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The opening round of the NatWest 2018 Men’s Six Nations tournament saw no surprises from the three winners, as the pre-game favorites all proved successful.
Perhaps the two outcomes that generated some notice were the closeness of the Ireland win against France away at 15-13, and the 27-point margin of victory that Wales put up against Scotland, winning 35-7. In the third contest, England, as expected, ran over and around Italy 46-15 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italy 15 – France 13: Ireland entered the tournament as the second favorite behind England. France have played poorly in the two-years from the 2015 World Cup, marked by three Test match losses to South Africa, and near bottom dwelling in the 2016 and 2017 Six Nations championships. Les Bleus, playing for the first time under a new coach Jacques Brunel, sent out a young team that was lacking in experience. But in a dull game without any snappy ball movement, the French led 13-12 at the 83rd minutes. Then, Irish fly-half Johnny Sexton, kicked a 45-meter drop kick for the victory. Sexton stated that he realized the French were not going to give away a penalty in the waning minutes of the game. The kick can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOPE-F3lK4A
Wales 34 – Scotland 7: Hopes were high that Scotland had turned the corner on years of mediocre performance. But after a brief 12-minutes of play in Cardiff, they trailed 14-0 and never recovered. Wales handed head coach Warren Gatland his 50th win as a skipper of the Scarlet XV. Wales dominated all aspects of play, the club pleased with the offensive brilliance of fullback Leigh Halfpenny who notched two tries.
England 46 – Italy 15: England are the consensus favorites to win their third Six Nations in a row, a feat no other fifteen has ever accomplished. They visited Rome to play the Azzurri, perennially, the bottom dwellers with only ten total wins in 17 past years. Italy made it close at the half, behind at 17-10. In the second period, England exploited breakaways and overlaps to break open the game. The Red Roses scored three tries in the last 13-minutes. On the day, Watson and May scored two tries each.
(Tomorrow: Six Nations Women’s Results Opening Round)