Weekend number 1 kicked us off with a fantastic match between Scotland and many peoples favourites, Ireland, where the Scots sprinted out of the blocks with a monumental first half that simply blew the Irish away. The tables were turned in the second half, where Ireland looked for a long time that they were going to come back and snatch victory, but the assured boot of Greig Laidlaw kept the Scots ahead for a real coming of age victory, blowing the tournament open at the first step.
The second match saw a rejuvenated France with their monstrous pack take on England in another nip and tuck game. France looked like a variant of the classic French teams, taking contact and offloading beautifully and keeping England firmly on the back foot. In what would be a theme for the first 2 weekends for England, the bench changed the game, with Ben Te'o eventually snatching an arguably undeserved victory with a well taken try late in the game.
The first Sunday of the tournament saw a glimmer of an upset, when Italy deservedly led Wales at the half way point before ultimately falling away in the second half, hindered by a costly yellow card, and Wales came back to seal a convincing win, scoring potentially the best try of the opening weekend when George North simply destroyed a tiring Italian defence to score the match clinching try.
So off we headed to the second weekend with Wales, England and Scotland 1/5th of the way to a Grand slam
Ireland travelled to Italy and led by the irrepresable CJ Stander, blew Italy away for the majority of the match. CJ and substitute Craig Gilroy both bagged hat tricks, Keith Earls grrabbed a brace and Garry Ringrose channelled his inner O'Driscoll to seal a huge 9 try victory and get the first ever mens 6 Nations try bonus point, just a week after getting the championships first losing bonus point in Edinburgh.
England travelled to the Cauldron of Cardiff amidst some mind games from both teams involving player availability, the roof being open or not and the status of Wales as a country. However, little of that came into the equation as the old enemies went to war on the pitch, With a few minutes remaining on the clock, Wales held a deserved 2 point lead, but an errant kick from Jonathan Davies was fielded by Ford, who charged forward and threw a great pass to Farrell, who in turn fired a pinpoint accurate pass to Elliot Daly who answered the criticism that he's not fast enough to be a winger by burning Alex Cuthbert on the outside and scoring in the corner. Farrell then slotted a decisive conversion to give England another narrow and probably undeserved victory.
Weeks 2's final game was another game of, to quote my Dad, brutal chess, as France and Scotland waged war in Paris. Ultimately it was the casualties suffered by the Scots that were a crucial factor as they suffered a catalogue of injuries that constantly disrupted them. However the new style France are a different animal to what we've seen in the past few years and they beautifully bludgeoned and battered their way to yet another very narrow 6 Nations victory.
If we want to discuss the impact of the tournament in terms of Lions selection, 2 men for me have stood head and shoulders above the others, Stuart Hogg of Scotland and CJ Stander of Ireland. However, the likes of Maro Itoje, Conor Murray, Johnny Gray, Ross Moriarty, Liam Williams et al have all showed glimpses of the quality they'll carry with them if they make the plane.
A lot of negative press comes around the 6 Nations. It's apparently low scoring, predictable and boring. However every game has been a white knuckle ride (bar Italy v Ireland) and we've seen some scintillating tries getting scored, despite the fact we've only seen one try bonus point, the attacking intent has been very obvious even though thus far, defences have been the dominant force. The tournament launched with 2 clear favourites in Ireland and England, yet Wales, France and Scotland have all shown they are capable of mixing it up over the next few weeks.
There is of course now, just one chance at a Grand Slam with 4 teams holding one win, Italy none and England 2 (and with Italy travelling to Twickenham next match, you'd be a brave person to bet that England won't be 3/5ths of the way there on Feb 26th!) but tricky games against Scotland at Twickenham and Ireland in Dublin lie in wait for the men in white, and I'll still hold my prediction of there being no slam this year.
We face an intriguing few weeks as 5 sides can still theoretically win the championship. Will bonus points be vital or will it be points difference? Can England hole there nerve and win in Dublin the day after St Patricks day? Will Wales, Scotland or France upset the applecart and take the title themselves?
Six nations, boring...... have a word......