Six Nations wrap: May hat-trick helps England thrash France

by AFP

England and Wales are sitting at the top of the Six Nations tree after the second round of matches last weekend.

Here's a wrap of all the action from the second weekend.


Jonny May ran in a first-half hat-trick of tries as England thrashed France 44-8 at Twickenham on Sunday to make it two wins from two this year's Six Nations.

Kicks behind the French defence on a rainswept pitch proved the visitors' undoing, with May repeatedly tormenting opposing  wing Damian Penaud.

England's 36-point margin of victory was only just shy of their largest against Les Bleus -- a 37-0 win in France's first match at Twickenham back in 1911.

May opened the scoring in the second minute as England, for the fifth Test in a row, had a try inside the first three minutes.

And the half ended with outside centre Henry Slade crossing for England's fourth try to leave them in complete command at 30-8.

This victory followed England's 32-20 win away to reigning champions Ireland last week and was another impressive display ahead of this year's World Cup.

For France, who will be one of England's pool opponents at Japan 2019, it was their second straight defeat this Championship after they squandered a 16-0 half-time lead in a 24-19 loss to Wales in Paris.

Jacques Brunel, the France coach, made six changes to his starting XV following that match but this humiliation meant his side had now lost 10 of their last 13 Tests.

Barely had the anthems finished when France's bid for a first Six Nations win at Twickenham since 2005 was rocked by May's opening try.

France captain Guilhem Guirado knocked on and England full-back Elliot Daly, recovering the loose ball, cut a line through the visitors defence before putting in a clever angled kick behind the cover and into the in-goal area.

May, surging past Penaud, touched down to make it 5-0.

England captain Owen Farrell missed the tough conversion from but the flyhalf soon added a penalty before France scrum-half Morgan Parra kicked one of his own before a 40-metre Farrell penalty made it 11-3.

France started to get into the game but their cause was not helped when, near the England line, hooker Guirado missed his intended jumper by throwing the ball over the top of a line-out.

Daly continued to test Penaud, the son of former France flyhalf Alain Penaud, with well judged grubber kicks behind the defensive line as England advanced into the visitors' 22.

And after sustained forward pressure Farrell's cut-out pass found May who, one-on-one with not much room to play with against Penaud, beat the Frenchman all too easily for another try in the left corner.

Farrell's conversion hit the post but England were 16-3 up.

And May clinched his hat-trick in the 30th minute when Parra knocked on a high ball and a clever kick from fellow wing Chris Ashton, making his first Championship start in six years, saw him sliding in again.

This time Farrell kicked the conversion and England were almost out of sight at 23-3.

France did capitalise on a rare slip by England when full-back Yoann Huget burst through several tackles before sending Penaud in for a try at the right corner, with Parra missing the conversion.

But England had a bonus point try on the stroke of half-time.

This time a kick through from scrum-half Ben Youngs found Ashton in a huge amount of space an although the former Toulon star was hauled down short of the line, the ball came back to Slade, who cut inside for a converted try.

France's day went from bad to worse in the 50th minute when they were reduced to 14 men as Gael Fickou was yellow-carded for tackling Ashton without the ball near the try-line -- an incident that also saw experienced referee Nigel Owens award a penalty try that extended England's lead to 37-8.

Following a touchline flare-up, Farrell chased up his own kick as England scored yet another try by putting the ball behind a powerful but sluggish France.


England 44

Tries: May 3, Slade, Penalty, Farrell 

Cons: Farrell 3

Pens: Farrell 2

France 8

Tries: Penaud

Pens: Parra


Wales coach Warren Gatland conceded his experimental side "got out of jail" as they struggled to a 26-15 win over Italy in the Six Nations on Saturday to equal their best run of 11 straight Test wins.

Josh Adams and Owen Watkin touched down in Rome following the break with Dan Biggar laying the groundwork for victory with 14 of his side's points.

Italy crossed for two tries through Braam Steyn and Edoardo Padovani but the Azzurri fell to their 19th consecutive defeat in the tournament.

"It wasn't a great performance today but sometimes you have to win ugly," said Gatland.

"We got out of jail. We weren't as accurate as we could. We didn't play that well but we'll take a win and move on and start thinking about England.

"We were looking at the bigger picture, we wanted to everyone an opportunity to be involved in the first two games," the New Zealander said.

Wales made it two wins out of two after last weekend's 24-19 win over France in Paris, and go top of the Six Nations table.

