Saturday, 3 February 2007

2007 RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship

So its here at last the first weekend of the 2007 RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship. The sun is shining and there are the usual mixed feelings of expectations, dread, anxiety and excitement. For the 2 ~ 3 hour period the rest of the World will not exist and all attention will be fixed on the ritual leading up to the game, the game and finally the post match analyses - excuses, praising, looking forward to the next match.

One of the lead items on today’s news bulletins is the indefinite suspension of all football matches in Italy, following the killing of a policeman at a match between two Sicilian teams. Hooliganism has been the curse of the sport for decades. How different from rugby. While punches might be thrown, the odd ear bitten or testacies squeezed on the rugby field, each teams supporters will coexist in harmony. Unlike football, there is no segregation of supporters, they commingle, drinking, singing, and teasing each other in the common joy of being present at the game.

Supporters will plan for months, their trips made every two years to Dublin, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Paris, Rome and Twickenham. Each venue having its own very distinct characteristic. Once experienced never to be forgotten the singing at the Millennium Stadium Cardiff - worth a 7 point start to the Welsh team. The Sunshine of Rome. The Welcome of Dublin. The colour and camaraderie of Edinburgh. The brass bands and flying chickens of Paris. The impregnable citadel that is Twickenham.

Last minute flights, buses on motorways, special trains all heading to three locations for the first three games. Today:

England vs. Scotland
Italy vs. France

And tomorrow Wales vs. Ireland.

While winning the championship is the objective, there are a number of subplots. Today England and Scotland will be playing for the Calcutta Cup donated in 1879 by expatriates serving in India. The Home Nations will be aiming to win the Triple Crown, beating the other three countries, and then there is the ultimate Grand Slam, winning all five games. This year there is the added interest of the World Cup to be played in September and October; the Six Nations Championship will be an indication of how well prepared each team is to take on the awesome might of New Zealand.

So much for looking forward. The time has come to put the computer into hibernation, switch on the TV and watch the first game Italy vs. France. Will Italy be able to continue the improvements made each game? Will France be able to recover from a very disappointing show against New Zealand in the autumn?

Italy could have taken an early lead but missed two penalties. France dominated the scrums and lineouts but Italy put up a strong defence until France scored a breakaway try. Italy nearly countered with a try, but a forward tried to score himself rather than pass the ball out to two waiting Italian backs. Following another try for France and penalty for Italy, the score would have been 17 - 3 to France at half time but for a further French try exactly on the 40 minute, giving a half time score of 22 - 3.

Within five minutes of the start of the second half France scored their fourth try. There followed a further try and penalty. The final ten minutes of the game saw Italy make slug like progress from the halfway line, but the French defence was more than adequate to hold the unimaginative Italian attack.

The French dominated the game but with Italy being so disappointing it was difficult to judge how good the French were. The final score was Italy 3 - France 39.

In front of an 82,000 crowd at Twickenham, after ten minutes play England opened the score with a penalty. Scotland came back with a penalty before Jonny Wilkinson put over a drop goal. After a period of probing kicks by Parks, Scotland scored off an England lineout. With the score 6 -10 in Scotland’s favour, the try should have given impetus to Scotland, however England came back with two penalties. In the 36th minute Jason Robinson crossed over in the corner for a try, giving a half time score England 17 Scotland 10.

Two minutes into the second half Scotland scored a penalty. This was followed by two penalties by England - which highlighted the danger of giving away penalties in your own half when Jonny Wilkinson has his kicking boots on. Jason Robison was then gifted a second try making the score England 30 - Scotland 13. In the 66th minute Harry Ellis made a spectacular break passing the ball to Wilkinson - the try was given even though the action replay showed that his right foot was in touch. A further English try followed before Wilkinson was substituted in the 73rd minute. After being out of international rugby since 2003 and having only played 40 minutes of first class rugby Wilkinson’s return was beyond anybodies wildest dreams. Scotland scored a consolation try in the 77th minute to make the final score England 42 - Scotland 20.

While the English performance was a vast improvement on their autumn efforts, it was mainly due to a strong pack providing a platform for Wilkinson’s boot and inspirational play.


Gorilla Bananas said...

"..punches might be thrown, the odd ear bitten or testacles squeezed on the rugby field..."

Sounds like chimpanzee warfare.

"Unlike football, there is no segregation of supporters, they commingle, drinking, singing, and teasing each other"

Sounds like gorilla foreplay.

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