Six Nations 2015

/ Monday Maul

Monday Maul
How Wales, Ireland and England made Saturday super
Tom Hamilton and Tristan Barclay
March 23, 2015
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It was the Saturday to end all Super Saturdays. Monday Maul looks back at how the Six Nations finale unfolded in Rome, Edinburgh and London.

12.00 GMT: As the table stands, England are four points ahead of Ireland at the top of the tree with a points difference of +37. Wales are on +12 and know a cricket score against Italy will put them in the driving seat. Warren Gatland looks relaxed and speaks of the need to win by 40-plus points against the Sergio Parisse-less Italians. Despite there still being five hours to kick-off in the final game, the press box at Twickenham is already full.

13.18 - HALF-TIME - Italy 13-14 Wales
England +37, Ireland +34, Wales +13

Liam Williams bursts through for Wales' first try of the second half, Italy v Wales, Six Nations, Stadio Olimpico, Rome, March 21, 2015
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After a staccato first half punctured with frequent penalties, Wales are well off the pace and the organisers look to have made the correct call on not taking a trophy to Rome.No one in the Murrayfield press room is predicting the try-fest to come. "Well, I've seen enough" says one hack as he polishes off his lunch, while others are even discussing another sport entirley, chewing over Martin Guptil's extraordinary double-century for New Zealand against the West Indies earlier in the morning.

13.43 - TRY Wales - George North - Italy 13-28 Wales
England +37, Ireland +34, Wales +27

Stuart Lancaster wanted rain in Rome to impinge Wales' backs but to his misfortune, the Stadio Olimpico is bathed in sunlight. It is the perfect scenario for George North who darts over after Liam Williams' break. Suddenly Wales look to have found some timely momentum.

13.53 - TRY Wales - George North (hat-trick) - Italy 13-42 Wales
Wales +41, England +37, Ireland +33

And 10 minutes later, North trots over for his hat-trick and the 25 -point advantage England had looks vulnerable. He looks back to his 2013 best and Wales are looking hungry as Italy wilt under the overly officious refereeing of Chris Pollock.

14.17 - TRY Italy - Leonardo Sarto - Italy 18-61 Wales
Wales +55, England +37, Ireland +33

Seven minutes previous, Scott Williams has scored arguably the try of the Six Nations and for all the world, it looks like Gareth Davies is going to canter in for another Wales score. But he knocks it on and from the subsequent scrum, Wales' defence is asleep and Leonardo Sarto goes over in the corner to cut Wales' advantage to 43 points in the match and 18 over England.

14.19 - FULL-TIME - Italy 20-61 Wales
Wales +53, England +37, Ireland +33

Leonardo Sarto scores © Getty Images
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Luciano Orquera hits a wobbly conversion and Wales have done all they can. Twickenham cheers the ugliest of kicks. "We'll see what happens in the next few hours and hopefully that last try hasn't cost us," Gatland says. "That last seven points might have made a difference but hopefully it puts Ireland and England under a little bit of pressure. We spoke at half-time about being accurate and we've given ourselves a shot."

Alun Wyn Jones put in a monumental performance but it is a case of waiting for events in Murrayfield and Twickenham to unfold. Ireland are 20 points behind Wales and England 16.

14.25 - Five minutes from kick-off at Murrayfield and Irish nerves are already jangling. Through all the pre-match entertainment, news of Wales' 61-point haul against Italy is making its way among the crowd, with the visitors facing up to the grim prospect of having to do something that has evaded them all tournament - score a hatful of tries. Twickenham clutches its plastic-glass beers and for the next two hours, everyone wearing a white red-rose adorned shirt is a Scotland supporter.

14.35 - TRY - Paul O'Connell - Scotland 0-7 Ireland
Wales +53, Ireland +40, England +37,

Barely 10 minutes later and that Wales' target is looking doable. Playing in what could well be his final Six Nations, Ireland skipper Paul O'Connell scoops up the ball after it goes through nine phases and dives over to score the visitors' opening try. The roar from the 'away' fans in Murrayfield is loud enough to make you think we are in Dublin.

15.00 - TRY - Finn Russell - Scotland 10-17 Ireland
Wales +53, Ireland +40, England +37,

Half an hour into the match and things are looking rosy for Ireland. Sean O'Brien has added a second try and Sexton a penalty to put them 17-3 to the good. But then comes a spanner in the Irish works in the form of a Finn Russell try. The Scotland fly-half scurries over on the left wing after an excellent break by Stuart Hogg. Add a conversion and Ireland's advantage is cut to just seven points. The West Car Park at Twickenham cheers each Scottish attack.

15.25 - England arrive at Twickenham as Ireland rack up the points against Scotland.

16.09 - TMO REVIEW - No try for Stuart Hogg - Scotland 10-40 Ireland
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +37

Ireland are sitting pretty as outright championship leaders, with the pressure all on England ahead of their crucial meeting with France later in the evening. Four minutes earlier, O'Brien goes over for his second try and Ireland's fourth, extending their advantage to 30 points, nine more than needed to supplant Wales. But then Stuart Hogg goes over for a Scotland try! Or does he? Jamie Heaslip blasts him with what could turn out to be a title-saving tackle and television replays shows the fullback dropping the ball over the line a split second before grounding it. Certain Irish reporters drop all pretence of neutrality and go bananas in the press seats. The West Car Park at Twickenham curses Hogg's slippery hands.

16.14 - FULL-TIME - Scotland 10-40 Ireland
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +37

Full-time at Murrayfield, Ireland have won by 30 points. England know they have to beat France by 26 points, a titanic undertaking. News of the margin spreads around Twickenham and Stuart Lancaster, who could not bare to watch the events in Edinburgh, informs his players as the band on the field strikes up The Great Escape.

