Round 3 of the Guinness Six Nations was another thriller, with France succeeding in Wales for the first time in a decade, England overpowering Ireland and Scotland getting off the mark.
Les Bleus are now the only side left in the Championship with a shot at the Grand Slam after they produced a superb display at Principality Stadium – led by fly-half Romain Ntamack.
Stuart Hogg scored a stunning try for Scotland in their 17-0 win in Rome, while England made a winning start at home by beating Ireland.
Former Wales centre Tom Shanklin kept a close eye on all three games this weekend and gave his thoughts on where the games were won and lost.
ITALY 0-17 SCOTLAND
The pressure was on Scotland, there is no doubt about that.
The performance didn’t matter, it was all about the win. They needed it to get back on track, they needed it for their confidence and they got the job done.
I know what it feels like to be in that situation where you just need a win. With Wales in 2007, we entered Round 5 having lost every game and came up against England. You just have to come out and give it everything and, although you do that in every game anyway, you invest more emotionally and I saw that from Scotland here. Now they are going to be really dangerous for the rest of the Championship.
Stuart Hogg’s try was superb. He runs laterally looking for weak defenders and then just goes for it and it all worked perfectly there. It was not the greatest game but it does not matter, Scotland toughed it out.
Italy might have scored zero points but they are fun to watch. They have some excellent playmakers in Tommaso Allan and Carlo Canna, who played so well together again, so there is no point in them trying to play tight rugby.
They need to move the ball wide and release those exciting wingers they have. I also think they looked so dangerous with Jayden Hayward at full-back, while Matteo Minozzi has been very bright in this Championship.
It has to be Stuart Hogg scoring that try. It was an incredible score and it meant a lot to him, especially after that first game against Ireland where he dropped the ball over the try line in his first game as captain. You want to see people like Stuart do well, and he is back!
WALES 23-27 FRANCE
France have been superb. There is just something getting them through the games, even though I think they are beatable in this Championship. They are doing enough and the biggest thing I have seen is an attitude shift.
They want to get back and make tackles. The culture has changed completely and Shaun Edwards has to take a lot of credit, and of course so does head coach Fabien Galthié.
Shaun is the defensive coach but he is so much more than that. He is great for the culture, great for attitude and desire. Fabien will have his own imprint on the team but you can already see so much of Shaun. He is having an instant impact, just like he did with Wales in 2008.
Everyone took note of what they did in the first two games, especially that match against England, but they were in Paris. Can they win away from home at a ground they have not won at for ten years?
That was the question, and they had the answer.
Can Romain Ntamack kick at goal successfully outside Paris? To be a great team, you need a kicker at 90%.
They proved they are the real deal. And so did Ntamack.
As a group, they don’t have the hangover of losing games. They have come through from the Under-20s and won Under-20s World Cups together. It’s a different mentality for this lot than previous Les Bleus squads.
Wales will think they should have won the game. With the possession they had and the chances they had, they should have won it. But there were a couple of incidents that swung it for France. The possible deliberate knock-on from Paul Willemse is one, and then the Ntamack interception try is the other.
Wales made too many mistakes which took it away from them. They will learn from it but they just can’t make so many silly mistakes, such as the interception. France deserved it but Wales will be very frustrated with the defeat.
For now, let’s just celebrate that France are back. It’s been a while and, in Ntamack, Ollivon, Dupont and Alldritt, you can see a spine of a great team emerging. They are going to be a force for a long time.
Intercept tries come against the run of play and France gambled, Ntamack gambled and luckily for them it paid off. If Nick Tompkins holds that ball for an extra second then he goes past Ntamack and he has two Wales players to his left he can pass to and that could be a try.
It’s a massive moment in the Championship.
ENGLAND 24-12 IRELAND
Pure power won this for England and they were excellent in that first half against Ireland, who incidentally did exactly the same to Wales in Round 2.
What CJ Stander and Cian Healy did to Wales, Manu Tuilagi, Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje did to Ireland and it was just immense throughout.
England defended well. They drifted across the pitch at times and did not commit, and then at others they blitzed so hard. They stopped Ireland from playing.
England had a great first half and Sexton’s missed penalty was a big moment because it left them so far behind. Robbie Henshaw’s try was a good one but they needed to score again and England kept them out.
The one standout area of the game for me was England’s scrum. They were just immense all day and just cracked Ireland throughout.
I thought Ireland would have been more emotionally charged because of their loss to England last year in the Championship, but that was not evident. You get a sense of where a game is going to go in the first five minutes and you knew early on that this would be an England win.
I think England will also think they should have had a bonus point because this Championship could come down to that and that could be a missed opportunity.
For Ireland, it was just one of those days. They have players in form but they just didn’t execute quite how they would have liked.
They will analyse it and fix things quite quickly. They were quality against Wales and you don’t become a bad team overnight.
The fumble from Sexton that led to the Ford try was a tough moment, because it can happen to anyone. Jordan Larmour has hedged his bets and was covering the blindside instead of the open field, and sometimes you have to do that as a full-back, but it leaves open space. I think nine times out of ten, it’s not a try and Sexton gets there to put it down. But this time the bounce startled Johnny and Ford did so well to get there.