Weekend in numbers: French flair, brilliant Beirne and dazzling Duhan stand out

Duhan 2000
It’s hard to know where to begin when reflecting on a day that truly lived up to the Super Saturday billing.

It’s hard to know where to begin when reflecting on a day that truly lived up to the Super Saturday billing.

If high-scoring encounters at BT Murrayfield and the Aviva Stadium weren’t enough, France and Wales concluded proceedings by playing out one of the best games in Championship history – or the best, if you ask Jamie Roberts.

And unlike the aftermath of most Super Saturdays, when rugby fans are left bereft and begin counting down the days until the Guinness Six Nations returns, there is still more to come.

But before attention switches to France’s crunch clash with Scotland in Paris on Friday evening, it’s time to delve into the MatchStats, Powered by AWS, to discover the numbers behind the Round 5 thrillers.

12 – offloads by France

The attacking talent on both sides was immediately evident at the Stade de France, with four tries exchanged in a madcap opening 15 minutes.

It set the tone for an encounter which saw France and Wales showcase the sort of rugby the Championship is all about and the hosts clicked through the gears as the game went on, peaking in a dramatic final 10 minutes.

Quick hands from Les Bleus helped keep Wales on the back foot and Fabien Galthie’s men made 12 offloads in all, with three apiece for Antoine Dupont and Damian Penaud.

A Dupont offload began a superb move in the 71st minute which resulted in Charles Ollivon being held up over the line – and there was no denying the skipper shortly afterwards as his score started the late fightback.

France will hope their attack flows just as neatly against Scotland on Friday, with a bonus-point victory needed if they are to claim the title.

22 – tackles by Alun Wyn Jones

For all France’s attacking prowess, they were at times frustrated by a wall of Welsh defiance – led by that man Alun Wyn Jones.

Going in search of a record-equalling fourth individual Grand Slam, the 35-year-old made 22 tackles in Paris – more than anyone else on the field.

Such determined defence took Wales within seconds of glory until the agonising late twist and Jones admitted ill-discipline cost his side, who had two players yellow carded in the closing stages.

While the nature of the defeat will sting, Jones can once again look back with pride on an impressive Championship for himself and his side – while he could yet be the man lifting the trophy come next weekend.

3 – turnovers won by Tadhg Beirne

The second course in Saturday’s feast saw an impressive Ireland record a convincing victory over England in Dublin, with Tadhg Beirne influential once more.

Whether deployed at lock or in the back-row, the Munster man has been a shining light for the Men in Green this year with two tries and two Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match awards across his five starts.

In Round 5, Beirne’s breakdown brilliance came to the fore. The 29-year-old was responsible for three of the four turnovers Ireland won at the Aviva Stadium to disrupt any visiting momentum and ensure the hosts picked up a first victory over England in five attempts.

14 – dominant tackles by England

England head coach Eddie Jones admitted the better team won in Dublin but praised his team for their commitment, and they certainly made their presence felt in contact.

The visitors made 14 dominant tackles to the home side’s four, Tom Curry leading the way with three while Jonny Hill, Kyle Sinckler and Mark Wilson crunched into two apiece.

England were ultimately unable to stem the Irish tide and went down 32-18 but their work in the tackle area will be one of the positives Jones takes from a testing campaign.

220 – ball carry metres by Duhan van der Merwe

Duhan van der Merwe has been one of the breakout stars in this year’s Championship and he ran riot against Italy at BT Murrayfield.

The wing has gobbled up metres for fun in an Edinburgh jersey in recent years and looks to have taken that form on to the international stage.

Against the Azzurri, Van der Merwe gained a staggering 220m with ball in hand, a tally which helped the 25-year-old to two of Scotland’s eight tries as the hosts ran out 52-10 winners.

Huw Jones and Hamish Watson were also in fine form for Gregor Townsend’s men, gaining 180 and 120 metres respectively, and Scotland will hope for similar in Paris on Friday night in what looks set to be a fittingly thrilling finale to another superb Championship.