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Rugby union: Wales, France, England win in second week of 2008 Six Nations

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The second week of the 2008 RBS Six Nations Championship kicked off yesterday with Wales playing Scotland at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. This was followed by France playing Ireland at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis. Today, Italy played England at the Stadio Flaminio, Rome.

Wales vs. Scotland

Scotland's Dan Parks kicked off the match at 1400 local time (UTC). An error in the first line-out of the match by Scotland resulted in Wales kicking the ball along the ground to the Scotland try-line, almost leading to Wales's fly-half, James Hook, scoring a try within the first minute of the game, stopped only by Scotland's fullback, Hugo Southwell. Scotland withstood the pressure from the following Welsh scrum, and went on to score the first points with a penalty from Chris Paterson in the tenth minute. Wales struck back three minutes later with a try from Shane Williams, converted by Hook, following a misjudged kick by Southwell that went straight to Mike Phillips. Scotland were then disadvantaged by the sin-binning of Nathan Hines, for hitting out at Lee Byrne at a ruck. However, they survived their time without the lock, the next score not coming until a 30th minute penalty to Wales, kicked by Hook. The 32nd minute saw the loss of Scotland's skipper Jason White to injury, being replaced by Allister Hogg. The final points of the half came from a Paterson 43 metre penalty for Scotland, making the half-time score 10-6.

The second half began as the first had ended, with a Paterson penalty four minutes after the restart bringing Scotland to within a point of Wales. This didn't last long, however, as Hook scored and converted a try two minutes later, following a series of drives by the Welsh. Paterson kept the Scots in it with two further penalties, to make the difference only two points in the 56th minute. Wales replaced their half backs, Hook and Phillips, in the 58th minute, bringing on Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel. Jones made his mark with a 65th minute penalty to give Wales a slightly more comfortable five point lead. Wales continued to pressure the Scots, and three minutes later, Williams grounded from mid-air with his body in touch to score a try, controversially given by the video referee, despite claims his foot had made contact with the touchline. Jones converted from this, and scored again with a 72nd minute penalty, which, despite late pressure from the Scots, proved to be the last points of the game, making the final score 30-15 to the home team.

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France vs. Ireland

Ireland's Ronan O'Gara kicked off the second match of the day at 1700 local time (UTC+1). France's first significant attack came in the third minute from a winding run by Aurélien Rougerie, squeezing through the Irish line, picking up about 60 metres, forcing Ireland to give away a penalty only 25 metres out. However, Jean-Baptiste Élissalde failed to capitalise on this early chance to score, kicking just wide. Within three minutes, France had got the ball over the try-line, but Julien Bonnaire was held up by the Irish defence as he tried to ground. The first score came from a 15th minute turnover in a ruck, and a disguised kick from Élissalde deep into the Irish corner gave Vincent Clerc, beating Denis Leamy to the ball, a simple try. The conversion was kicked successfully by Élissalde. Ireland responded almost immediately, with an 18th minute penalty from O'Gara. The French again managed to break through the Irish defence only a minute later, this time a pass by David Skrela setting up Clerc for his second try in five minutes in the same corner. This time Élissalde missed the conversion. The next points came from a second O'Gara penalty ten minutes later, to keep Ireland within a converted try's score of France. However, a 36th minute dropped pass by the fly-half led to another turnover, which initiated a move that gave Clerc his hat-trick try within the first half. The conversion was made, and no further points were scored, bringing the half-time score to 19-6.

The second half saw no score until the 49th minute of the game, when Cédric Heymans easily gathered a ball that had rebounded off Brian O'Driscoll from an Élissalde kick, bursting through the covering defence to score behind the posts, giving Élissalde an easy conversion. Seemingly out of the match, Ireland continued to battle, and were rewarded in the 58th minute with a penalty try awarded for persistent French infringing at scrums only metres from their line. O'Gara easily kicked the conversion to bring them within 13 points of the French. Ireland's hopes were raised further three minutes later when, following the introduction of Mick O'Driscoll and Rory Best, David Wallace was able to force the ball over the line. However, the conversion kick, that would've brought Ireland to within one converted try's score of France once again, was missed by O'Gara, leaving them eight points behind with 20 minutes to play. A 69th minute move by the Irish looked certain to result in another try, but it was not to be as a final pass by O'Gara to release Geordan Murphy was a foot too high and into touch. Ireland continued to put the French under intense pressure, culminating in a 75th minute penalty from O'Gara to bring the Irish score only five points behind the French. However, a tense last five minutes proved too short for the Irish, who, despite constant bombardment, were unable to break through the French line to score a final decisive try. The match ended 26-21.

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Italy vs. England

Italy's David Bortolussi kicked off the final match of the weekend at 1530 local time (UTC+1). England got off to a flying start when, after three minutes, Jonny Wilkinson ran onto his own chipped ball, before passing out to Paul Sackey, who sprinted through for the try in the Italian's corner. Wilkinson then converted to give England an early seven point lead. Italy's response came with two penalties, one in the sixth minute, the other in the 12th, scored by Bortolussi, to bring them back to within a point. The 15th minute brought a second England try, when Jamie Noon charged down and gathered a Bortolussi kick, before a short pass back to Wilkinson, himself making a short pass back to Toby Flood, who ran for the corner, diving over the try-line, to set up the conversion that would take Wilkinson to a total of 1000 points for England. A missed penalty by Wilkinson in the 23rd minute kept the difference at eight points, but nine minutes later, he successfully scored his second penalty attempt, to widen the gap to 11 points. A final penalty scored by Wilkinson three minutes before the break meant the half-time score was 6-20.

The Italians began the second half well, putting pressure on England, and earning penalties, scored by Bortolussi, in the 44th and 55th minutes to bring Italy back into the game. England again increased their lead four minutes later with a third penalty score from Wilkinson. There were no more scores for the next 17 minutes, and in the 67th minute, England replaced Wilkinson with Danny Cipriani. Going into the last ten minutes, Italy were still trailing by 11 points, when Kaine Robertson was stopped only by an ankle tap from Noon. Six minutes later, Simon Picone charged down a Cipriani kick, racing on to take the ball, running clear with it to score the try. The conversion, scored by Bortolussi, took Italy to within a try of victory, setting up an uncomfortable final three minutes for England. However, despite attempts by Italy to break through, they were unable to score the late try they needed, and the match finished 19-23.

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