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ENGLAND won this year’s Six Nations championship after having gone without the title since 2003’s Grand Slam triumph.

The 2003 world champions finished with eight points and 13 tries to their name. France, last year’s Grand Slam champions, finished second on six points, with Ireland third, also on six points but with a lower points difference (+12 instead of France’s +26). Wales came fourth, also finishing on six points but with a points difference of just +6. Scotland finished fifth with two points and Italy once again picked up the wooden spoon (for the ninth time since 2000) with two points, but with a points difference of -68, whereas Scotland’s was -27.

The 119th championship kicked-off on Friday 4 February with Wales taking on England at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. England made their title intensions clear with a 26-19 win, which extended Wales’ long run without a Test match victory. The next day Ireland were lucky to beat Italy in Rome’s Stadio Flaminio. A drop goal from Ronan O’Gara two minutes from time saw the Irish scrape a 13-11 victory. Later that day in the Stade de France, Paris, reigning champions France beat Scotland 34-21.

The second round of matches was held the next weekend, 12-13 February. Chris Ashton ran in four tries as England thumped Italy at London’s Twickenham Stadium 59-13. Ashton became the first player to score four tries in a match since the championship became the Six Nations back in 2000, and also became the first English man to score four tries in a Six, Five or Home Nations match since Ronald Poulton did so against France in 1914. These tries, plus the two he scored against Wales, put him on six in total and level with Will Greenwood (England) and Shane Williams (Wales) for the most tries scored in a Six Nations campaign. Meanwhile, Scotland’s bad start continued as they lost 6-24 to Wales at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh. France kept their Grand Slam dreams alive by ending Ireland’s hopes with a 25-22 at the new Aviva Stadium (the old Lansdowne Road) in Dublin.

After a short gap the championship resumed over the weekend of 26-27 February. Wales won in Italy 24-16, before England ended any ideas France had about back-to-back Grand Slams with a 17-9 win at home. In the 52nd minute of the match, the legendary Jonny Wilkinson kicked a penalty that made him the all-time leading point scorer in Rugby Union history, overtaking All Black Dan Carter. Scotland lost their third match in three (and second at home) to Ireland 18-21.

After three of the five weekends of the championship, only England were able to complete the Grand Slam.

The fourth weekend (12-13 March) began with the upset of the championship. Italy beat France for the first time in 31 matches, and for the first time ever in the Six Nations. The Azzurri were 6-18 down with 20 minute to play, but roared on by the partisan home crowd ended up winning the match 22-21. 🙂 After the match, French coach Marc Lièvremont said that his players had let him and the French nation down, that they were cowards and that some of them had worn the French jersey for the last time. I don’t think he was too pleased to do? Later on that day, Wales won the most controversial match of this years’ championship at home to Ireland. The final score was 19-13 to Wales, but that included a converted try that should never have been given. In the 50th minute, Mike Phillips ran in a try, having received the ball from Welsh team-mate Matthew Rees who had taken a quick line-out after Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton had kicked the ball into touch. But the ball-boy handed Rees a different ball, which is against the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) rules. Nobody picked up on the error until it was too late, and when it was discovered Ireland felt understandably hard done by. Without those seven points for Wales, they would have won 13-12.

I personally blame the ball-boy above everybody else for this incident. He should know the rules just like everybody else who has a direct effect on the match. But the touch judge has to get some of the blame as well. He should have been looking to see if the ball was the correct one or not too.

Ireland did have something to smile about though. With the conversion of their captain, Brian O’Driscoll’s record equaling 24th championship try, Ronan O’Gara became only the fifth Rugby Union player to score 1,000 Test match points.

England kept on course for the Grand Slam with a 22-16 home win over Scotland, although England didn’t look like the side from the previous weekends. During the match, French referee Romain Poite tore a hamstring muscle and had to be replaced.

The fifth and final round of matches all took place on Saturday 19 March. Scotland won their only match of the championship 21-8 at home to Italy, thus avoiding the wooden spoon. England’s Grand Slam dreams were shattered by Ireland who won 24-8 in Dublin. England played like a bunch of schoolboys in comparison to how they played against Wales and in particular Italy earlier in the championship. This loss for England meant that if Wales beat France by 27 points or more in Paris, then they would be champions instead of England. But fortunately England, France won the last match of the championship 28-9.

England’s Chris Ashton finished as top try scorer with a grand total of six. His ‘Swallow Dive’ celebrations are my moments of the tournament. His England team-mate, Toby Flood, scored the most points in the championship with 47 points to his name. But the major achievement of the championship came from Ireland’s captain, Brian O’Driscoll. His try against England on the last weekend was his 25th in the championship, which is a new all-time record. Well done sir.

Chris Ashton’s ‘Swallow Dive’.

Brian O’Driscoll’s record breaking try.

As we now all know, England won the championship but not the Grand Slam and thanks to their loss to Ireland, failed to win the Triple Crown as well. Ireland also retained the Millennium Trophy as a result of this win. Ireland also got their hands back on the Centenary Quaich after their win over Scotland. Italy won the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy for the first time ever after their famous win over France, and England retained the Calcutta Cup with their win over Scotland. 🙂

All in all, I’m very happy that England won this years’ Six Nations. It has been too long since out last triumph – 2003 – and if you are looking for good omens, this was also the year we won the World Cup. But without the Grand Slam, coupled together with how it was denied, it seems a slightly hollow victory.

England…CHAMPIONS! 😀

Pos.

Team

P

W

D

L

PF

PA

+/-

Tries

Pts.

1

England

5

4

0

1

132

81

+51

13

8

2

France

5

3

0

2

117

91

+26

6

6

3

Ireland

5

3

0

2

93

81

+12

10

6

4

Wales

5

3

0

2

95

89

+6

7

6

5

Scotland

5

1

0

4

82

109

-27

6

2

6

Italy

5

1

0

4

70

138

-68

6

2

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