The Home Unions continued to perform strongly in NatWest 6 Nations 2018 with Scotland, England and Ireland all claiming wins on an action-packed weekend of rugby.
Ireland and England top the table after two rounds and remain unbeaten but Wales are also very much in the mix after claiming a bonus point in defeat to England at Twickenham to lie just three points behind the leading pair.
Ireland began the weekend with a powerful showing in Dublin, running in eight tries against Conor O’Shea’s Italy. Injuries to Tadhg Furlong – a precautionary early withdrawal with a tight hamstring – and Robbie Henshaw (shoulder) and the concession of three tries were the only blots on an otherwise good day with half-back pair Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton in excellent form, while wings Jacob Stockdale and Keith Earls were among the others to impress.
England and Wales were up next and played out an intense affair decided by a few key moments at Twickenham.
England made the early running, superb vision from Owen Farrell and a kick to match setting up Jonny May to race into the corner for a brilliantly conceived try.
Wales came desperately close to a try of their own but were just denied by the TMO while a second try for May put England in the box seat.
Wales kept coming though, and almost created a brilliant try of their own but England’s Sam Underhill was the hero of the hour, executing a wonderful cover tackle in the corner to keep Warren Gatland’s men out again. A late penalty meant Wales secured that potentially highly valuable bonus point.
The match of the round came on Sunday, France and Scotland going toe-to-toe in a brilliant and breathless encounter.
The first was sport at its best with the sides playing open rugby and exchanging try after try.
French wing Teddy Thomas scored a brilliant double from the left wing but Scotland replied with excellent tries of their own from Sean Maitland and Huw Jones, the latter the result of a brilliantly angled run to the line.
British & Irish Lion Greig Laidlaw proved the difference in the end, landing a total of eight kicks at goal in a nerveless display with the boot to steer Scotland home. Laidlaw showed his versatility too, lining out at out-half as Scotland were forced to adjust late in the game and was a deserved Man of the Match.
The Championship rolls on to a enticing-looking Round Three in which the Home Unions face against eachother with England heading for Edinburgh for a Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.
Wales, meanwhile, travel to Dublin for a mouthwatering clash with Ireland.