It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
THEY’RE ON FIRE!!
Jonathan Joseph, England Women, England U20 and England Sevens: All in all, a remarkable weekend for English rugby. The Women’s side defeated Scotland 64-0 (more on that later), while the U20s wrapped up the title with their own bonus-point win over Scotland and, the national Sevens side won their second title on the international when they beat South Africa in the Vancouver Sevens final. The focus naturally was on Twickenham though, and how England responded to criticism about their slow starts by wiping the floor with Scotland, with Joseph, the outside centre, scoring a hat-trick and setting up a score in impressive fashion as England won the 2017 title.
Wales: That’s better. After coping with Ireland’s dominant start Wales ground out a hugely morale-boosting victory over Ireland, made by the work upfront of Ken Owens and Sam Warburton while Rhys Webb and Scott Williams were both outstanding. George North rightfully stole the headlines after his double, and this was a welcome reminder of what Wales can do as their skills continue to improve.
Virimi Vakatawa: An offloading, tackle-busting behemoth for France in Rome, with Vakatawa always a key outlet as les Bleus ultimately breezed past Italy, putting to bed any suggestions of an upset. Once the likes of Rémi Lamerat, Kévin Gourdon and Louis Picamoles started to break the gain line, there was no stopping Vakatawa or France from causing chaos.
Kay Wilson: From one star winger to another, as the remarkable Wilson finished with seven tries in England Women’s win over Scotland. Seven! The 25-year-old flyer couldn’t be contained, setting a new Women’s Six Nations record in the process. Red hot.
Florin Vlaicu: Hats off to the veteran Romania back, who became his country’s first ever player to reach a century of Test match appearances and also scored a try in their big win over Belgium. That early loss to Germany earlier in the tournament had suggested that Romania were struggling, but they are one win away from winning the title in Bucharest next weekend against Georgia. Vlaicu’s boot will be vital.
Tbilisi crowd: Georgia’s 28-14 win over Russia wasn’t their best performance this year, but it was watched by 55,000 supporters in the capital Tbilisi, which is fantastic attendance. That’s more than the reported 51,770 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome to watch Italy against France…
Toulon: A quick drip into the Top 14 for those who missed Saturday’s results to report that Toulon defeated bottom side Bayonne by an eye-opening score of 82-41. Yes. 82. Liam Gill, Bryan Habana, Juan Smith and Axel Muller all grabbed doubles. And a shoutout to Pierre Bernard for hitting 11 conversions.
Sharks: Curwin Bosch is a star in the making and he dazzled against the Waratahs with that interception try and the Sharks thrived off turnovers on Saturday in a big win. Having knocked off the Brumbies and now the ‘Tahs, the Sharks look in good shape.
Mitchell Hunt: Nerves of steel from the new Crusaders fly-half as he stepped up to land the match-winning penalty against the Reds, capping an unlikely comeback.
COLD AS ICE
Scotland: What a letdown. Scotland couldn’t have started any worse at Twickenham, coughing up error after error, from the poor tackle by Fraser Brown to letting Joseph through too easily all the way to a 20-0 deficit. Hopes were so high before kick-off that this was Scotland’s year to break their Twickenham duck. How wrong we were.
Italy: Early promise with that Sergio Parisse try but then the wheels came off, as Italy’s defence struggled to cope with France’s deep runners onto the ball and ultimately coughed up four tries and 40 points. Year one in the Six Nations for Conor O’Shea has not been pleasant. A scorned Scotland at Murrayfield now await…
Robbie Henshaw: Not his best game for Ireland by any means but that was compounded by the brainless penalty for obstruction – excellently explained by Wayne Barnes who had a good game – when Ireland’s maul was trundling towards the line and seemingly set to score. Instead Wales cleared their line before putting the result beyond doubt.
Reds’ second half: Such an impressive first 40 minutes for the Reds, taking in that 20-7 lead, and then what happened?! Failing to score a single point in the second half was a complete disaster, and leaves head coach Nick Stiles exasperated for another week, albeit for different reasons. Losing games in that fashion is why we didn’t trust them before the start of the season.
Clermont: Rough loss to Montpellier at home on Sunday when les Jaunards’ defence went AWOL in the first half, as Clermont fell to a third straight defeat against Jake White’s side. With La Rochelle winning at Racing, Clermont are now eight points off first place.
Kings: Looked excellent in the previous week when they toppled the Sunwolves, but then they came out of an ugly scrap with the Stormers in far from the prettiest of contests having lost by 31 points.