Sunday, 8 February 2015

England victorious in first round of RBS 6 Nations

On a rather chilly Friday night, an emphatic England team travelled over the bridge to beat Wales in the opening round of the RBS 6 Nations. Despite going 10 points down early on in the first half, England put in a dominant and controlled performance which left Wales little room to manoeuvre round the impressive English defence. England had many ghosts to banish from two years ago, and it could be said that the odds were somewhat stacked against them; a hospital wing of injuries, 290 caps fewer than their opponents, playing away from home, and thousands of passionate Welsh supporters baying for English blood (although perhaps not literally...).

An early penalty conceded in the first 2 minutes was hardly the start that Lancaster would have wanted from his team, and a converted try by Rhys Webb resulting from sublime hands from Welsh number 8 Faletau, hinted at the danger the men in red were capable of. However, momentum soon swung in the way of the visitors who went in to the half time break close on the heels of the home side at 16 points to 8 off the back of a superb combination between Brown and Watson to give England their first try of the match. England were clearly the dominant side in the second half, keeping Wales scoreless and looking dangerous in all the right areas of the field. A brilliant individual try from centre Jonathan Joseph, combined with Ford's penalties, led England to a momentous 21-16 victory which will be remembered by many an English fan for a long time.

Individual performances were key to England's success, with each player stepping up to the plate and delivering when it counted. Chris Robshaw gave a captain's performance, setting the example for his team by being everywhere and anywhere with barely a blade of grass untouched, with fellow flanker James Haskell also putting in a colossal performance and adding muscle combined with mobility to a dominant England pack. The new combination in the centres was a pivotal talking point in lead up to the match, but both Joseph and Burrell proved their worth throughout the 80 minutes with dangerous gain line successes. The back three also put in blinding performances, not least that by Anthony Watson who gave us a glimpse of the dangerous attacking game that he possesses. Scrum half Ben Youngs was fundamental to England's success; increasing the tempo of the game by constantly questioning Wales' usually stalwart defence, and combining with precision with Ford who controlled the game with a consistency and maturity far beyond his 21 years. 

In summary, it is hard to pick out one outstanding performer; the entire team, including the mightily strong bench, combined to produce an outstanding performance and victory that no doubt will be remembered by English and Welsh fans alike, for many years to come. Eyes will now undoubtedly shift towards the oncoming group stages of the 2015 World cup, in which these two sides will face each other again. England seem to have gotten the upper-hand in this encounter, and it is Wales who will have a lot to prove over the next 8 months.

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