Six Nations wrap: Wales stay on Grand Slam track, Ireland scrape past Italy

International
AFP
by AFP

Cory Hill and Josh Adams scored second-half tries as record-breaking Wales came from behind to beat England 21-13 in the Six Nations in Cardiff on Saturday to stay on course for a Grand Slam.

It seemed England were on course for a clean sweep of their own when they led 13-9 early in the second half.

But Wales, in coach Warren Gatland's final Six Nations in charge before the New Zealander stands down after the World Cup in Japan later this year, hit back in style.

Hill forced his way over for a try before wing Adams caught a pinpoint cross-kick from replacement fly-half Dan Biggar to go over for a late try that put the result beyond doubt.

Victory also saw Wales, who had been 16-0 behind at half-time in their tournament opener against France before winning 24-19, establish a new national record of 12 successive wins and break a mark that had stood since 1910.

England were seven points ahead at the break thanks to flanker Tom Curry's converted try and a penalty from captain Owen Farrell, with Wales having to make do with Gareth Anscombe's penalty. 

But two more penalties from Anscombe early in the second half cut England's advantage to just a point at 10-9.

Farrell nudged the visitors further ahead with a penalty to make it 13-9 only for Hill to put Wales in front for the first time with a 63rd minute score before Adams struck.

Josh Adams and Liam Williams were impressive in the Welsh win. Photo: Getty ImagesThis was England's first defeat in five Tests against Wales since Eddie Jones took over as coach after the 2015 World Cup.

With the Principality Stadium's retractable roof open at England's request, the visitors saw long-range kick specialist Elliot Daly push an early 48-metre effort wide of the left post.  

England had scored tries inside the first three minutes of their last five Tests but in a gruelling series of early exchanges the Welsh defence held firm.

Flyhalf Anscombe, selected in place of proven goalkicker Biggar, declined a couple of early penalty shots at goal, preferring to kick for line-outs.

But from one such kick, England lock George Kruis stole possession off a Welsh throw-in.

England, with prop Kyle Sinckler, lock Courtney Lawes and Curry making plenty of tackles, went ahead in the 17th minute when they forced a scrum penalty inside Wales' 22 to give fly-half Farrell a simple penalty chance before Anscombe replied from similarly close range for Wales.

The only try of an absorbing first half came in the 27th minute when a break across the line by centre Henry Slade took England, whose vocal fans were well represented in a capacity crowd, into Wales' 22.

It seemed Wales were clearing the danger near their own line but Lawes stripped the ball off Tipuric in a ruck and Curry burst clear through an unguarded blindside for a breakaway try that Farrell duly converted.

When Wales did get close to England's line the visitors' defence held firm and speedy wing Jonny May showed there was more to their much-talked about kicking game than grubbers behind the back-line with a superb chip and sprint down the left touchline to clear a potentially dangerous situation on the stroke of half-time.

But a scrappy start to the second half saw Sinckler concede two penalties which Anscombe kicked to cut England's lead to just a point at 10-9.

Unsurprisingly, Jones then replaced Sinckler -- labelled a 'time-bomb' in the build-up by Gatland -- with Harry Williams rather than run the risk of a yellow card or worse for the Harlequins front-rower

A previously composed England were rattled and Wales after a sustained period of possession sent Hill in for a 68th-minute try that Biggar, significantly, converted before Adams applied the finishing touch from a cross-kick, once again from Biggar.

RESULT

Wales 21

Tries: Hill, Adams

Cons: Biggar

Pens: Anscombe 3

England 13

Tries: Curry

Cons: Farrell

Pens: Farrell 2

FRANCE vs SCOTLAND

France bested Scotland in Paris. Photo: Getty ImagesFlyhalf sensation Romain Ntamack fired France to their first victory of this year's Six Nations with a 27-10 defeat of Scotland on Saturday to leave the injury-hit visitors without a victory in the French capital in 20 years.

Ntamack, who has started at number 10 in just three games for his Top 14 club Toulouse, was preferred by coach Jacques Brunel in the key playmaking role to Camille Lopez and proved his worth throughout the match, be it in defence or sparking his team in attack.

