Home advantage has always been a huge factor in the Guinness Six Nations. For a while it looked like we had history in the making and that there might be three away wins in the opening round for the first time ever.
In the end, Wales ensured that we will have to wait at least another year for that to happen by beating Ireland after a frantic closing spell.
France and Scotland did secure away wins in what was overall a superbly entertaining weekend of rugby.
There were plenty of individual pieces of brilliance, but what were the decisive underlying trends in each game?
Italy 10-50 France
In rugby having possession of the ball is one thing, but scoring points with it is another.
Italy and France had relatively similar numbers on the traditional measurements (53% territory for Italy versus 47% for France) but the Points Per Visit To The 22 Matchstat shows us that France excelled in one key facet: efficiency.
They were like a well-oiled machine, averaging five points every time they got into the Italian 22, which is the equivalent of American Football’s “red zone”. That is the third-highest total since that Matchstat was first recorded in 2019 (33 games).
The quality of player France have is exceptional. Antoine Dupont had four try assists and a try in the game and when you have players of his talent level in your team, you are going to be very dangerous on every attack.
The best teams are always the most clinical and the data confirms what we could all see with the naked eye: France are a very stylish and very effective attacking machine.
England 6-11 Scotland
The game at Twickenham was a very different type of encounter. Scotland dominated possession (62%) and territory (58%).
The data suggests that discipline was the difference between the teams. The infringement flow chart shows us that England conceded ten penalties inside the first half-hour and Scotland used that to build momentum on their way to a thoroughly deserved victory.
Right from the kick-off, England conceded four penalties in a row to allow Scotland to work their way up the field. When you compare that to just six penalties conceded all game by the Scots, and that gave them control.
The ruck location Power Game Matchstat gives us an insight into Scotland’s level of control. England had just 32 rucks in the Scottish half. Scotland, in contrast, had 72 rucks in English territory.
Scotland were also very impressive in the set-piece with a 100% success rate in the lineout and even pinched a couple of English throws, while their scrum also performed well.
On top of that, key game managers Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg controlled the game well.
It was a really impressive all-round performance and should give Scotland a great deal of confidence for the rest of the campaign.
Wales 21-16 Ireland
Sunday’s game was a thriller. It was a huge effort from Ireland to stay in it despite having a man sent off within the first 15 minutes.
Playing with 14 men is tough and while they were able to keep the ball (27 attacking minutes versus 17.2 for Wales), having one player less after Peter O’Mahony’s red card obviously affected Ireland’s ability to score points.
With just one point per visit to the Welsh 22, they could not take advantage of their control of the ball (61% possession). This is where these Matchstats powered by AWS bring us to a deeper understanding of the game – breaking down the efficiency with which each team uses their attacking opportunities.
Weekend in numbers: Dupont and Hogg too hot to handle
Once their energy dropped in the second half, which was inevitable after playing with a man less for so long, that inefficiency proved costly for Ireland.
Wales took their chances well and I was particularly impressed by George North, who really showed up well in the midfield, taking his try well and playing a part in setting up Louis Rees-Zammit’s score too.
Will Carling’s Team of the Week
AWS Rugby Ambassador Will Carling is a former England Team Captain. Every week, he will share his insights and explore the impact of AWS Matchstats on each round of the Guinness Six Nations, along with selecting his Team of the Week.