England claim Six Nations title

by RUGBY.com.au staff


Scotland beat Italy 21-8 on Saturday at Murrayfield in their Six Nations match, leaving the Italians with the wooden spoon.

Tries in quick succession in the second half by substitute Nick De Luca and late call-up Nikki Walker gave the hosts their first tries at Murrayfield since November 2009 as Italy were unable to keep up their momentum from the historic victory over France last weekend.

Scotland's first win of the campaign sees them edge Italy on points difference.

The Scots got off to a rousing start, pinning the Italians back in their 22 with a well controlled passage of play which lasted 15 phases.

A quick try did not materialise, however Scotland snatched the lead with a simple Chris Paterson penalty after the Italy defence held on too long to John Barclay in the tackle in the shadow of their posts.

Andrea Masi, though, then made a surging run to score his second try in as many matches, staving off a weak challenge by Walker and running it in - Mirco Bergamasco failed with his conversion.

Scotland responded positively and fine work by Sean Lamont and Joe Ansbro should have laid the platform for a Simon Danielli try.

However, the Ulster winger was blocked just half a pace short of the line and again they had to make do with three points from the boot of Paterson - but at a price.

Ansbro was carried off with a serious-looking knee injury and replaced by De Luca.

Italy continued to look lethal on the counter attack and home alarm bells rang again when Paul Derbyshire pounced on a loose ball before galloping into the danger zone.

Bergamasco looked set to carry on the momentum, but somehow the Scots turned the ball over at a critical moment but he added a penalty to restore the Italians lead.

Scotland should have snapped up a try a second after the restart - but for a moment of fatal hesitation from Lamont.

He hacked a loose ball towards the line and appeared to be winning the head-to-head race with hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini.

But at the last split second Lamont opted to hold back slightly, waiting to see how the ball would bounce.

The delay allowed the Italian to dive in front of him and steal possession.

Scotland's fortunes turned just two minutes later, however, when De Luca ended the Murrayfield drought.

Nathan Hines peeled off a ruck, drew in the fringe defence - created the time and space for De Luca to slither over in the corner for his first try in 24 tests.

Even better was to come from the revived Scots in the 55th minute.

Again the build up was patient and calmly-executed to lay the platform for Walker to weave his way past three defenders on his way to crossing the line.

Paterson added the conversion to make the gap 10 points - then gave his side another massive confidence boost by slotting his next penalty attempt.

He then raced to Scotland's rescue with a marvellous last-gasp tackle on Luke McLean, whose mazy run threatened to spark a late Italian rally.


Two tries from former France captain Lionel Nallet inspired the French to a 28-9 victory over Wales in their final Six Nations match at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The win will have gone some way to repairing the damage done by the historic defeat to Italy last weekend.

Nallet's tries and one from livewire winger Vincent Clerc, plus 13 points from the boot of Morgan Parra were more than enough to erase any hopes the Welsh might have had of taking the title with a large win.

That honour falls to England despite their loss to Ireland meaning they miss out on the Grand Slam.

The Welsh points came from three penalties by James Hook, whose controversial yellow card in the second-half all but ended it as a contest.

Hook stroked over a superb penalty from wide out on the right in the second minute after the Welsh backrow led by dynamic flanker Sam Warburton had made huge inroads into French territory.

The admirable Parra levelled the match five minutes later after a Welsh infringement as the French scrum tried to assert its authority and Hook missed an opportunity to restore the visitors' lead shortly afterwards.

However, the Welsh suffered a blow as at the same time as Hook was missing his penalty, Warburton had to go off with a left knee injury and be replaced by Jonathan Thomas.

The French were gradually building up steam but ruined their best move of the match when after piercing the Welsh defence through centre David Marty after a great run by Clerc on the right wing they conceded a penalty.

Parra gave France the lead in the 26th minute with a crisply taken penalty for a Welsh player not releasing the ball, as the match continued to lack the spark to get the crowd excited.

That almost arrived in the 32nd minute when quick hands down the Welsh backs on the blindside saw Leigh Halfpenny free down the right wing, but with a clear run to the line beckoning he was brought to ground by a stunning tap tackle by Francois Trinh-Duc.

The spark in the end came from an unlikely source as Nallet benefited from a Welsh turnover after Lee Byrne had lost the ball, and the lock picked the ball up well outside the visitors 22.

However, showing amazing turn of foot for a 34-year-old second row forward he sold a Welsh defender on a delightful dummy before managing with his momentum, as he crossed for his seventh try in 62 tests.

