Category Archives: Rugby Union

rugby union match reports

Men’s Rugby Union: Wales move into second with win over Italy

Published 12 March 2018

by David Nicholson

WALES eased into second place in the Six Nations championship after defeating Italy at the Millennium Stadium yesterday and gained the all-important bonus point.

But this was a disjointed match that a new-look Wales had threatened to race away with after they eased into a 14-point lead within 10 minutes.

Despite the early Welsh lead, a dogged Italy refused to buckle and scored a try of their own to keep the match balanced for a while.

In an ill-disciplined display Wales were reduced to just 13 men at one stage as full-back Liam Williams was joined in the sin-bin by scrum-half Gareth Evans.

Italy played against 14 men for 20 minutes and failed to score in that time.

This was also Italy’s 16th-straight Six Nations loss and will reignite the questions about them being replaced by Georgia.

Coach Conor O’Shea was passionate in defence of his side’s place at the top table of Northern Hemisphere rugby but could only point to the victory by his under-21 side last Friday.

Italian coach and captain at the post-match press conference
Italy coach Coner O’Shea (left) alongside captain Sergio Parisse

“We have the future of Italian rugby in our hands and we are doing the right things. Watch where we are in five to six years to see our progress,” O’Shea said.

Centre, and man-of-the-match, Hadleigh Parkes opened the scoring for Wales with a nicely taken try after his side spurned the penalty, opting to kick for an attacking line-out.

George North scored his side’s second try within minutes of the restart after Owen Walkin burst through from his own half and passed for an easy score for the big winger.

The helter-skelter rugby continued as Italy also kicked their penalties to touch. After some rumbling forward play the Azzurri took the ball through the bands for full-back Matteo Minozzi to score in the corner.

Both sides showed their attacking intent by spurning kickable penalties, instead opting to kick to touch for attacking line-outs.

At times it gave the proceedings an end of term air as both sides played BaaBaa-style rugby.

But the Italian forwards showed their streetwise credentials in the first 40 minutes as they won the battle of the breakdown.

It was also a shame to see Gareth Anscombe carrying on the recent Welsh fly-half tradition of moaning to the ref about decisions.

On the stroke of half-time referee Jerome Garces took a tough decision as Liam Williams tackled his opposite number in touch, but used his shoulder in an ugly tackle.

Garces reached for his yellow card to jeers from the crowd after TMO Marius Jonker watched the slow-motion footage.

But within minutes of the second-half 14-man Wales won the scrum near the Italian line and Corrie Hill burst over for his first try for Wales.

But to coach Warren Gatland’s annoyance Welsh discipline frayed further as scrum-half Gareth Davies joined Williams in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock on.

Gatland replaced his errant full-back after the 10-minute sin-binning ended and sent on Leigh Halfpenny, with Steff Evans moving from the wing to scrum-half.

As Davies’s sin-bin ended Gatland replaced him with Aled Davies and also put on replacement fly-half Rhys Patchell.

George North went over from short-range to add his second try of the match and gained that crucial bonus point to take Wales second in the Six Nations championship.

With 10 minutes remaining, Justin Tipuric went over in the corner to stretch Wales’s lead even further.

Gatland praised Tipuric after the game saying this was his best display for Wales.
An impassive Toby Felatau (right) listens to his coach Warren Gatland talk about the Italy game.
Wales coach Warren Gatland (left) alongside new captain Toby Felatau
“Tipuric was outstanding in his play today and that was his best game for Wales.
“This was the first time that some of these players had played together and I was pleased with the performance.
“Sometimes we looked outstanding and at other times we showed that lack of game time together,” Gatland said.

England weather the storm for titanic win

England 12-6 Wales: David Nicholson reports from Twickenham

Published 12 February 2018

ENGLAND clung on for victory against Wales on Saturday to rack up a record-breaking 15th consecutive Six Nations home win.

Continue reading England weather the storm for titanic win


Wales 34 Scotland 7

Published 5 February 2018

By David Nicholson at the Millennium Stadium

WALES out-thought, outfought and ultimately outplayed Scotland on Saturday as they started their Six Nations campaign with a comprehensive victory.



The battle lines have been drawn. The nations are ready

DAVID NICHOLSON looks at the chances of each nation as the tournament kicks off today Published 2 February 2018

THE waiting is almost over, the fireworks are primed to burst over the grounds, bets have been laid and boasts given for which team is going to be the 2018 Six Nations champions. Continue reading LET THE GAMES COMMENCE

A Delicious Taster For The Six Nations

Published 9 December 2017

DAVID NICHOLSON can’t wait for the next round of internationals

THAT’S IT, folks. The international rugby union season is now closed and we will have to wait until the Six Nations campaign kicks off in February for our Test match fix.

So after a successful Irish and British Lions tour to New Zealand, the southern hemisphere sides decamped to Europe in November for our delight and fascination.

But just what did we learn when the southern giants are at the end of a gruelling long season, including the Rugby Championship and, for the All Blacks, the rigour of a Lions tour?

New Zealand ended their campaign undefeated, but really should have been toppled by both Scotland and Wales.

Unusually, the All Blacks looked tired and ready to go home, especially in Cardiff for their last tour match.

With a forward in the sin-bin the World Champions could have been vulnerable but actually scored and managed to do so against an extra man in the scrum.

