The Guinness Six Nations got off to a dramatic start this weekend as Wales produced a record-breaking comeback in Paris, Scotland went top with a bonus-point success and England stunned Grand Slam champions Ireland in Dublin.
It all began on Friday night as the Welsh overcame a 16-0 half-time deficit to shock France 24-19 and make it nine straight wins.
That was followed on Saturday by an entertaining Scottish win, Blair Kinghorn scoring a hat-trick in a 33-20 success, with Italy fighting back well with three tries in the last ten minutes.
Finally, England laid down a marker as they powered to a 32-20 success at the Aviva Stadium, handing Joe Schmidt his first home defeat in the Championship.
Tissot, the official timekeeper of the Guinness Six Nations, has invited some rugby experts and legends to share their views on the games and the teams throughout the Championship.
For round one, it is former France captain and coach Philippe Saint-André, who gave his view on the opening weekend, picking out a Top Moment for each game.
France 19-24 Wales
The Tissot Top Moment for France was the first half. We’ve rarely seen France that dominant and that good, leading 16-0 at the break. It felt like France would continue to dominate and that we would get off to a good start in the Championship.
We were up 16-0, had missed seven points from the kicking tee in the first half, but then old demons resurfaced. It felt like déjà-vu. We were not as fresh physically, we started to move a little less and make little errors.
The Welsh scored that first try and that started it. Uini Atonio went off injured, we were under pressure in the scrum and then you had Yoann Huget’s error. We need to find solutions, there’s a lack of confidence, I’m not sure if it’s fear of losing but there is also the physical aspect.
What is crazy is there are the resources on the bench with young players who add something. (Dany) Priso, the young second row from Lyon, (Félix) Lambey. When they went back in front, you thought that would do it.
Against South Africa, some of the young players struggled to control the game after coming on. There, it was experienced players.
Yoann Huget had a good first half and gives up a try and then Sébastien Vahaamahina, who took over the captaincy after Guilhem Guirado went off, who throws that 25-metre miss-pass which North anticipated, intercepted and ran 80 metres to score under the posts.
That’s also the beauty of the Guinness Six Nations – those little details win games.
Scotland 33-20 Italy
Following the Scotland v Italy game, you can say that the Scots dominated for 70 minutes, and did well to get their bonus point.
Then we saw the Italians, who never gave up and got three tries. Unfortunately for them, they could have got a losing bonus point and a try bonus point late on but it wasn’t to be.
The Italians showed some interesting things late on but Scotland were very good. Blair Kinghorn’s hat-trick was certainly the Tissot Top Moment for me.
Ireland 20-32 England
The Tissot Top Moment for the weekend for me was the huge game in Ireland, perhaps a final ahead of time.
We saw England, fifth in last year’s Championship, with their balance back in Eddie Jones’ team. There’s the power of the Vunipola brothers and Manu Tuilagi, even tighthead Kyle Sinckler, then tireless workers like Jamie George, Mark Wilson and Tom Curry and then talented creators and finishers in Henry Slade and Elliot Daly.
All that was controlled brilliantly by the half-back pairing of Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell. It was an incredible match in terms of physicality and intensity. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a team physically dominate Ireland in the way England did.
I watch a lot of English rugby. I commentate on it and obviously coached there for six years, so I thought they had a chance to win, but I don’t think anyone expected them to go and get four tries and a try-bonus point.
Iturria’s offload for Huget try
For me, the Tissot Top Moment in France v Wales was Yoann Huget’s try with the pass from Arthur Iturria’s Clermont’s back-rower.
With one hand he managed to draw in two defenders and then put Yoann Huget away. That was my Tissot Top Moment.
You have to go with Blair Kinghorn’s hat-trick for the Tissot Top Moment in Scotland v Italy. He went over twice in the first half, scoring on the left after Finn Russell’s cross-kick and the Stuart Hogg’s offload.
Then, he completed his hat-trick in the second half with a good support run. It was a great performance from him.
Slade creating and finishing England’s third
The Tissot Top Moment was Henry Slade’s try – his first.
It came after a scrum, he made a pin-point flat pass and then Jonny May puts the kick through and Henry Slade was there fastest to dot down and score the try.
That was a big moment in the game where England really surprised everyone.