Six Nations: Seven moments that took our breath away, including creating history and solo brilliance

Dylan Coetzee
Six Nations: Split with Dupont, Ireland and van der Merwe

Following the conclusion of an enthralling Six Nations in 2023, Planet Rugby unpacks seven moments that took our breath away.

Duhan van der Merwe’s tries

The Scot import threw his name in lights in the opening round with one of the greatest tries scored in Six Nations history as his side downed England at Twickenham and claimed their third consecutive Calcutta Cup.

Van der Merwe received the ball from fellow wing Kyle Steyn just inside his own half and decided to pin his ears back and go on a run. He looked up and split the two chasing defenders, finding himself in acres of space.

England, however, had several defenders in front of the rampant winger and more rapidly covering back, but to no avail, as van der Merwe stepped inside Freddie Steward before bringing out a monster fend to power over for a jaw-dropping score.

The wing would sparkle again in the final round with one of the most superbly taken aerial finishes in the corner. Van der Merwe well and truly underlined his superstar status on the Test scene.

Antoine Dupont’s gravity-defying tackle

The French skipper and talisman often catches the headlines for his beautiful game management, outstanding ability to kick so accurately off both legs and his often crucially times try-scoring antics. However, in the gruelling battle with Ireland this year, the scrum-half produced a mind-blowing tackle.

Ireland were on the attack, and a tackle by Gael Fickou on Hugo Keenan saw the ball spilt into the path of Mack Hansen, who had the line at his mercy. The Irishman looked for all money as if he was going to crash over and score. Enter Dupont.

The star manages to grab Hansen’s side and SOMEHOW prevents him from scoring with a show of incredible strength as the wing stares at the try line so agonisingly close! It was a truly freakish moment from Dupont, who continues to amaze the rugby world.

French masterclass at Twickenham

France arguably produced the performance of the tournament with a performance which was poetry in motion personified when they beat England 53-10 at Twickenham in round four.

Everything about the performance was magnificent as the French ran in a whopping sevens tries against a helpless Red Rose on their hallowed turf.

The game had it all as Dupont, Thomas Ramos, and Romain Ntamack ran the game offered to them on a platter by their hard-working pack, who flattened England and dominated them in the loose. The back -row of Gregory Alldritt, Francois Cros and Charles Ollivon put together one of the most memorable outings as a loose trio in recent memory.

The stunning, well-worked try scored right at the death by Damian Penaud showcased the ruthless mentality of France on the day. Even with a substantial lead Les Bleus came together to execute the most beautiful strike play off a line-out.

It was a performance that reminded everyone that Les Bleus is still a team to beat at the World Cup.

Scotland go coast-to-coast after debatable call

The final moments of the last-round clash between Scotland and Italy was loaded with controversy and an outrageous coast-to-coast try.

In the build-up, the Azzurri were threatening the Scottish line with only five points in it and the clock almost in the red. Italy went through the phases until skipper Michele Lamaro charged for the line only to lose the ball forward after a tackle from an allegedly offside Jack Dempsey.

Ultimately the decision was made for a Scottish scrum, and from there, they did oh so well freeing up the gargantuan van der Merwe who showed off his pace, skinning defenders on the outside.

It turned into a simple pop on inside to the sprinting Blair Kinghorn who crossed for his hat-trick try in the final play, taking the game away from the Italians and producing a much more flattering scoreline.

Wounded Ireland fight on despite key injuries against Scotland

Before the start of the Six Nations, not many would have expected one of the biggest battles to be between Ireland and Scotland. The sides clashed in round four as the only two unbeaten teams.

The first half was tightly contested as disaster struck for Ireland, with both hooker Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher going off injured just after the break.

Ireland showed their champion quality and composure as the reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, Josh van der Flier, took on the line-out throwing duties and nailed six of nine throws whilst prop Cian Healy scrummed exceptionally well at hooker.

The eventual champions blew the Scottish threat out of the water in the second period to claim an impressive 22-7 win at Murrayfield.

Johnny Sexton creates history in his final Six Nations outing

Veteran Johnny Sexton continued to show how influential he has been for Ireland for so many years and also during the 2023 edition.

In the final round and what is likely his final game in Rugby’s Greatest Championship, Sexton created history by surpassing former teammate and old friend Ronan O’Gara as the top points scorer of all-time in Six Nations history.

It is a truly magnificent feat which led head coach Andy Farrell to label the fly-half as Ireland’s greatest-ever player! Bravo, Johnny!

Ireland lift the Grand Slam

The image of Sexton walking to his team with trophy in hand was nothing short of brilliant and well-deserved.

Ireland were the team to beat, and no one could come close. The squad is so tight-knit, so well drilled and knowledgeable in their roles. Farrell has managed to create a team so robot in their precision and one worthy of champions.

Achieving perfection in a sporting context is practically impossible, but Farrell’s Ireland in the 2023 Six Nations pushed it as close as can be.

Ireland completing the Grand Slam in Dublin on St Patrick’s weekend will never be forgotten.

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