It's 1130 on Saturday night, and I've just got in from 14 hours at work....seems the perfect time to start a blog!
After saying I may not be able to do a round up this week due to working Saturday AND Sunday, I actually managed to watch 90% of the 2 Saturday games at work (on my Samsung Galaxy phone, via the BBC Sports app, so no big screen luxury for me!)
And in a move seldom seen on my blogs - I ACTUALLY MADE NOTES!
So here's my 2 pennyworth on the games....
England vs Italy
England again started slowly, with uncharacteristically for England,key missed tackles in the first 3 minutes leading to Sergio Parisse going in in the corner after some good Italian passing left Ford, Attwood and Watson clutching at air. In an event that would become commonplace, Haimona missed the kick for extra points!
Shortly afterwards, Mike Brown chased a chip with Andrea Masi, taking a shoulder to the head and leaving the England full back unconscious on the pitch for several minutes. The replays added to the worry for Brown in a very scary few minutes, but he left the pitch awake and conversing with the medical team (who were excellent throughout the situation)
England rallied with their re-shuffled backline and hit back soon after with Fords first penalty of the afternoon.
The Italian back row, dominant in the first 20 minutes soon saw what their England counterparts could do as Billy Vunipola crashed over in the corner with James Haskell on his back (literally) to edge the Red Rose into the lead, although with Ford missing the conversion, it was only a narrow 8 - 5 margin!
Just a few minutes had passed when Jonathan Joseph, now operating on the wing, capitalised with a long range gallop home after initial good work by Robshaw and Twelvetrees to earn a vital turnover. No mistake from Ford knocking over the extra's this time, putting England 15 - 5 up.
Haimona then missed his second and third attempts at goal before Jonny May turned down a 3 man overlap to go for a try and ended up turning the ball over. It was a carbon copy of Joseph's try from Cardiff the week before, but the line between success and failure is a thin one and May was the villain on this occasion.
Ford struck another penalty after 45 minutes before Morisi took advantage of some questionable positioning from Watson to score a wonderful Italian try. Haimona missed his 4th kick of the night to leave the score at 18 - 10.
Any chance of an Italian upset was extinguished after a quick tap penalty and scamper over the line from Ben Youngs from 5 metres out caught the defence napping and left Ford with a simple conversion for his 4th kick of the night, followed just 4 minutes later with a penalty and his 5th to give England a 28 - 10 lead that they wouldn't look back from.
Slick passing and movement from Ford and Twelvetree's set Joseph free on the hour for another long range try, and George Ford, with his final touch of the match, hit another conversion to give England a 35 - 10 lead.
Ford's replacement was Danny Cipriani, making his first Twickenham England appearance since his dominant performance in the Ireland match in 2008. Literally less than 2 minutes after coming on, Cipriani was the recipient of a superb offload from May, who drew 3 defenders before sending Danny over for a simple try that he converted himself and gave England a 42 - 10 lead.
Both sides emptied their benches, and it was another England player bought in from the cold, Nick Easter who found himself on the back of a rolling maul, crashing over for a try and becoming England's oldest ever try scorer! Cipriani missed the conversion, but at 47 - 10, England coasted to the finish.
It was, however, Morisi who would have the last say in the game, bursting through a weak tackle by May to touch down in the corner for his second try of the day, duly converted from the touchline by Tommaso Allen (Italy's first successful kick from 5 attempts!) to end the game at 47 - 17.
BBC gave the Man of the match to Joseph, but to be honest, apart from the tries, he was part of a solid, yet unspectacular performance. For me, it would be Robshaw, who again led the tackle count and I'm sure the stat was 40 tackles from 40 attempts so far in the 6 nations. He certainly is leading from the front!!
For me, England look better with Twelvetree's outside Ford rather than Burrell. He takes the pressure off of Ford, for one thing,has an absolute howitzer of a boot and can fill in comfortably at first reciever, his game is also a little more varied than Burrell, and i prefer to see Luther at 13. May and Watson both had rough days, with more negatives than positives, but i wouldn't expect to see too many changes for the Ireland game even though England never seemed to be out of 3rd gear for this one.
Final comment for this game, John Lacey, the referee, was great. Let the game flow, nothing controversial, used the TMO well, could well be my new favourite ref....
Ireland vs France.
A lot less to write about for this game. As good as Lacey was in the first game, Wayne Barnes was poor in this one. Both teams had spells of wanting to play running rugby, but overly picky, albeit consistent reffing just killed the game off as a spectacle.
Ireland had welcomed back a few of their fallen for this one, and they hassled and harried the French into several infringements that led to 5 Sexton penalties and one for Madigan whilst Sexton was off with a bloody eye (caused in a clash with Basteraud!) compared to Camille Lopez 2 penalties and the only try of the match courtesy of Romain Taofifenua .
My notes for this game seemed to consist of "yawn" "this is boring" "this game has been Barnesed" but in patches, both sides had decent attacking spells.
Sexton looked great in his first Ireland appearance for 12 weeks, his kicks from hand were exceptional and he was assisted well by Henshaw and Payne, who despite having the huge boots of D'Arcy and O'Driscoll to fill, seem to be gelling nicely.
It was also good to see O'Mahoney, O'Brien and Heaslip back for Ireland, they are so good as a unit, it's great to watch!
