Saturday, March 21st 2009 was a great day for Six Nations rugby. Each game seemed to have something riding on it. There was some great rugger. The end of a 61-year journey. Some pride recuperated (France). Two away wins. Some things better left unsaid (Italy). Aside from the glorious sunshine that swept through the day from Murray field to Rome, the sporting entertainment was top notch.
Ireland beat Wales 17-15 to claim the Grand Slam for the first time since 1948, beating off the incumbent as well as the other pretender for the 2009 title in a tense, up and down match which saw the lead change hands 4 times, twice in the last 5 minutes via reciprocal, beautifully struck drop goals. Wales’ last gasp penalty kick, like their game, just fell short. Congrats to the men in green.
England handed out a 26-12 defeat of Scotland with some very enjoyable rugby (albeit mediocre kicking) to win the Calcutta Cup. I can remember when rugby had very little kicking, then went through a phase of too much kicking. Yesterday saw some great running, 8 and 9 phase balls. Scotland made a game of it, especially in the initial few moments with a penalty conversion and a startling run down the left flank by Thom Evans that was brilliantly stopped by Ugo Monye. Then, with 10 minutes left, Scotland closed to within 6 points. England then managed another score to put it out of reach for the Scot. Overall, the game was most enjoyable to watch.
And, finally, albeit in reverse order for the day’s play, there was France’s drubbing of Italy 50-8, a fitting reminder that it is truly a Five plus 1 Nations tournament. Italy (who have won just 6 matches out of 50 since the beginning) typically plays the role of spoiler in the Points For/Against category. The second, third and fourth places were decided on points (all on 6 points), with England, pipping France for second.