Furlong, Jones and Allan earn NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match honours

Alun Wyn Jones with his daughter Mali 17/3/2018
The final round of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations certainly didn’t fail to deliver as Ireland secured just a third Grand Slam in their history, Scotland edged their way past Italy at the death in a thriller and Wales did enough to see off France in Cardiff.

The final round of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations certainly didn’t fail to deliver as Ireland secured just a third Grand Slam in their history, Scotland edged their way past Italy at the death in a thriller and Wales did enough to see off France in Cardiff.

There were a slew of impressive performances across the games but three men in particular stood out and were named as the NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match.

Vote for the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations Player of the Championship

Tadhg Furlong shone for the Irish at Twickenham, Alun Wyn Jones was totemic for Wales, while Tommaso Allan pulled the strings in Rome and was unfortunate to find himself on the losing side.   Furlong’s finesse

Gone are the days when props are nothing but scrummaging machines, kept away from handling the ball at all costs.

However, even by modern tighthead standards, Tadhg Furlong’s handling is something special and it was on full display as Ireland made it a perfect St Patrick’s Day by securing a Grand Slam at Twickenham.

It was first home defeat in the Championship for England since 2012 – and Ireland’s first victory there since 2010 – with Furlong instrumental in the 24-15 triumph.

The 25-year-old was relentless in defence – making 18 tackles and missing none – and a juggernaut in attack, as CJ Stander was the only Irishman to make more than his 12 carries.

But the prop’s standout moment undoubtedly came in setting up Stander’s 23rd-minute try.

Ireland set up to run the familiar Johnny Sexton loop but the ball was instead fed to Furlong, who feigned to rumble into contact only to slip the deftest of passes inside to the charging Bundee Aki, who assisted Stander for the score.

“Joe [coach Joe Schmidt] came up with the move,” explained Furlong after being named as NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match. “I probably had to practise it a bit during the week.

“Fair play to Bundee, he took the line off me while Johnny was wrapping around. The lads worked hard off the back of it, CJ did well to grunt his way to the post.

“You have to be satisfied to come to Twickenham and win a Grand Slam. It’s never easy – there’s been a lot of hype all week and, in some ways, it’s nice to be in that bubble, the cocoon of players.

“Everyone is nose-to-the-ground and trying to work as hard as they could for each other.”   Jones leads from the front

Alun Wyn Jones has impressed throughout the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations and rounded off his Championship in style to help Wales finish second in the table.

In a match that came down to the finest of margins before the Welsh eventually saw off the French threat 14-13 in Cardiff, skipper Jones led from the front and made the difference.

He helped Justin Tipuric jackal an early turnover before getting one himself and was alert enough to grab Dan Biggar’s kick-off once it crossed the ten-metre line to set up Liam Williams’ early try.

He made hard yards on his nine carries, as well as producing a sublime offload and his 18 successful tackles speak to a sterling defensive performance.

But ever humble, the towering lock was keen to focus on the positives that Wales could take as a team from the Championship after receiving his NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match award.

“We had a big message that we wanted to finish this campaign like we started it with a win and we’ve done that,” said Jones.

“We felt the way our games have gone we could have been playing for a lot more.

“I think competition as a whole for us has been positive for us, admittedly we would have liked to have gone one better.

“A lot of guys have had opportunities and this last game we’ve displayed character which we’ll need going forward.

“I would like to think there’s more strength in depth now. There’s more depth in the regions as well, some guys are putting their hands up and putting pressure on this squad with a big 18 months coming up.”   Tommaso makes the Azzurri tick

Italy may have come heartbreakingly close to getting a first win of this year’s Championship before Greig Laidlaw’s late penalty gave Scotland a 29-27 win but Tommaso Allan was named NatWest 6 Nations Man of the Match for his brilliance from fly-half.

Allan played age-group rugby for Scotland and almost came back to haunt them as he racked up 22 points while pulling the strings from No.10.

He left Huw Jones and WP Nel for dead to touch down beneath the posts for the Azzurri’s first try, set up Matteo Minozzi for their second with this clever dinked kick and took advantage of a Jake Polledri offload for the third.

Add in three conversions, two penalties and the 59 metres he made with ball in hand and the 24-year-old proved he is maturing with every game in an Italy jersey.

“The more you play the more comfortable you feel – I feel comfortable with the team,” said Allan. “I’m happy with the opportunity I’ve had and now I have to keep working.

“I was especially happy to score a couple of tries against Scotland. I know a lot of their players and there is always a little extra – some exchanging of messages, some jokes on the field!

“Both at club level and for the national team, the future is positive. In my opinion we have seen a lot of positives in this NatWest 6 Nations, especially in attack – we have scored so many tries.

“In defence, especially in the first few games, maybe we had to understand the defensive structures a bit more and that’s a job that takes a bit of time.”