As we go past the halfway point of the Six Nations 2014, things are starting to bubble up pretty nicely indeed.
Wins for England and Wales mean that there are four teams deadlocked on four points heading into the final two fixtures, whilst Scotland’s last-gasp victory over Italy brought them their first points of the campaign.
The competition is as tight as it has been for many a year, and here’s a look at the standings ahead of the fourth round of games, which are to be played out on the weekend of 8 & 9 March:
|Six Nations Table|
Let’s take a closer look at the results from this weekend’s enthralling contests and what they mean ahead of what promises to be a thrilling climax to this year’s tournament.
Wales 27-6 France
Warren Gatland’s Wales side thrust themselves back into contention for the Six Nations title after an emphatic win over a previously unbeaten French side.
Tries from George North, captain Sam Warburton and 17 points from the boot of Leigh Halfpenny blew France away at Cardiff. It means the current championship holders will go to Twickenham on March 9 knowing a win would all but end England’s chances of victory and put them in an excellent position to retain their title.
The 21-point margin of victory they accrued here equals Wales’ biggest win over France since a 21-0 win back in 1950 (per BBC Sport).
After a wonderful start to the tournament, France will be hoping to bounce back in their next fixture against Scotland. It’s a game Les Bleus should certainly win, but Murrayfield will be buoyed with expectation following their side’s performance in the third round of games.
Italy 20-21 Scotland
The two teams regarded as the weakest in this Six Nations played out the best game of the tournament so far, as Duncan Weir’s drop goal in the final minute of the game at the Stadio Olimpico gave Scotland a precious victory and their first points of the campaign.
Scott Johnson’s side found themselves 13-3 down at the break against an Italy side that have shown glimpses of improvement in this tournament to date. But despite having suffered eight consecutive away defeats in the Six Nations, the Scots rallied.
They wrestled their way back in front but all looked lost when Josh Furno went over to put the Italians up 20-18 with around 10 minutes remaining. Not to be denied, however, with the clock ticking down towards the 80-minute mark, Scotland worked the ball back to Weir who held his nerve and slotted one over the posts.
Neither team will feature in the championship shake-up this year, and it’s difficult to see where Italy are going to pick up any points with games against Ireland and England to come.
England 13-10 Ireland
England battled to a narrow victory at Twickenham to end Irish dreams of a Triple Crown. In doing so, they moved onto four points with three other teams in what looks set to be the closest Six Nations finale for many a year.
This was a game that whilst admittedly short on quality, was bristling with pride, passion and some unyielding determination from both sides.
After Rob Kearney put Ireland seven points clear at the start of the second period, England looked to be a little out of ideas. But a piece of inspiration from Mike Brown sent Danny Care clear to level things up before Owen Farrell kicked a penalty to put the hosts in front.
Both sets of players looked close to exhaustion as the action swung back and forth in the last quarter of the contest, but England were able to hold off a late Irish onslaught and blow the race for the title wide open. That game against Wales at Twickenham is shaping up to be an absolute cracker.