Six Nations: Jacques Brunel hails France win, Eddie Jones bemoans breakdown

Alex Broun 11/03/2018
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Maxime Machenaud (4) and Lionel Beauxis landed penalties for France, who were also awarded a penalty try.

England’s Owen Farrell (2) and Elliot Daly responded with their own penalties before Jonny May crossed for a try Farrell converted to set up a frantic finish to what had been a dour, defence-driven and often mistake-riddled encounter at the Stade de France.

The victory was France’s second after they saw off Italy last week to break a losing streak going back 11 months.

Allied to that has been France’s further dip in popularity after a controversial late-night, alcohol-fuelled drinking session following defeat in Scotland that saw eight players sanctioned by Brunel.

“France has gone through a tough time,” the 64-year-old Brunel said.

“I believe we can come very close to the best. Against Ireland (lost 15-13 in the last minute), we were there, we lacked just a little bit at the end.

“Against both Ireland and England, we’ve shown we can go up against them and we will continue to do so.”

 

‘A lot of good things’ 

Brunel added: “There were a lot of good things today.

“Our defence was remarkable. The line-out was a bit wobbly and the scrum as well. But there was a lot of energy and a lot of will from the players.

“There is a lot to be happy about. We knew that the physical challenge of the game would be a key factor. We controlled the ball and that upset them because they’re not used to it.”

Skipper Guilhem Guirado said he was “proud” of the team’s spirit.

“We’ve been criticised a lot, but we never lost faith in the squad,” the hooker said.

“It was a match of very high intensity but that’s what sport’s all about. It’s always good to win against England, it doesn’t happen too often. We’re going to enjoy the victory.”

England coach Jones saw his team concede a massive 16 penalties, with Anthony Watson also yellow carded for the high tackle on Benjamin Fall that saw South African referee Jaco Peyper award the penalty try to France.

“Obviously I’m very disappointed. We didn’t take the opportunity to score points,” the Australian said.

“The breakdown again caused us trouble. We improved in that area, but not to the extent we needed to. We just didn’t learn quick enough. There’s no lack of effort.”

Jones, who has now led England to 24 victories in 27 matches since taking over after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, added: “Any team that’s developing goes through a period where the game doesn’t like you.

“We’re in the loser’s chair and it’s not a happy place, but I don’t think we should get too melodramatic about it.

“I was pleased with the effort today, we were in a position to win the game,” he said, adding that any team was “fallible and has weakness”.

Jones said that “some teams are outplaying us in certain areas”. “The breakdown has definitely become more contestable. The contest has increased enormously, we have to find a way to cope with that. It’s not going to be easy.”

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Six Nations: Five key moments as Ireland claimed the Championship

Nick Purewal 11/03/2018
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Johnny Sexton lets his drop goal fly

Johnny Sexton drops Ireland to victory in France

Ireland were coasting in their opening-round clash against France in Paris, that was until Teddy Thomas scythed off the wing, bisected the cover and skipped between the posts. But just when Ireland looked to have snatched defeats from the jaws of victory for the second time running in France, up popped Sexton with a nerveless, 45-metre drop-goal that won the day. Ireland built some 41 phases in a final-play winning move that extended into the third minute of overtime. Ireland hardly merited victory, but on such stunning rescue missions are title triumphs founded.

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale - the Six Nation's top tryscorer after three rounds

Jacob Stockdale races away with the crucial intercept against Wales

Jacob Stockdale seals victory over Wales with a fine intercept score

Not until the final throes of Ireland’s 37-27 win over Wales in Dublin were Schmidt’s men able to gain total control. At no point before the closing stages had Ireland nailed down the win. So when free-scoring wing Stockdale picked off Gareth Anscombe’s pass and powered home, the entire Aviva Stadium breathed a severe sigh of relief.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 24: Peter O'Mahony of Ireland and Aaron Shingler of Wales during the Six Nations Championship rugby match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Peter O’Mahony leaps high against Wales.

Peter O’Mahony conjures a fine cover tackle and turnover against Scotland
Though Ireland eventually subdued Scotland by four tries to one for a 28-8 victory, the visitors bungled a host of clear-cut scoring chances that could have entirely altered the game’s complexion. Munster flanker O’Mahony produced a momentous performance of grit and industry throughout, battling manfully to nullify Scotland’s clear contact-area advantage. O’Mahony pulled off a fine stunning tackle on wing Blair Kinghorn that saved a try-scoring chance, but not finished there though, he leapt to his feet and forced a turnover penalty. At the top of the second-half, this was a vital intervention, with Ireland only leading 14-3.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - FEBRUARY 24: Johnny Sexton of Ireland and Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric of Wales during the Six Nations Championship rugby match between Ireland and Wales at Aviva Stadium on February 24, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Johnny Sexton has been outstanding for Wales in the 2018 Six Nations

Sexton fires a bullet pass to send Stockdale in for his first try against Wales
Ireland have spent large swathes of this tournament bulldozing through phases but at points struggling to finish off moves swiftly. No such trouble against the Welsh, with five tries the fruit of an attack-heavy performance. There could be no better tour de force than Sexton’s flat, fast and defence-splitting pass that sent Stockdale walking into the corner for his first of two tries in the 37-27 victory over Warren Gatland’s side either.

