could not penetrate the stubborn French defence. France, along with Wales, are unbeaten, however this was not the free-flowing, merciless rugby that has become expected of France over the last year.