"We want to have as good a World Cup as we can, there's no regrets, we've won two from two matches and now have a couple of weeks to set up nicely for the England match."

They last achieved 11 consecutive victories in 1910, and will bid to break the record against England at the Principality Stadium in two weeks' time.

"We didn't speak about it this week," said Gatland. "We'll probably speak about it before England. 

"We've got a chance at home and there will be some atmosphere."

Gatland had rung the changes with ten new faces in the starting lineup in the Italian capital from the side that came from 16-0 down at half-time to beat France last weekend.

Jonathan Davies captained Wales for the first time with regular skipper Alun Wyn Jones starting on the bench as Wasps flanker Thomas Young and Leicester winger Jonah Holmes making their Six Nations debut.

Wales looked to be cruising in the opening half an hour with Biggar slotting four penalties, the first within the first two minutes, as the visitors dominated possession.

But Steyn got Italy back into the game with a try after half an hour in the Stadio Olimpico which Allan converted before his penalty hit the post to give Wales a 12-7 at the interval.

Wales' usual skipper Alun Wyn Jones came off the bench after 50 minutes and helped lift the side with his imposing on-field presence.

Scrum-half Aled Davies launched a break from a scrum down the right with Liam Williams setting up Adams for a try which Biggar converted.

Italy responded with an Allan break teeing up Padovani's touchdown.

Italy followed their 33-20 loss to Scotland in Murrayfield by extending their losing streak in the competition going back to February 2015.

"Obviously we're very disappointed it was a match in which we had our chance in the second half," said Italy coach Conor O'Shea.

"It's bloody hard. We have the ability, but when you don't have the confidence it's difficult.

 "We want to win the war but have lost another battle today."


Italy 15

Tries: Steyn, Padovani

Cons: Allan

Pens: Allan

Wales 26

Tries: Adams, Watkins

Cons: Biggar, Anscombe 

Pens: Biggar 4


Ireland captain Rory Best credited his team's mental strength in defeating Scotland 22-13 to end the hosts' seven match unbeaten home Six Nations run and putting behind them the opening weekend loss to England.

The 36-year-old hooker -- who along with his team-mates put in a considerably better performances than in the 32-20 defeat by the English in Dublin -- said it had been a challenging week but they had come through. 

"We have a lot of belief in what we're doing and how good a team we are," Best told the BBC.

"That was a really tough game, and it was tough mentally in the build-up to it.

"We asked for a physical reaction and by and large we got that. We had a couple of chances and we took them and were quite clinical. We've got a lot of improving to do."

Best, who has skippered the Irish to two wins over world champions New Zealand and the Six Nations Grand Slam last year, specially praised Joey Carbery, who came on after 24 minutes for the injured world player of the year Johnny Sexton.

The New Zealand-born flyhalf -- who moved to Munster last year after being an understudy to Sexton at Leinster -- made a nervy start with his pass being intercepted leading to Scotland's try at the end of the first half.

However, a superb burst from inside his own-half created Ireland's third try, veteran Keith Earls touching down, which he converted and he added a well taken penalty later in the second-half to give the Irish some breathing space.   

"Joey Carbery has flourished since moving to Munster and starting regularly," said Best.

"We trust the players to come off the bench and step up as Joey did."

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt also praised Carbery for his character in recovering from the intercepted pass.

However, he was not too happy about the treatment handed out to Sexton.

"Johnny Sexton got a bit of treatment out there and he got a stamp on the head but he is feeling better and we expect him to be back in the next couple of weeks," the 53-year-old told the BBC.

Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw made clear his displeasure at the performance of French referee Romain Poite, who he would know well as the scrum-half plays for French giants Clermont.

"Romain Poite picked us up in the middle of the field, Sean O'Brien's cleared the ball out and he's given a knock-on right in front of him," Laidlaw told BBC.

"He doesn't seem to like us, Romain. He refereed us against South Africa as well and we don't seem to see eye-to-eye.

"We're not going to blame him, we look at ourselves, and credit to Ireland."

Scottish hooker Stuart McInally was more gracious in defeat praising the Irish for their resolute defence.

"We were too knackered, we couldn't really string a few phases together," said McInally.

"That's credit to the Irish team, they put us under heaps of pressure, but we'll work hard and try and be better.

"We felt really good in defence, marched them back numerous times then they scored two really cheap tries."


Scotland 13

Tries: Johnson

Cons: Laidlaw

Pens: Laidlaw 2

Ireland 22

Tries: Murray, Stockdale, Earls

Cons: Murray, Carbery

Pens: Carbery