Hook reduced the deficit shortly after the break with a penalty but his blocked clearance by Julien Pierre paved the way for Nallet to score his and the hosts second try of the match for a 18-6 lead.

Hook added a penalty to keep the Welsh in the hunt for at least victory if not the title but the French were scenting blood and going for the kill as they shrugged off the shackles of last Saturday's defeat.

Parra added a penalty shortly afterwards to make it 21-9 and the visitors hopes of staying in contention all but evaporated in the 56th minute when Hook was harshly sin-binned for what was deemed a dangerous tackle.

That loss was rammed home almost straight away as a delightful chip behind the Welsh defence saw Clerc run on and gather and touch down for his second try in two matches.


Ireland wrecked England's hopes of a Six Nations grand slam on Saturday, outclassing their opponents 24-8 in a one-sided encounter at Lansdowne Road.

Tries from wing Tommy Bowe, captain Brian O'Driscoll - setting a new all-time record for the tournament of 25 - and 14 points from fly-half Jonathan Sexton gave Ireland a deserved victory that was even more one-sided than the lop-sided final score suggested.

England, bidding to win their first grand slam since triumphing in Dublin in 2003, were second best to the Irish in almost every department, outmuscled in the forwards and outplayed in the backs.

But the emphatic nature of England's defeat will give manager Martin Johnson and his players a stinging reality check as they now turn their attention to this year's World Cup in New Zealand.

Ireland, bitterly disappointed to lose in controversial circumstances against Wales last week and desperate to end a mixed campaign on a winning note, dominated almost from start to finish.

Man-of-the-match Sexton had opened the scoring for Ireland on seven minutes, calmly slotting a penalty after England's defensive line were offside at a line-out.

Ireland extended their lead on 15 minutes when England wing Chris Ashton was adjudged to have high tackled Sexton, who duly slotted the three points.

Ireland's relentless pressure looked to have earned them a deserved try after 20 minutes when elusive running by Bowe ended with O'Driscoll scoring in the corner.

But as the crowd and Ireland's players celebrated, referee Bryce Lawrence ruled that the final pass had gone forward by the slimmest of margins, and instead the home side had to settle for Sexton's third penalty to make it 9-0.

Yet when Toby Flood missed a straightforward penalty to reduce the deficit moments later, Ireland were swiftly back on the attack with a hack and chase upfield that ended with Bowe going over out wide for 14-0.

A rare English foray into Irish territory resulted in a Flood penalty on 32 minutes to make it 14-3 but in truth the visitors never looked like putting their opponents under pressure.

A bad half for England got worse five minutes before half-time, when flanker David Wallace, a superb, scavenging presence at the breakdown throughout, burst off a ruck and headed for the corner.

England's cover got there but when scrum-half Ben Youngs threw the ball into the crowd, referee Lawrence produced a yellow card and the young Leicester scrum-half was in the sin-bin.

A further penalty from Sexton stretched Ireland's lead still further, driving another nail into the coffin of England's grand slam hopes.

England looked to have survived the sinbin unscathed in the early moments of the second half, when Danny Care came on to replace Youngs.

But within seconds of Care's arrival, Ireland were back on the attack once more as England scrambled. Donncha O'Callaghan looked to have bungled the chance but O'Driscoll was on hand to mop up and scamper over in the corner.

Sexton converted from the touchline to make it 24-3 and Ireland were effectively home and dry.

England emptied their replacements bench and veteran hooker Steve Thompson raced over from 30 yards for an interception try but the result was never in doubt.


Utility back Andrea Masi has become the first Italian to win the Six Nations player of the tournament.

Masi picked up 30 percent of the 17,562 public votes cast, with Italy team-mate Fabio Semenzato coming second.

The 29-year-old Masi, who can play anywhere across the back-line, was nominated for the award after his man-of-the-match performance in the shock 22-21 win over France.

"It has been a championship of highs and lows for the Italian team. Our win against France will go down in rugby history but to finish sixth (last) frustrated us all," Masi said.

"However, to be named the player of the championship is a fantastic way to end what has been one of the most competitive championships I can remember.

"We have worked hard this year and can be proud of our achievements. Italian rugby continues to strengthen and we are very happy with our progress as a team.

"To be the first Italian voted to win this award by the fans is a huge compliment."

He scored two tries, including one against France, during the tournament and succeeded Ireland's Tommy Bowe, who won last year's award.