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 10: Garry Ringrose of Ireland slips past  Huw Jones of Scotland during the Ireland v Scotland Six Nations rugby championship game at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Garry Ringrose made a superb return against Scotland

Garry Ringrose’s runaround sends Stockdale in for a second score against Scotland
Fit-again Ringrose had only played an hour’s Rugby since January with Leinster before this encounter. It never showed. Not one jot. Instead the 23-year-old scythed and stepped through the Scotland defence on several occasions. And then he forced a runaround off Bundee Aki to fire a bullet pass to send Stockdale home for a score that all-but sealed Ireland’s 28-8 win over Scotland.

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Six Nations: Jacob Stockdale doubles up again as clinical Ireland claim Six Nations against error-prone Scotland

Alex Broun 10/03/2018
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Ireland's wing Jacob Stockdale runs to score his second try against Scotland.

A clinical performance from this truly outstanding Ireland side whose 28-8 victory over Scotland saw them claim the Six Nations trophy with a week to spare – after Eddie Jones’ England fell to a shock loss in Paris against France.

Here are our takeaways from the win in Dublin:

THE UNSTOPPABLE JACOB STOCKDALE

The 21-year-old Ulster winger has lit up this year’s tournament with his electrifying runs and he now leads the try scorer’s tally with six after a double against Scotland – his two tries taking Ireland halfway towards claiming the crucial bonus point.

The game hung in the balance on 22 minutes with the visitors clinging to a 3-0 lead when up popped Stockdale to take a perfectly timed intercept from Peter Horne on half way and sprint away to score the opening try.

Then with Scotland still in the match right on half time, again Stockdale was there to spin through a tackle from Blair Kinghorn and score his second try of the game, sixth of the tournament – and 10th in just eight Tests.

Those sorts of stats we are used to associating with great All Blacks wingers but with his speed, size and finishing instincts Stockdale has all the potential to develop into a winger just as good as Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko or Julian Savea.

He even won an important turnover penalty when Scotland looked dangerous at the start of the second half.

With talent such as Conor Murray, Jonny Sexton and Garry Ringrose inside him there will be plenty of tryscoring chances for 1.91m, 102kg Stockdale in the months and years ahead.

RINGROSE’S STUNNING RETURN

TOPSHOT - Ireland's Garry Ringrose (bottom) catches the ball during the team's Six Nations rugby union match Italy against Ireland at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on February 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Garry Ringrose was superb in his comeback Test.

Peter Stringer spoke recently about the difference between the current Ireland side and the great Ireland teams of a decade ago was depth.

And that was seen perfectly in the return from injury of 23-year-old Ringrose.

Ireland had played the first three rounds without the talented Leinster centre with Robbie Henshaw playing the first two matches before he too was injured and then Chris Farrell stepped in with an outstanding performance against Wales.

But then Farrell too was injured meaning Ringrose, who had played just an hour of club rugby since January, was fast tracked into the starting XV.

Ringrose fitted in like he had never been away with an outstanding all-round performance which would have seen him rivalling Rob Kearney for man-of-the-match honours.

He played a full 80 minutes, making 91 metres (second only to Kearney on 140) from 12 carries and beating five defenders (equal top with Keith Earls). He also made 11 tackles.

WASTEFUL SCOTLAND 

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 10: Rob Kearney of Ireland and Huw Jones of Scotland during the Six Nations Championship match between Ireland and Scotland at Aviva Stadium on March 10, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Scotland’s Huw Jones missed a couple of try-scoring chances

The Scots blew three cast iron chances to score – and by the type of players you would expect to usually nail such opportunities

Firstly Huw Jones – so outstanding against England a fortnight ago – did everything right on 28 minutes, chipping over the top and regathering. The line was at Scotland’s mercy with Stuart Hogg on the inside but Jones inexplicably threw the pass a metre in front of Hogg and the chance went begging.

Hogg was at fault on 50 minutes just ten metres out from the Ireland line. The Scots had a huge overlap and all the fullback had to do was find an unmarked Blair Kinghorn outside him but the pass was wayward and the chance went begging.

Then on 54 minutes Peter Horne was clear through with Jones on his left shoulder with a clear run to the line but Horne threw a wild ball which went over Kinghorn’s head again and into touch.

This trio of chances may not have changed the result but if Scotland had taken even one it may have greatly altered the momentum of the match.

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