In his post-match comments, coach Warren Gatland sensed the gap between his side and New Zealand was narrowing.IMG_3719

“The All Blacks can’t just put out a second-string side against Wales and Scotland and win comfortably,” Gatland said.

And that was precisely the problem as his side were mentally beaten before they started the game.

Gatland has realised that Wales cannot progress unless they change their direct physical approach, disparagingly termed Warrenball by some, to a more creative game.

The road to Damascus for the Kiwi coach was the way that Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell combined at fly-half and centre for the Lions during the summer.

Gatland has now tried Dan Biggar and Owen Williams together and it looks promising.

But because Wales gave Gatland a sabbatical to coach the Lions they are starting this journey much later than the other home nations.

And Wales have traditionally struggled with creating a strong squad with interchangeable players who are as good as the first team.

This autumn has seen many new caps, which is useful international experience for the younger players.

There were some notable successes, namely Josh Navidi and Steff Evans.

But the team still lacks penetration and struggles to score after second and third-phase play. The side goes back and forth across the pitch but struggles to get across the gainline.

In Scotland, Gregor Townsend has taken the side to new heights and fifth in the world rankings, as they dispatched Australia by a record score and narrowly lost to the All Blacks.

These are exciting times for the Scots — after years of a toothless attack that could not score tries, they now score at will.

But perhaps the telling game of the campaign was the six-point victory over Samoa. Townsend’s men scored six tries, but conceded five.

They also shipped four tries when they beat Australia and that softness in defence could catch them out in bigger challenges against sterner defences and better attacks.

Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Tommy Seymour adorn a team that is being talked of as possible Six Nations winners.

That is probably fanciful talk for this coming tournament.

But the intelligent and clinical way that Scotland racked up 53 points against the Wallabies in their final game will give all visiting teams pause for thought as they take to the Murrayfield pitch.

Ireland provided core players to the Lions tour but still emerged from their autumn campaign undefeated.

With victories against South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, coach Joe Schmidt is also trying to build more depth to his squad.

The wholesale changes against Fiji disrupted the team and led to a narrow three-point victory. Without Ian Keatley’s two late penalties, the men in green were on the verge of losing.

This does show why Schmidt is trying to add to his squad strength. A second-string England went to Argentina in the summer and won both Tests, while a newly developing All Black side beat France, Scotland and Wales this autumn.

The real bright spot for Ireland was Jacob Stockdale’s two-try performance against Argentina.

The 21-year-old Ulsterman now has four tries from four caps and it will be interesting to see how he develops in the Six Nations. Schmidt is certainly hoping the winger will grow into a top-level international star.

Ireland have now beaten all the top rugby nations in the last two years and this is reflected in their third place in the world rankings.

Eddie Jones’s England continued their winning ways, emerging undefeated from the autumn series and emphatically dispatching Australia and Samoa along the way.

This was still Jones tinkering with selections, building his squad and trying to sharpen his attack to have a more clinical edge.

England are still not as clinical as the All Blacks and only really put teams away with superior fitness and Jones’s “finishers” in the final quarter of matches.

That was how they managed to rack up their widest winning margin against the Wallabies.

Fitness is something other teams can work on, although England’s squad strength is not so easily matched.

Mike Brown had a welcome return to something approaching his best form against Samoa but the fullback is not sharp in attack.

The longer term must see Elliot Daly move to 15, to help England develop a greater attacking edge.

Come the Six Nations and Jones’s team should be bolstered by the return of Billy Vunipola and a well-rested Maro Itoje.

IMG_0696Which brings us nicely back to where this leaves the nations as they head to the northern hemisphere’s showdown in the New Year.

Eddie Jones is urging his side to make history and become the first side to win the Six Nations three times on the bounce.

Meanwhile, lurking in wait for the men in white at Murrayfield is a resurgent Scotland, waiting to take revenge for the 61-point drubbing they received at Twickenham in March.

The opening weekend sees Wales hosting Scotland, with Gatland predicting a close tournament.

“I think it will be one of the closest Six Nations we’ve had potentially for a long time,” he said.

With Ireland and England jostling to become world No 1 and Scotland, at last, fulfilling their potential, the 2018 Six Nations is a mouthwatering prospect.

Wales edge win in battle of the reserves

Wales 24-22 South Africa

Poor play marks final autumn international with teams ravaged by injuries

Published 4 December 2017

By David Nicholson at the Millennium Stadium

WALES ended the autumn internationals with a narrow win on Saturday against a poor Springbok side, who pushed the home team all the way. Continue reading Wales edge win in battle of the reserves

Wales lose to All Blacks for 30th time in a row

Published Monday 27 November 2017

Hosts just not clinical enough to hold back world champion’s onslaught

Wales 18-33 New Zealand

by David Nicholson at the Millennium Stadium

THE 64 years of hurt against the All Blacks continues as the World Champions racked up their 30th straight win against Wales on Saturday. Continue reading Wales lose to All Blacks for 30th time in a row

England Get It Done On A Wet Saturday Evening

England 30-6 Australia

Jones says his side got the ‘rub of the ball’ in victory over Australia at Twickenham

by David Nicholson at Twickenham

Published on 20 November 2017

A MESSY but tumultuous tussle at Twickenham in torrential rain saw England rack up their widest winning margin as they defeated the Wallabies on Saturday. Continue reading England Get It Done On A Wet Saturday Evening