Six Nations: Wales take Grand Slam, Scotland and England play out draw

International
AFP
by AFP

Wales claimed a record third Six Nations Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland's reign Saturday as Gareth Anscombe kicked 20 points to help beat an ill-disciplined Ireland 25-7.

The stunning victory extended Wales' winning streak to 14 matches, moving them to second in the World Rugby standings and handing Gatland's team a massive psychological boost looking ahead to this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The Grand Slam was the 12th achieved by Wales, who opened this campaign with a 24-19 victory over France before following up with wins over Italy (26-15), England (21-13) and Scotland (18-11).

It was the third under Gatland in his 50th and final Wales game in European rugby's showcase tournament following Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, and a first Six Nations title since 2013.

The tone of what turned out to be an electrifying start was set from the off.

Gargantuan winger George North followed up on Anscombe's kick-off, catching Jacob Stockdale in possession and driving him into touch.

The crowd, barely in their seats after stirring anthems, were quickly galvanised as Ken Owens peeled off the attacking line-out, Hadleigh Parkes gathering Anscombe's dink over the top to touch down within two breath-taking minutes, the fly-half converting.

Kiwi-born Parkes, who made his Super Rugby debut alongside Anscombe for the Auckland Blues before relocating to Wales, was then on hand to produce a superb try-saving tackle on Stockdale in what turned out to be a disappointing Ireland's best chance of the game.

World Rugby player of the year Johnny Sexton caught the Welsh defence flat-footed with a clever raking cross-kick, Stockdale expertly gathering and shrugging off Gareth Davies as he steamed down the line before Parkes hauled him down with the line beckoning.

Influential playmaker Dan Biggar made an earlier-than-expected entry after North went off with an injured left wrist, Anscombe slotting in at full-back with Liam Williams moving to the wing.

When Sexton was pinged for a ruck infringement in the 18th minute, Anscombe made no mistake with the penalty to stretch Wales' lead.

Sexton spurned a shot at goal himself after a rare spell of Irish pressure, but Adam Beard launched himself into the attacking Irish maul off the line-out, Justin Tipuric isolating Irish skipper Rory Best and forcing a knock-on.

Things weren't going Ireland's way, experienced No 8 CJ Stander then losing control of a quick tap and go to lose all momentum, coach Joe Schmidt left holding his head in despair.

Anscombe increased the home side's lead to 16 points with two further penalties just before half-time, ironically the same lead France held over Wales after the first 40 minutes in the opening match of this Six Nations campaign.

Alun Wyn Jones, equalling Gethin Jenkins as the most capped Welshman of all-time with 134 caps (including nine matches for the British and Irish Lions), was to the fore as the go-to line-out jumper and around the park with ball in hand.

And it was he who held up James Ryan early in the second period to force an attacking scrum in another blow to Ireland as Schmidt's men tried to find a foothold.

Cian Healy then gave away a soft penalty with an off-the-ball hit on opposite number Tomas Francis, Anscombe hitting an elementary three points to take Wales out to 19-0.

Further ill-discipline handed Anscombe a fifth shot at goal, the Kiwi born to a Welsh mother making no mistake with Ireland looking increasingly ragged.

As Sexton misfired from fly-half in a game he will want to forget, so the mistakes kept coming for his team.

Winger Keith Earls badly misjudged a defensive back-tracking touchdown to again hand Wales the advantage and when replacement Andrew Porter strayed offside at a ruck, again in front of the posts, Anscombe gleefully stepped up with kicking tee for a sixth successful pot at the sticks.

There was a late consolation try for Ireland from Jordan Larmour, converted by Jack Carty, as the team avoided a first whitewash since 1990.

RESULT

Wales 25

Tries: Parkes

Cons: Anscombe

Pens: Anscome 6

Ireland 7

Tries: Larmour

Cons: Carty

ENGLAND vs SCOTLAND

Scotland and England played out a draw at Twickenham. Photo: Getty imagesScotland came from 31-0 down only to see their hopes of a first win over England at Twickenham in 36 years dashed by George Ford in stoppage time on Saturday as a remarkable Calcutta Cup clash ended in 38-38 draw.

The final match of the 2019 Six Nations Championship appeared to be all over as a contest by the half hour with England 31-0 ahead.

Scotland, however, scored six tries, Darcy Graham crossing twice, in a run of 38 unanswered points to be within minutes of a first Twickenham triumph since 1983.

But the third minute of extra time at a blustery and rainswept Twickenham, saw England replacement fly-half Ford, following an attacking line-out off a penalty, score a try he converted to tie the scores with the last kick of the game.

Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup courtesy of their 25-13 win at Murrayfield last year, with England finishing this Six Nations as runners-up behind champions Wales.

The combined total of 76 points made this the highest scoring draw in Test history.

It was the first involving England and Scotland, who played the inaugural rugby union international in 1871, since a 15-15 encounter at Murrayfield nine years ago and the first between the old rivals at Twickenham since a 12-12 clash in 1989.

But Saturday's result in their last competitive match before the World Cup in Japan starts in September is bound to lead to fresh questions about their nerve following a second-half collapse in a defeat by Wales last month.

RESULT

England

Tries: Nowell, Curry, Launchbury, May, Ford

Cons: Ford 2

Pens: Farrell

Scotland

Tries: Graham 2, McInally, Bradbury, Russell, Johnson

Cons: Russell 2, Laidlaw 2

ITALY vs FRANCE

France struggled past Italy 25-14 to finish their disappointing Six Nations campaign with a second win, condemning the hosts to a 22nd straight defeat in the tournament.

Three tries from Antoine Dupont, Maxime Medard and Damian Penaud and ten points from youngster Romain Ntamack sealed victory in the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy between the two nations.

Tito Tebaldi replied with a try for Italy on 53 minutes with Tommaso Allan accounting for the remainder of the points for winless Italy.

"It's very, very hard because obviously it's incredible that we lost the match," said Italy coach Conor O'Shea.

The French have just one win against Scotland (27-10) after being thrashed by 44-8 England and losing 26-14 to Ireland last weekend.

Italy finish the tournament winless earning the fourth straight Wooden Spoon for a whitewash.

"Italy will regret this defeat tonight," said France coach Jacques Brunel.

"We suffered, but we managed to resist."

It was also disappointing final match at the Stadio Olimpico for Italy captain Sergio Parisse, the holder of a record 69 caps in the tournament.

Italy dominated possession in the first half but failed to convert it into a try with Parisse, Leonardo Ghiraldini, and debutant Marco Zanon wasting chances.

"I speechless because we dominated this match," said Parisse.

"We threw away so many chances. We were much, much superior to them in terms of intensity.

"We wanted this so much, but weren't able to win. when you lose chances you lose momentum."

A pair of Allan penalties had given Italy an early foothold in the game in the first 12 minutes.

But France pounced on an Italy kicking error after 15 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico.

Maxime Medard powered forward, passing for Penaud who outpaced Angelo Esposito, slipping a pass inside for Dupont to dot down under the posts.

Ntamack converted and then added a penalty goal as France opened up a four-point lead.

France captain Guilhem Guirado went off after 20 minutes clutching his ribs with Camille Chat coming on for the hooker who watched from the sidelines along with centre Wesley Fofana who pulled out with a muscle injury just before kick-off.

RESULT

Italy 14

Tries: Tebaldi

Pens: Allan 3

France 25

Tries: Dupont, Huget, Penaud

Cons: Ntamack 2

Pens: Ntamack

Drop: Ntamack

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