The 2023 6 Nations rugby tournament resumed at the weekend after a two-week break (one weekend off) with another two matches on Saturday and one on Sunday.
In the first match, table-toppers (on points difference from Scotland) Ireland travelled to Rome to take on an Italian side brimming with confidence despite two defeats in two games.
In the first half, Ireland came racing out of the blocks and had a try disallowed after just 90 seconds when James Lowe was adjudged to have lost control of the ball while grounding; however, less than a minute later, captain James Ryan did open the scoring. Italy did not drop their heads and instead Varney scored at the other end for the home team. Ireland pushed ahead and played some scintillating rugby to dash into a 14-point lead, with Keenan, Aki and Hansen all touching down to secure a try bonus point before half-time. Italy still did not give up and scored an intercept try due before half-time to keep them in the game. HT Italy 17, Ireland 24
The second half was a much more cagey affair, with Italy improving their defence and also try to exploit Ireland's apparent weakness in midfield where Aki and McCloskey had not played together before. For Ireland, they managed for the most part to keep danger-man (full back) Capuozzo at bay. Italy managed to close the gap to just four points but Hansen scored Ireland's fifth try late on to secure the win and another five points to remain unbeaten. FT Italy 20, Ireland 34
In Saturday's second game, Wales hosted England in Cardiff. Wales came into the game on the back of two defeats, zero points and bottom of the table, despite Warren Gatland back in charge; they also had serious issues off the field too, with the players threatening to strike unless their conditions improved as there had been no clarity regarding contracts at the end of the season. Meanwhile, England were starting to build after the Eddie Jones era, with new coach Steve Borthwick trying to lift the team and produce consistent performances.
In the first half, just like Ireland in the earlier match, Wales almost had a try within 99 seconds after Faletau charged down Farrell's clearance only for Steward to save England's blushes (if not his own as he almost lost his shorts in a tackle). England were showing slick handling of the ball but Wales' forwards were successful in turning over the ball in contact. England opened the scoring with a penalty, but was not until halfway through the first half when the first try was scored, with Watson scoring in the left corner from a scrum on the other side of the pitch. Shortly afterwards, Wales got on the scoreboard with a penalty. While England were in control for most of the first half, Wales finished strongly but were penalised just short of England's try line. HT Wales 3, England 8
The second half was less than a minute old when Wales went ahead thanks to Rees-Zammit intercepting the ball and racing half the length of the pitch to touch down under the posts. But England responded with sustained pressure on Wales' line with Sinckler powering over for their second try of the game. Try as they could, Wales could not breach the English defence; ultimately, though, their own passing let them down. With just five minutes left on the clock, it was Lawrence who crossed for England's third try to secure the win. FT Wales 10, England 20
The weekend's Sunday match saw unbeaten Scotland travel to Paris to play against the #2 ranked team in the world. Both teams had to win to keep with touching distance of Ireland who were topping the table.
In the first half, France started strongly with Ntamack touching down within five minutes to open the scoring for the home side. Within two minutes, Scotland found themselves down to fourteen players when #5 Gilchrist was shown a red card for a dangerous challenge. France exploited their advantage and Dumortier went over for his team's second try of the game. Ramos, although converting the first conversion, hit the post with the second. It was all action: on eleven minutes, France's Haouas was also sent off, levelling up the numbers of players per team. As the players sent off was a prop, France had to make a change in order to be able to scrum, with Falatea coming on with back-row Alldritt leaving the field of play. Scotland were pressing hard but France's Ramos intercepted a loose pass from Scotland's out-half Finn Russell and ran half the length of the field to touch down for France's third try of the game, all within the first 20 minutes. Russell tried to make amends and broke through the French defence only for van der Merwe to step into touch before touching down. Keeping up the pressure, Jones managed to touch down for Scotland's first points of the game. Russell converted to make the scoreline 19-7 after 26 minutes. HT France 22, Scotland 7
The second half started with Scotland on the front foot, with Jones touching down for his and his team's second try, within eight minutes of the restart, to get within eight points of the home team. Russell was dictating play and was playing for territory. But France still had petrol in their tank and almost scored their fourth try only for Scotland's defenders to get under the ball to prevent a grounding. Scotland brought the ball back up the pitch to pressurise the French defence with they managed to do with just thirteen minutes remaining, with Russell converting his own try to bring Scotland back to just four points behind. But Gael Fickou had other things on his mind and, in the dying seconds, went over for France's fourth try, ensuring the win and a bonus point. FT France 32, Scotland 21
While Ireland were not perfect in Rome, they succeeded in gaining a bonus-point win against a vastly-improved Italian side. England are also improving and played some good rugby in Cardiff where Wales again disappointed. Ireland remain the only unbeaten side and are on course for a Grand Slam: however, their next game in two weeks' time is away to Scotland who themselves will be gunning for the win to keep their championship hopes alive. But Scotland, England and France all have two wins and one defeat apiece. If Scotland were to win against Ireland, it would throw the tournament wide open. Italy host Wales in what looks like a Wooden Spoon decider, while England host France which itself will be a fascinating clash: the loser will be out of the tournament race and would be left fighting for third place, while the winner could still be in with a chance of the title.