Six Nations 2019 Round 3 recap: Wales create history, Ireland out of sorts & France's youngsters shine
By Michael Cantillon & Simon Mail
Last Updated: 25/02/19 8:51am
We look back over Round 3 of the 2019 Six Nations, as Wales create history and end England's Grand Slam hopes, Ireland look out of sorts and France's youngsters shine...
Wales 21-13 England
Saturday was Wales' day. They matched England physically, combated their kicking game and in a wonderful atmosphere created at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, had enough to go on and win the game late on - recording a record-breaking 12th Test win in a row.
Some stats? Before Saturday, Wales had beaten England in 1949, 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, 1999 & 2009. Well they can now add 2019 to that extraordinary sequence of results too.
In fact, Wales beat England in 1899 and 1909 as well - 1929 and 1939 are the only years ending in '9' where England have tasted victory in history.
Another stat? Wales put together 35 phases before Cory Hill's crucial try in the 68th minute put them into the lead - every single Wales outfield player bar scrum-half Gareth Davies carried the ball during that passage of attack.
And one more: In the first half of Wales' three Six Nations games so far this season, their cumulative scores read Wales 15-36 Opposition. But the second half? Well that reads: Wales 56-11 Opposition. Finishing strongly is a vital trait to success, and Warren Gatland's side have certainly developed that aspect.
What of England? For whatever reason, they could not impose themselves and dominate the collisions as they have done previously, and with that their time on the ball and territory was sharply reduced.
Indeed it is difficult to recall many instances which really hurt Wales defensively as the home side kept England to a misery three points in the entire second half - only the fourth time this has happened to England in a Six Nations Test since 2012.
Eddie Jones will be livid, but if there is one individual he may be particularly livid with then it is tighthead Kyle Sinckler. The prop's lack of discipline and propensity to give away cheap and daft penalties cost his team, and allowed Wales easy territory gains and continued momentum.
Italy 16-26 Ireland
What has happened to Ireland? Yes, they beat Italy on Sunday and got the minimum four tries required to post a bonus-point success, but they look unrecognisable from the side which swept all before them in 2018.
Last year delivered a rip-roaring Grand Slam, a three-Test series victory in Australia and history-making win over New Zealand in Dublin.
So far in 2019, they were comprehensively outplayed at home against England in defeat, travelled to Scotland and won via a performance which was far from their best and put in arguably their worst-ever display under Joe Schmidt in a scratchy win over Italy.
To put Sunday's result into context, Ireland's last four fixtures against Italy under Schmidt have seen them post scores of 58, 63, 56 and 54. By contrast, the weekend's Test was a struggle where the lineout malfunctioned badly and handling errors reached double figures.
Ireland look a group severely devoid of confidence at present - their next two Tests at home to France in a fortnight's time and against Wales in Cardiff the week after will tell us a lot about where they're at.
France 27-10 Scotland
It was another disappointing away day for Scotland after being well beaten in Paris. Gregor Townsend's side were second best throughout the match and could have been on the end of an even bigger defeat with four tries chalked off for France.
There is no doubt Scotland were severely hindered by their spate of injuries including the loss of Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg. The stand-ins failed to take their opportunity though and it only emphasises their reliance on these influential players.
Gregor Townsend has engineered progress from Scotland over the last 18 months, with their attacking game capable of testing any side - particularly at Murrayfield. But it can only be seen as qualified progress because there is no sign of Scotland becoming a stronger side on the road. The defeat to France was their 18th in 21 Six Nations away matches.
France finally delivered in this year's competition and Jacques Brunel's decision to pick a young team paid off with Thomas Ramos, Antoine Dupont and Demba Bamba standing out.
Scotland made it too easy for them with a catalogue of errors but France have set the benchmark with this attacking performance, which yielded a bonus-point victory, suggesting there are signs of encouragement despite a tough start to the tournament.