France seem totally disjointed so far this tournament, more a collective of great individuals, but they'll need to find some cohesion if they want to have a good showing in RWC. They seem to carry out a flawed plan A (give it to a big bloke to smash through the middle) and then have no idea what to do with the ball and no plan B, Which in itself is a sad waste of players like Fofana and Thomas.
The French noticeably sped up when Kockott was replaced by Parra. As I said last week, I'm not convinced by Kockott at the moment. The best thing about him is Eddie Butler saying his name in his ridiculous French accent!!
Anyway, Ireland remain unbeaten and will be moderately happy with an 18 - 11 win.
Ok....it's now 11.34 on Sunday night! Part 2!
Scotland v Wales
I've mentioned the ref in every game so far, so I'll kick off by pointing out the ref is former Saracens Fly Half, Glen Jackson.... more on him later!
The first 10 minutes were pretty scrappy, lots of mistakes, lots of defensive penalties for each side, only 1 attempt at goal was made, and it was Leigh Halfpenny in the 6th minute giving Wales the early lead. It didn't last for long as a midfield turnover by Finn Russell took advantage of a mismatch out wide and sent Stuart Hogg round Richard Hibbard to score a great 1st try which was converted by Greig Laidlaw.
The game went back through another scrappy period that only really saw Halfpenny and Laidlaw exchange scores to leave the game at 10 - 6 before Wales started to play for a try and spurned a shot at goal for a kick to the corner. Unfortunately for them, it resulted in a clearing penalty for Scotland and no change in the scoreline.
A moment of controversy came on the half hour mark, and started a 5 minute period that probably cost Scotland the game. Chasing a high kick (a tactic Wales used very well throughout the game) Russell failed to pull out of a challenge with Dan Biggar in time and clattered into him whilst airborne. Ref Jackson took it to the TMO who rightfully said it was a penalty to Wales and a yellow for Russell, who to be fair, had his eyes on the ball the whole time, so yellow was fair enough. Halfpenny dispatched the penalty and the score closed to 10 - 9
More controversy came as Scotland attacked the Welsh 22, when Falatau appeared to get away with a high tackle and Wales broke clear to score through Webb. No TMO was asked for, despite Jonathan Davies seeming to run an NFL style blocking line in front of Webb stopping the Scottish defence from making the tackle. The commentary seemed to think it was fair, I'm not so sure.Halfpenny knocked over his 4th kick and Wales 10 points in 3 minutes made the score 10 - 16.
The sides were evened out at 14 men each, when Jonathan Davies clattered into Johnnie Beattie in the air, we took another trip to the TMO and a yellow card was again the right call. This lead to 5 minutes of incredible Scottish pressure, starting with a 20 meter rolling maul. The Welsh soaked up the pressure and held out, holding Laidlaw up over the line to draw the half to a close!
Wales started the 2nd half with some ill discipline, 4 penalties in 4 minutes, and Laidlaw cut the deficit to 13 - 16 just before the sides each went back to full strength and in rather quick succession, Halfpenny slotted his 5th kick of the night for 13 - 19, and Laidlaw his 4th for 16 - 19 as the game appeared to be going down the same route as the Ireland v France game.
Wales Liam Williams thought he'd got another Welsh try when he was released into the corner, Jackson signalled for a try, but the touch judge talked him into checking with the TMO, which showed some of the most blatant obstruction giving Scotland the chance to clear their lines with a penalty. Russell though missed touch and a penalty was given to Wales in the subsequent play that Halfpenny missed.
Some twinkle toes from Jonathan Davies saw Wales finally get the try their pressure warranted and as it was right between the posts, it was a simple conversion for Halfpenny and Wales had a daunting 10 point lead.
Gordon Reid was worryingly motionless on the pitch for a long time at this period, and as with the Mike Brown incident a day earlier, the medical team were very quick off the mark and looked after Reid very well!
My notes at this point say I really want to like Jackson as a referee but he's missing LOADS. There was a couple of cheap shots and blatant ball killing going on for both sides (not to mention 1 attempt at a trip)
The rest of the game saw Scotland hammering the Welsh defence, and around Russell missing touch with an attempt to put a penalty in the corner, the Welsh defence was again superb.Hogg and Hidalgo-Clyne seemed to combine to send Mark Bennett over, but a knock on by Hidalgo-Clyne was ruled, but it was caused by Webb's high tackle and Scotland shaped up to go again!
The initial momentum was soon killed as Wales were awarded a penalty for Scottish holding on on the floor but the chance was soon regained as Wales infringed with just over a minute remaining!
Scotland crashed over with 40 seconds left, with the aptly named Welsh breaching the Welsh defensive line, with a brief clock stoppage for the customary Jim Hamilton inspired punch up, Russell slotted the extra's with about 5 seconds left on the clock. The final controversy came as Jackson consulted with the 4th official and called time up before kick off and Scotlands last chance to snatch victory.
With the 23 - 26 scoreline, Scotland once again have to be content with the 'Plucky Loser' tag.
2 weeks til the next round of games, and it's a potential championship decider between unbeaten Ireland and England in Dublin, which should be mouth watering, a potential Wooden Spoon decider with Italy going to Murrayfield, and Scotland will be hoping to chalk up a win, and the final game see's Wales go to Paris to play France in a battle of the inconsistent!!!!