Five things we learned after round one of the Six Nations
Johnny Watterson on the talking points after the first weekend of Six Nations rugby
Robbie Henshaw consoles Billy Burns of Ireland after his penalty kick fails to make touch on the last kick of the game. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Crash and burn
Billy Burns is a talented player but his last missed kick to touch deep in injury time against Wales will be the one people remember. With Ireland going beyond fatigue to get themselves into a position to score, the game evaporated in Ireland’s hands with poor execution. Burns must be able to manage games better than he did. With five minutes remaining in the match he kicked cross field to Jordan Larmour. It didn’t come off and Wales got possession to go back down field against a team one man down. In all, soul destroying.
What’s good for the goose . . .
Peter O’Mahony’s rash challenge on the Wales tighthead prop Tomos Francis after 14 minutes was correctly seen as a red card offence. There was nothing malicious in O’Mahony’s charge into the breakdown but it was reckless and he dangerously connected to the head of his opponent with his arm. It would have been more settling for consistency, however, if Johnny Williams’ later tackle on Garry Ringrose was also examined by Wayne Barnes. The Welsh centre went off for a HIA afterwards, while Ringrose was just inches away from another serious jaw injury.
At 69 minutes and 20 seconds Johnny Sexton was muttering to himself. Disappointed, frustrated, he knew if he was to be taken off for a HIA that was the end of his participation in the match. The replays show that his head made a definite and substantial connection with the knee of backrow Justin Tipuric. Last week was the 10th anniversary of the death of 14-year-old Carrickfergus schoolboy Benjamin Robinson from second impact syndrome. Sexton’s indignation was understandable but an important and correct decision by Irish medics.
Tadgh Beirne showed again just why he is so proficient at turning over the ball. At the important moment, though, t was not a turnover but Ireland’s first half try. The point is Beirne’s anticipation of where the ball was going to end up and his energy to get there had him hovering over a grounded Josh van der Flier. As Henshaw changed direction and punched through the Welsh defence, the openside flanker was in support. But when he was stopped just short of the line it was Beirne at hand to take delivery of the ball and dot down.
Stuart Hogg, the Scotland fullback, has firmly placed himself foremost in the thoughts of British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland as the first choice in this summer’s proposed tour to South Africa. The Scottish captain won man of the match in the opening win against England at Twickenham with an exceptional all round display. His high ball catching and counter attacking with both ball in hand and territorial kicking were flawless. An incredible ‘spiral’ kick on 55 minutes from just outside his 22 metre-line still has people spinning.