A much more competitive match followed in Cardiff. England were poor against France, no doubt about it. So perhaps a visit to their old rivals Wales may not have come at the best time, particularly as England had only won two of their last seven visits to the newly named Principality Stadium. And so it proved, as Ben Young’s try was one of the few highlights in a game that, although even, Wales edged. A lovely set-piece move culminated in a try under the posts from Liam Williams, which gave the home side a 13-8 half-time lead. The score was 16-11 with just ten minutes, and it looked like England’s incredible winning run was coming to an end. But Owen Farrell, winded by a thundering hit from the impressive Ross Moriarty, kept England in the game and, after a poor defensive kick from Jonathan Davies, placed a perfect pass for Elliot Daly to run in for the winning try in the corner, to complete an excellent comeback in what was an incredible test match.
On to Sunday, and Scotland had a chance to back-up their impressive win against Ireland with a first win in Paris since 1999. But France have improved drastically under Guy Noves, and had a lot of power and great offloading that the Scots struggled to deal with early on. However, this Scotland team has improved a lot as well and in Stuart Hogg, who has now scored five tries in his last three test matches, they have a match winner; and sure enough the Glasgow flier scored early to give Scotland the lead. France always had a lot of pressure though, and eventually it took its toll when Gael Fickou scored in the corner to give France a 13-11 half-time lead. Scotland responded well however, and a try from replacement Tim Swinson gave them the lead again, but a bizarre miss under the posts from Finn Russell may have made a difference. It didn’t in the end, as France’s relentless pressure earned penalty opportunities for fly-half Camille Lopez, which he took to give the home side a 22-16 that they just deserved, but Scotland again played well and will take a lot from the performance.
With a week-off now until the next round, the players will no doubt take a well-earned break. England are the only team that can win the Grand Slam now, and have two home games against Italy and Scotland, both of which they would expect to win, before a mouth-watering contest against Ireland in Dublin to finish the tournament, which may well be a Championship decider. But there is a lot of rugby to be played before then, and Ireland have tough games against France and Wales before that game, and Scotland, although they have a frankly terrible record at Twickenham, have been in excellent form and may fancy an upset in that one. Whatever happens, I just hope the games continue to offer as much excitement as they have done so far. The intensity and attacking play on show highlights once again the gap between the Northern Hemisphere wannabes and the Southern Hemisphere giants of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa is decreasing rapidly.
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