Weekend in Numbers: Beirne and Faletau make the difference in Round 3

Hugo Keenan celebrates after scoring a try with Tadhg Beirne and James Lowe 27/2/2021
You can always count on the numbers to provide a fascinating insight into where games are won and lost when the dust has settled in the Guinness Six Nations.

You can always count on the numbers to provide a fascinating insight into where games are won and lost when the dust has settled in the Guinness Six Nations.

Ireland and Wales emerged victorious from two very different games at the weekend as they overcame Italy and England respectively in a superb Saturday double header.

Andy Farrell’s men kicked off the action by securing their first win of the 2021 Championship in style, running in six tries to defeat Italy 48-10 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

That was followed by a dramatic, incident-packed contest between fierce rivals England and Wales in Cardiff, which ended in a third victory from three games for the hosts.

And when you look at the stats Powered by AWS for both games a story begins to unfold, including the key areas of the two contests and the players who stood out for their teams.

125 metres carried – James Lowe

The spotlight was very much on Ireland’s attack in Rome after Farrell’s side struggled to find their cutting edge during defeats to Wales and France in their opening two games.

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And while there is still much room for improvement, there were plenty of positive signs as the visitors managed eight line breaks to Italy’s four over the 80 minutes.

James Lowe was one of Ireland’s main threats in attack and despite having a try ruled out, he topped the standings for the most metres carried as he accumulated 125m.

His teammate Garry Ringrose also passed 100 metres with his ten carries and managed to get on the scoresheet as the Men in Green demonstrated their potency in attack.

18 penalties conceded – Italy

One look at the Azzurri penalty count shows where Franco Smith’s side came undone against Ireland, with the hosts’ discipline almost as costly as England’s in Cardiff.

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Captain Luca Bigi was one of the biggest offenders as he infringed three times, but he was not alone as Marco Riccioni also gave away three penalties while several others also contributed.

Many of the infringements came at the ruck and came as a result of the pressure Ireland were piling on the visitors, with Tadhg Beirne their chief tormentor at the breakdown.

Beirne totalled 27 own ruck arrivals and 10 opposition ruck arrivals, completing 12 cleanouts, ensuring that his side maintained their momentum and forcing Italy into errors.

14 tackles made – Taulupe Faletau

It would be easy to pick a number of Taulupe Faletau’s stats from his Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match performance as he helped Wales overcome England in Cardiff.

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His 14 tackles were the second most behind Josh Navidi but he also led the way for the most carries (18) and metres carried (112) for Pivac’s side in an impressive all-round display.

Justin Tipuric was also his usual combative self in defence with ten tackles, taking his overall tally for the Championship to 55 – ahead of none other than that man Faletau (53).

Wales also controlled possession (56 percent) and territory (54 percent), assisted by the vast improvement in their lineout as they won 16 of their 17 lineouts and stole one of England’s.

2 dominant tackles – Billy Vunipola

By his own admission, Billy Vunipola has not lived up to his own high standards in the 2021 Guinness Six Nations – but that all changed in Cardiff for the England No.8.

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He was one of the main highlights for the Red Rose as he carried 15 times for 123 metres, repeatedly making valuable ground for the visitors at Principality Stadium.

Vunipola also made two dominant tackles from his eight tackles overall but, for all his endeavour, England were constantly let down by their own discipline time and time again.

They conceded 14 penalties to Wales’ nine, with Maro Itoje contributing five of those, and Eddie Jones’ side ultimately paid the price as Callum Sheedy kicked the hosts to victory.