Posts Tagged ‘Six Nations’

WALES lifted the Triple Crown at Twickenham after a thrilling victory over England.

Replacement Scott Williams was the hero as his sensational second-half try completed a dramatic Welsh comeback.

With the scores tied at 12-12, the replacement centre ripped the ball off Courtney Lawes and regathered his own kick ahead to score the decisive try.

In a thrilling finale, England wing David Strettle came within inches of scoring with the final play of the game, as the television official ruled he had not grounded the ball in the corner.

The win means Wales are now on course for a Grand Slam showdown with France on March 17, providing they can beat Italy in a fortnight’s time.

England fly-half Owen Farrell and Wales Leigh Halfpenny each kicked four penalties in an absorbing encounter that keeps Wales on course for their second Grand Slam under Warren Gatland.

The World Cup semi-finalists were in deep trouble for much of an enthralling RBS 6 Nations encounter after England marksman Owen Farrell outgunned his rival goalkicker Leigh Halfpenny.

Fly-half Farrell, once again displaying an ice-cool temperament, kicked four penalties to Halfpenny’s three before going off injured 15 minutes from time.

But there still threatened to be a final twist when England wing David Strettle as the game headed into added time.

Wales centre Jonathan Davies tackled him, yet there was a nerve-shredding delay of around four minutes for the visitors before Scottish television match official Iain Ramage ruled that Strettle had not got the ball down.

Toby Flood, on for Farrell, was lined up to attempt a potential match-levelling conversion when referee Steve Walsh relayed Ramage’s verdict and blew for full time.

The glory, though, belonged to Williams, whose 50-metre breakaway try came when he robbed England lock Courtney Lawes of possession, sprinted away and then gathered his kick to score, giving Wales only their second Twickenham triumph since 1988.

In many ways, it was rough justice on England after they pushed below-par Wales to the limit, but they lacked a killer instinct.

Should Wales seal the Six Nations crown, it would give them a second Six Nations title and Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland’s four-year reign, but France in Cardiff on March 17 will provide a huge obstacle to overcome.

England’s interim coach Stuart Lancaster made four changes for his first home Test in charge, with three players – scrum-half Lee Dickson, lock Geoff Parling and number eight Ben Morgan – handed their full international debuts.

Flanker Sam Warburton returned to captain Wales after recovering from a thigh injury, while hooker Ken Owens and lock Alun-Wyn Jones also featured. Jones had only played 110 minutes’ rugby since the World Cup because of a toe problem and subsequent surgery.

Wales started in a hurry, laying siege to England territory with such determination that wing Alex Cuthbert was only denied a try by his opposite number Strettle’s tap-tackle.

Wales continued to monopolise possession, and although England proved resilient in defence, it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors smashed through.

But for all their territorial dominance, Wales could not make it count during what proved to be a scoreless opening quarter, emphasised when Halfpenny missed a straightforward penalty chance.

Halfpenny’s blunder sparked England into a response, and after Farrell sent a drop-goal attempt wide, he then kicked a resulting penalty that edged the home side ahead.

It was a tense, fraught contest, and even though Halfpenny drew Wales level after 26 minutes, England looked to have weathered a considerable early storm.

Given such defensive heroics, England predictably grew in confidence, with an impressive Farrell not afraid to vary his options, and Wales at times had their hands full on the back foot.

Farrell and Halfpenny exchanged further penalties, but England claimed a 9-6 interval advantage when Farrell completed his penalty hat-trick two minutes before half-time.

And it served as a powerful message to Wales, given their superior handling skills, yet they could find no way through an England defence superbly organised by Brad Barritt and his midfield partner Manu Tuilagi.

Wales continued to struggle early in the second period, suffering another case of the yellow peril when fly-half Rhys Priestland was sin-binned after he tackled England prop Alex Corbisiero from an offside position.

Priestland had seen a kick charged down by England lock Mouritz Botha just seconds earlier, and his misery was completed as he trooped off ahead of Farrell kicking a fourth successful penalty.

Wales regrouped to cut the gap by three points with Priestland still off as Halfpenny completed his penalty hat-trick, but approaching the final quarter an intriguing – if limited – game remained in the balance.

Wales should have scored 12 minutes from time, but centre Scott Williams – on at half-time for Jamie Roberts – failed to find an unmarked Halfpenny, and England escaped.

