Six Nations roundup: France end Wales' Grand Slam hopes, Scotland and Ireland record big wins

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In a Super Saturday for the ages, France came from behind to beat Wales and deny them a Grand Slam title in heartbreaking fashion.

Les Bleus scored their winner in the final minute of play, with Wales unable to hold onto the lead they had for the majority of the game.

France could now win the title next week when they play Scotland in their game in hand, but the French will need both a high-scoring win and a bonus point in order to secure the championship.

In the earlier games before the marquee matchup in Paris, Scotland took on Italy and Ireland hosted England.

This was a Super Saturday like no other, not only because of the empty stadia, but also because the title will now be decided six days after what was initially scheduled as the last official weekend of play.

Without further ado, here’s what went down on an absolutely thrilling day of Six Nations rugby:

Scotland 52-10 Italy

An emphatic victory for the Scots gives Italy their 32nd straight Six Nations defeat. As a result, the Italians finish with the Wooden Spoon for the 16th time in their history.

Scotland now have two wins from four ahead of their game in hand against France.

The Scots were clear favourites coming into the game, but it was Italy who opened the scoring after just six minutes of play thanks to Luca Bigi, who emerged from a ruck to power himself over the line.

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Italy’s bright start was then thwarted by a quickfire double from Scotland in the 11th and 13th minutes. Dave Cherry scored the Scots’ first of the game before Duhan van der Merwe bolted down the left flank to give Scotland the lead.

A penalty from Paolo Garbisi reduced the deficit to two, but Scotland then scored two tries in quick succession once again. This time it was Darcy Graham and Huw Jones who each crossed in the space of five minutes.

During the first-half, Italy’s defensive struggles were evident as they missed a whopping 27 tackles. The Scots’ dominance was asserted not only by the scoreline, but also by how many more meters they made compared to their opponent. Scotland made 661 meters, while Italy only made 199.

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The second-half began much like how the first-half ended as Scotland put the game further beyond Italy’s reach through Cherry’s second try of the game and, moments later, Scott Steele’s first.

With a blowout defeat ensuing, Italy’s lack of defensive discipline is simply not up to par with their fellow competitors.

Three Italians players received yellow cards during the game at Murrayfield, which is yet another testament to the work and training this young, Italian team needs ahead of future tournaments.

The party continued for Scotland as Sam Johnson bundled his way over the line to make the score 45-10 in favour of the hosts. The rout was concluded five minutes later through Van der Merwe, who grabbed his second of the game as Scotland made the half century.

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A thumping win for the Scots keeps them in contention for a top-half finish coming into their game in hand against France next week.

After another dismal display, Italy end their campaign with zero points from zero wins. Fans now continue to call for the Italians to be replaced by a more competitive side.

Could this have been Italy’s final Six Nations game? Will Georgia take their place in next year’s tournament? Stay tuned.

Ireland 32-18 England

Ireland finished the 2021 Six Nations campaign with three wins in their last three games to ensure they could still finish in the top-half of the table for what would be the eighth consecutive year.

Last year’s champions, England, are now set to finish second from bottom, which concludes an utterly disappointing title defence for the Red and Whites.

After a pair of penalties from either side, Ireland’s Keith Earls sped past the English defence to score the first try of the game and put Ireland in the driving seat mid-way through the first-half.

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The Irish then quickly cancelled out an England penalty with one of their own, before some fantastic attacking play from the hosts was finished off by Jack Conan to open up a 14-point Irish lead just before half-time.

The hosts frustrated England throughout the entirety of the first-half, with the visitors only making 33 meters during the first 40 minutes, 101 less than the dominant Irish.

The first points of the second-half came from the home side thanks to Ireland captain Johnny Sexton’s third penalty of the game. He then scored his fourth on the hour mark to move the Irish another step closer to a memorable final-day win.

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Ireland’s tenacity in both attack and defence was still too much for England to handle, as the visitors found themselves 20 points down and still without a try with a less than a quarter of the game remaining.

