A crazy, moving Six Nations finale

Date published: March 23 2015

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Good luck to future endings of the Six Nations. 2015's will be remembered as arguably the greatest day in the history of this old competition. A bewilderingly brilliant trio of matches made rugby on the continent at Test level fun again.

This was pure entertainment – 221 points in a single round is a Six Nations record. 27 tries were scored, with nearly half of those taking place in the final chapter at Twickenham.

Anyone who sat down for the whole six hours should really have undertaken a full medical before doing so. As Joe Schmidt finely put, games like those build coronaries for coaches.

We often accuse the Six Nations of being turgid. Not this time. This was just a joyous occasion, exceeding expectations and packed full of surprises that will have stirred something in anyone with a passion for the sport from those tuning in for the first or hundredth time. Forget the miserable defence of Italy and Scotland and focus on the positives, of which there are so many.

Saturday was a perfect advert for rugby in this most crucial of years with the World Cup still to come. The organisers will pray this standard is matched. This is the rugby we’ve been crying out for. 

Wales, Ireland and England all recognised that to win they would have to score an exceptional amount of points, with all three throwing off the shackles and delivering. 

Adding try bonus points into the tournament to encourage attacking play has been discussed, but that shouldn’t need to be encouraged. For the record there would have been five try bonus points in the whole of this year’s tournament, two to England.

Teams should and must want to play like this with their ears pinned back and scoring tries rather than kicking the ball to death, surely? Why not, when the results are this satisfying for all concerned. Also, truthfully it was the old points format that led to such an absorbing conclusion in the first place, calculators and all.

In the final minutes of England’s assault on the French line, the heroics of Wales from earlier in the afternoon had been made completely irrelevant. Wales scored over 60 points in Rome and yet finished third. Utterly bonkers. 

Ireland might have had some jitters at needing to defeat Scotland by 20 points to take first place, but it never showed as then went and won by 30. Jamie Heaslip’s trysaving tackle on Stuart Hogg ultimately won them the championship, although it would have hinged on the conversion.

Even some kicking wobbles from Jonathan Sexton couldn’t direct Ireland off their course, with Sean O’Brien turning in a mesmeric performance as the Tullow Tank refused to be stopped.

And then England, who flirted with winning the title and catastrophically losing to France within a wild first half before the two sides traded punches and England ultimately fell a converted try short of glory, settling for a fourth straight second-placed finish under Stuart Lancaster. 

Even the French turned up, adding to the day’s insanity with some vintage running rugby for the first time in forever and then nearly driving Irish fans insane.

We were spoiled good and proper. I cannot remember a better day of international rugby with this many matches delivering high drama. 

It was like being taken back to that moment when you fell in love with the sport, any sport even, for the first time.

Steve Hansen’s comments about rugby becoming boring and not enough tries being scored weren’t inaccurate at the time a few weeks ago, but the final round of Six Nations games made a mockery of them in the best possible way. Sam Warburton and Vincent Debaty’s scores in particular beggared belief. Hansen spoke of a duty to entertain and his call was answered, but it has to happen more, please.

When played in this manner, while there are still imperfections to be addressed, rugby is irresistible.

Ireland have triumphed again but so has the sport as a whole. What an exhausting, unbelievable day that won’t be topped for some time.

by Ben Coles

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