It prompted Wales’ strongest spell of pressure since the opening flurries, though, and England had it all to do, defending the lead Farrell had given them.

Halfpenny made it 12-12 with nine minutes remaining, and then came the closing drama, courtesy of Williams and the video referee.

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Wales second-row Bradley Davies and Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris have both been hit with citings following the Six Nations clash between the two sides on Sunday.

Tournament organisers have announced the citings, which were made by match commissioner, Italian Achille Reali. Davies was yellow-carded for a reckless tip-tackle on Ireland replacement Donnacha Ryan, while Ferris received an identical punishment for his tackle on Davies’ second-row partner Ian Evans.

Ferris infringed in the last minute of the game, and Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked the resulting penalty to give his team a 23-21 victory.

Davies and Ferris will appear before an independent Six Nations disciplinary committee in London on Wednesday. Wales continue their Six Nations campaign against Scotland in Cardiff next Sunday, while Ireland meet France in Paris the previous evening.

Reali has taken his action under the International Rugby Board’s Law 10.4 (j). It states: “Lifting a player from the ground, and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground, is dangerous play.”

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted after the match that Davies was fortunate to avoid a red card, escaping with a sin-binning from referee Wayne Barnes on the recommendation of his assistant Dave Pearson. Ferris’ offence looked far less serious, but he now faces an anxious wait before discovering whether or not he will be sidelined for any part of the tournament.

For his part, Davies seems likely to land a ban, which would give Gatland a second-row selection poser given that World Cup locks Alun-Wyn Jones and Luke Charteris are currently injured and unavailable.

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards has praised Wales’ attractive style of rugby after they kicked off their 2012 RBS 6 Nations campaign with victory over Ireland in Dublin.

Wales came out on top 23-21 at the Aviva Stadium in a stunning game on Sunday and are now back at their Welsh training base preparing for this weekend’s clash against Scotland at the Millennium Stadium.

Edwards was pleased with Wales’ attacking threat but acknowledged that they will need to be at the top of their game when Andy Robinson’s side arrive in Cardiff.

“It was a really entertaining game and a good advert for Northern Hemisphere rugby,” he said.

“In attack we were excellent.

“We were slightly off the pace in defence in the first half after being on the attack for so long and we a little slow to get in line and we let them in for a try before half-time.

“But the lads showed a lot of fortitude and we came back well.

“We have played a lot of entertaining rugby recently. The conditions play their part in rugby but the brand is something you want to pay to watch.

“We had a day off and travelled back yesterday and today we will have our recovery sessions and then we will start the really hard work of preparing for Scotland.”

“Scotland are another team that play entertaining rugby and Sunday’s game against them will be played with the ball in hand.”

Wales’ RBS 6 Nations training squad will be just one player short of their full contingency tonight (Monday) after gathering for duty in Gdansk, Poland ready for a week of intense training ahead of their opening clash with Ireland a week on Sunday.

Prop Gethin Jenkins is the only absentee from the 35-man squad announced last week – he remains at home in Wales due to a knee injury he picked up during the Blues’ victorious Heineken Cup clash with Racing Metro on Sunday – but it is hoped he will travel to the Cetniewo Camp in Gdansk to meet up with his international colleagues before the week is out.

Training begins in earnest tomorrow (Tuesday), with Monday used primarily as a travel and recovery day, although it did include the cryotherapy sessions which are being utilised by Wales at the Olympic sports village to aid the recovery process, both from injury and training.

Scarlets fly-half Rhys Priestland (knee) and Dragons back row Dan Lydiate (ankle) both also left the pitch during their respective European matches this weekend, but both players will train in Poland whilst managing their injuries.
Blues centre Jamie Roberts (knee) is progressing well, he will also continue his rehabilitation on Eastern European soil.

Clermont full-back Lee Byrne, who left the field of play with a problem with his thumb at the weekend, has sustained no lasting damage and he is able to take a full part in what will be a tough week this week.

WALES’ SIX NATIONS FIXTURES

  • Sunday, 5 February v Ireland (Dublin)
  • Sunday, 12 February v Scotland (Cardiff)
  • Saturday, 25 February v England (Twickenham)
  • Saturday, 10 March v Italy (Cardiff)
  • Saturday, 17 March v France (Cardiff)

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