With England running out of time, a potential turning point in the match came in the 63rd minute when Ireland’s Bundee Aki was sent off for a high shot to the head of Billy Vunipola.

Seconds after the red card, England scored their first try of the game through Ben Youngs, who crossed from the lineout drive. Was momentum finally on England’s side? Not according to Sexton and co.

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Ireland’s captain scored two more penalties in the 69th and 72nd minute to give his side their biggest lead of the game.

Jonny May crossed for England with two minutes to play, but England had lost the game well before the final whistle blew.

After two defeats in their first two games of the tournament, Ireland end their season in high spirits after three wins in a row, as well as a chance to still finish in the top-half given other results go their way.

Despite their win against France last week, England’s Six Nations campaign ends in a let-down.

The 2020 title winners will take fifth spot this year, matching their worst-ever finish, which they also endured in 2018. A day and a tournament to forget for Eddie Jones and co.

France 32-30 Wales

In the game everyone had their eyes on, France denied Wales a Grand Slam triumph in dramatic fashion.

Wales were seconds away from glory, but Brice Dulin stepped up to the plate in the dying seconds to keep the French dream alive.

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To get this electrifying encounter underway, Romain Taofifenua powered over the line just six minutes in to get France off to a dream start.

Wales levelled it up soon after thanks to Dan Biggar, but Antoine Dupont, who has been one of the standout players at this year’s tournament, restored France’s lead two minutes later with a dazzling run over the line.

The score-fest continued soon after as Wales equalized once again, this time through Josh Navidi.

An exhilarating first-half concluded with a penalty from each side, as the two title contenders went into the break level at 17-17.

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France’s display throughout the tournament has shown how much they have improved in terms of their fitness and conviction on the pitch.

Les Bleus are not the lazy team they were formally perceived as and there is much to look forward to for France in upcoming major tournaments.

With Wales tantalizingly close to a second title in three years, many have lauded their championship mentality during the entirety of the campaign.

The Welsh were written off by many during the early stages of the tournament, but their tenacious demeanour in each of their games so far is why they are on the cusp of title glory.

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After a game and a half thus far, more of the same was expected in a second-half no one could keep their eyes off.

A Biggar penalty seven minutes after the break gave Wales a slim lead, before Josh Adams crossed to pull Wales further ahead. A long TMO check was needed, but Wales now led by 10 with the Grand Slam within touching distance.

One could only imagine the atmosphere if 81,000 people were in attendance at the Stade de France…

Les Bleus had a mountain to climb, especially since they needed a win plus a bonus point to keep their title hopes well and truly alive.

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Romain Ntamack narrowed the deficit via a penalty kick, but Wales hit right back with yet another penalty from Biggar to re-establish their 10 point lead.

It then went from bad to worse for the French as a TMO check not only resulted in a disallowed try for Les Bleus, but also in a red card for Paul Willemse after a nasty eye gouge on Wyn Jones at the ruck.

Tensions began to flare in the final 10 minutes, as a desperate France looked to mount a remarkable comeback against the title-bound Welsh.

The hosts got one back with a little under five minutes left play, setting up an epic climax to arguably the game of the tournament.

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What came next was a moment that will forever be engrained in recent French Rugby history.

Brice Dulin drove right into the try zone during the last play of the last minute of the game to steer Les Bleus to a priceless victory.

Utter heartbreak for Wales, who must now rely on Scotland to stop the French if they are to remain top of the table.

France’s destiny is now in their own hands. If they record a high-scoring, bonus point win against Scotland next Friday, they will be crowned champions.

Looking Ahead

After an astounding conclusion to the week five, it’s not yet over as France can seal title glory on Friday, March 26 against Scotland.

Les Bleus will need an emphatic win (20 point margin or more) as well as a bonus point to win the title. Anything less, and Wales will be crowned champion by the smallest of margins.

As for the other four nations, England and Italy finish the tournament in fifth and sixth respectively, while Scotland will be eyeing top-half spot at the expense of Ireland.

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