Monday, February 04, 2008

the obligatory 6 Nations gloating

Well. I can only echo Doug's slack-jawed disbelief in the comments to the previous post. The England-Wales game has to be one of the strangest I've ever seen - Wales were desperately poor for the first hour, gave the ball away in contact constantly as well as getting regularly cleaned out at the rucks, and only some heroic defence (James Hook and Huw Bennett's desperate efforts to stop Paul Sackey grounding the ball at the end of the first half in particular) kept them in it. For all that England should have been further ahead, and paid the price when the Welsh got things together and England simultaneously, and inexplicably, went to pieces. Glorious stuff for the Welsh supporter, but I don't think many firm conclusions can be drawn. I was strongly reminded of the England-France game from 1997 when they imploded from an almost identical scoreline after an hour in a very similar way.

Plus points: the half-backs, Hook and Phillips. Gavin Henson had a quiet first half but put himself about a bit more in the second. Lee Byrne had a good game too, though Shane Williams had people tearing their hair out (as always) with some of his decision-making. Alun Wyn Jones and, inevitably, Martyn Williams did well too. Minus points: they need to stop giving the ball away in tackles and rucks. And if Shane Williams could stop trying to score tries from behind his own goal line that would be good too.

The other two games couldn't match that one for excitement. I stand by my comments about Ireland - Italy are much improved but they really should have put them away more convincingly, and the French were comfortably too good for the Scots without ever looking brilliant.

Here's a gripe for the IRB, though, as I'm sure they read this blog: forward passes. Have they stopped being illegal and no-one's told me? Generally it's the little close-range offloads out of the tackle that allow an attacker to pop through a gap that look dubious; Vincent Clerc's pass to Cedric Heymans in the build-up to France's first try on Sunday is a good example. And because they know they can get away with it, attackers run very flat lines so that the passer almost has to pass the ball forward to avoid it going behind the intended recipient. Which can be counter-productive as it precludes delaying the pass - if you do that the receiver will have run past you by the time you want to give him the ball.

Two other things: moaning about scrum-halves being allowed to put the ball into the scrum crooked is probably pointless, but referees could, if they wanted to, do something about defensive lines being constantly offside. I haven't done the sums, but I bet there are more interception tries than there used to be. And why? Because people are constantly a couple of bleedin' yards offside, that's why. Which leads me, in a roundabout sort of way, to the Lewis Moody rugby flowchart.

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