The French had lost 10 of their last 13 games going into the Scotland encounter, having fallen to Wales in their opening championship match before being hammered 44-8 by England, their heaviest loss to the 'Rosbifs' since 1911.

"Yes, of course satisfaction is our first feeling," said Brunel.

"After the defeat by England we had to bounce back and show unity and strength and I think we did that today. The team showed a lot of character."

Captain Guilhem Guirado had promised a revolt and so it came, of sorts, France enjoying dominance over a poor Scottish side that struggled in the set-piece, desperately missed the creative spark of the injured backline trio of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and Huw Jones, and were shown up defensively.

"It's frustrating to be involved in," Scotland flanker Magnus Bradbury told the BBC.

 "I'm sure you saw how many chances we created for ourselves but we just couldn't make those final passes stick. That's something we're going to have to look at next week and moving forward and get better at."

Australian referee Nic Berry, who played for Racing 92 among others in a career shortened by concussion, made an immediate enemy of the Stade de France public when he disallowed an early Damian Penaud try, Thomas Ramos and Antoine Dupont to the fore as France pressed in what was a sure sign of things to come.

RESULT

France 27

Tries: Alldritt 2, Ntamack, Huget

Cons: Ramos

Pens: Serin

Scotland 10

Tries: Price

Cons: Hastings

Pens: Laidlaw

ITALY vs IRELAND

Ireland scraped past Italy in Rome. photo: Getty ImagesReigning champions Ireland battled to a 26-16 Six Nations win over Italy on Sunday, earning a bonus-point victory while condemning the hosts to a 20th successive defeat in the tournament.

The home side led 16-12 at the break thanks to tries from Edoardo Padovani and Luca Morisi and two Tommaso Allan penalties.

But Ireland hit back in the second-half with Keith Earls and Conor Murray touching down to add to Quinn Roux and Jacob Stockdale's first half tries.

"There's a sense of relief as we didn't play as well as we'd hoped for," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.

"We didn't create opportunities, we didn't make the most of the ones we had, we made errors like we did before half time.

"I'm proud of the players the way they stayed calm and delivered what we needed to make sure we got the win and the five points.

"That is what we needed out of the game and to keep them scoreless in the second half."

Ireland captain Peter O'Mahony added: "We knew how difficult it was coming to Rome.

"There's certainly stuff we can do better, but we'll kick on now and look forward to France in a couple of weeks."

Italy coach Conor O'Shea's side next play England as they look for their first win in the tournament since 2015.

"We're climbing our mountain," said the former Ireland international full-back.

"We have to move on and keep on driving, driving driving. We have injuries today, we'll get some guys back, that's the nature of the beast. We'll dust donw and get ready for Twickers."

Ireland needed to win big to boost their hopes of retaining their title after losing their opener to England (32-20) and beating Scotland (22-13).

And the Irish had looked to be cruising as they led 12-3 with Roux touching down after 11 minutes.

Chris Farrell had made the initial break towards the line but stopped just short, with Roux taking possession to finish off.

Jonathan Sexton converted with Stockdale getting his team's second try ten minutes later.

The Ulster wing picked up the ball and raced down the field for his 14th try in 17 Test appearances.

Italy were missing their talismanic skipper Sergio Parisse who shouted support from the sidelines after being ruled out with concussion.

The Azzurri got on the scoreboard after 20 minutes with Allan converting a penalty but Ireland immediately hit back.

Scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi pulled out a towering performance at the heart of the Azzurri playing a role in the tries scores by Padovani (33 minutes) and Morisi (39).

Ireland lost Bundee Aki after 12 minutes with the Connacht centre failing a head injury assessment to be replaced by Andrew Conway.

The Italians could have led by an even bigger margin but Allan, hampered by windy conditions in the Stadio Olimpico, missed two conversions.

Ireland shut out the Italians in the second, with tries by Earls and Murray insuring the Grand Slam champions remain in contention with games against France and Wales remaining.

Ireland-born Italy fly-half Ian McKinley missed a stoppage-time penalty as the hosts failed to salvage a losing bonus point.

RESULT

Italy 26

Tries: Padovani, Morisi

Cons: Allan 2

Ireland 16

Tries: Roux, Stockdale, Earls, Murray

Cons: Sexton, Murray