17.00 - Several thousand inebriated Ireland fans have packed into Murrayfield's West Stand to watch the England-France match on the stadium's big screen. Irish-accented cries of 'Allez Les Bleus' ring out. For the next 80 minutes, these Ireland fans are French.

17.02 - TRY Ben Youngs - England 7-0 France
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +44

The game is underway at Twickenham and England signal their intent with Ben Youngs going over early on. The crowd dare to dream and such is the volume of support, the chairs are literally rocking in the grand old stadium.

17.19 - TRY Noa Nakaitaci - England 7-15 France
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +29

Noa Nikaitaci just about manages to touch down for a try despite Ben Youngs efforts, England v France, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, March 21, 2015
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One step forward, two back. Things are not going to plan for England at Twickenham. Their focus on attack has left gaps at the back with Sebastien Tillous-Borde and Noa Nakaitaci giving France a 15-7 lead. The latter is controversial as it looks like Nakaitaci is in touch when he grounds the ball... but it is given and Twickenham groans.

17.20 - The full-time whistle has long-since sounded at Murrayfield and Scotland have been routed. With England underway against France, Joe Schmidt and Paul O'Connell face the press. Are the Irish duo nervous? If they are, they're hiding it well. "Today is like a rollercoaster," Schmidt says. "We've tried not to get on and we just hope we're still in front when it ends."

17.25

Twickenham is eerily quiet, until Courtney Lawes marmalades Jules Plisson with a monster hit. Suddenly the grand old stadium awakes from its slumber. Fifteen minutes later - five minutes on the game clock due to a long stoppage to weigh up the Lawes tackle and the ensuing melee - Anthony Watson scores for England and there is renewed belief. La Marseillaise is cancelled out by Swing, Low.

Courtney Lawes connects with Jules Plisson, England v France, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, March 21, 2015
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18.09 - TRY Maxime Mermoz - England 27-22 France
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +42

This wasn't in the script for England as Maxime Mermoz scoops up the most delicious of offloads from Guilhelm Guirado to score under the posts. England need 21 points following the 21st try of a remarkable day. Meanwhile at Murrayfield thousands of Irish fans have stayed behind in the stands to watch England's efforts against France on the stadium's big screen. French tries are cheered with gusto similar to when Ireland had crossed the Edinburgh trylines just hours earlier.

18.26 - TRY Vincent Debaty - England 41-30 France
Ireland +63, Wales +53, England +48

England's task gets a whole lot harder as James Haskell is sin-binned for a silly trip. Lancaster looks furious and four minutes later Vincent Debaty scores. It seems fitting on a day when logic has been thrown out of the window that a prop is on the end of a winger's break.

18.47 - TRY Jack Nowell - England 55-35 France
Ireland +63, England +57, Wales +53,

England give themselves a chance of completing mission improbable. Jack Nowell scores after a lovely delayed pass from George Ford and Twickenham is starting to believe once again. The pendulum has swung a different direction yet again. England need one more try with five minutes left on the clock.

Murrayfield holds its breath while Twickenham roars as England put together a 13-man rolling maul in an attempt to force France back over their own line to give Ford the chance at slotting a championship-winning conversion. To England's dismay, referee Nigel Owens, who has had a superb game, deems it to be an illegal shove and there is momentary reprieve for Ireland. They believe they have finally scooped their second title in as many years but then France decide to quick-tap the penalty and have a shot at finishing their championship on a try-scoring note. Ireland curse as Twickenham leaps to its feet. But it comes to nought and Rory Kockott hoofs the ball into the crowd.

18.55 - FULL-TIME - England 55-35 France
Ireland +63, England +57, Wales +53,

Graham Rowntree consoles Billy Vunipola, England v France, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, March 21, 2015
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Twickenham salutes England's valiant efforts while the celebrations start in Murrayfield. "Where's all your chariots?" is the cheeky chant from the writhing sea of green, as flags, scarves and more than a few pints of Guinness go flying into the Edinburgh sky. Ireland have won the championship and mounted their first successful title defence since 1949.

19.10 - Trophy presentation time at Murrayfield. It's usually festooned with banners carrying the slogan 'We're backing blue', but Murrayfield is green tonight. Paul O'Connell holds aloft the new-look Six Nations trophy as the fireworks, lasers and guitars go off. Champagne-soaked, he then joins Schmidt to give a second press conference. The pair hail England as worthy opponents, praise each other's talents and refuse to get carried away with thoughts of the World Cup later this year. In the media mixed zone, Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw can't find words enough to describe the influence of Schmidt and O'Connell. Their press duties finished, each man leaves the room to whoops and cheers of supporters waiting outside. They won't be paying for a drink of their own all night.

19.20 - A tired Lancaster addresses the press back at Twickenham. They have finished the bridesmaids for the fourth year running. "I want to congratulate Ireland on the championship. I'm sure it was a tense affair for them watching up in Scotland, pretty tense here, if I'm being honest. I said to the boys at the end of the game, I've never seen such a courageous performance from a group of players. I'm hugely proud of what that England team has shown today and throughout the championship.Also backed up by 82,000 people in a sporting environment that I've never been in before. It was incredible." The players cut dejected figures with Mike Brown and Courtney Lawes bemoaning Italy and Scotland's 'efforts'.

Ireland celebrate, England wonder what if and Wales curse Scotland's porous defence. But they will only dwell on that for a few days. The attention now shifts to the World Cup. More of the same, please.

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