I don’t mind a low-scoring match, but the France/Ireland match wasn’t a pleasure to watch. I thought there was plenty of desire on show, but very little quality. Too often, aimless kicking and the squandering of hard-earned possession were the order of the day. I thought Jaco Peyper had an ordinary performance. While many of his calls appeared accurate, on occasions he failed to sell them to the public. There were way too many scrum resets, resulting in lost game time. In addition, I didn’t think his handling of the two foul-play incidents in the first half, which necessitated attention to Sexton and Kearney, was optimum .
Certainly, TMO George Ayoub could have helped, especially as there was a fair amount of downtime following each decision. It’s not good enough at this level when it is that easy to see. Later on, there were a number of scrums near the Irish line, which led to a succession of penalties. That, too, is not good enough. There has to be an upgrade in sanction. Either a penalty try, if a try would most probably have been scored, but not for the illegality (on scrum two) or a yellow card for repeated infringements (on scrum three). I thought Ireland were slightly the better team, but they will have to sort out their scrum if they don’t want to give away static penalties in the remaining fixtures .
The next game between Wales and Scotland was a great game of rugby. Both teams liberated their attacks and we’re happy to give the ball some air, but for a tactical period in the third quarter. I thought George Clancy had a decent game. He refereed with empathy and allowed a good tempo throughout. He contributed to a really enjoyable game of rugby.
Unfortunately, there were a few errors. Most spoken about was the award of the first try, and I can understand the frustration of the Scottish supporters. Davies was offsides when the kick was made and DID move towards the ball rather than retreating or standing still. I think it is quite understandable that this may have been missed in real time but the fact that it was replayed over and over and nothing was done is not great. TMO Hughes needs to be a lot more influential here and know what he is looking for. I suspect a question was asked whether players were onside at the kick that led to the try, and the answer that was given, was that he could award the try. It doesn’t appear that the ball was touched, so the Welsh No 9 was not put onside.
Contrary to some Twitter followers, I thought the scrum was reasonably well refereed, even though the Scots impressed with their power and perhaps could have got a little more for their efforts. There was also a hold on Scotland’s No 12 a few minutes before halftime, which I thought was cynical and deserving of a yellow card, and I am surprised AR Lacey failed to spot it (or TMO Hughes).
The first try should not have stood and that is a significant black mark against him, but all in all it was as cracking fixture and the referee deserves some credit for that!
The England victory over Italy would appear comprehensive enough but until the wayward pass and intercept by Joseph, the game was really in the balance. After that, Italy lost the will to fight, and the score ballooned. England are winning, which is great for morale, but they have quite a few things to work on in the coming weeks, if they are to lift the silverware at the end of the competition.
I thought Glenn Jackson had a solid afternoon with the whistle. He seemed comfortable with the dogfight that was developing and didn’t impose himself unnecessarily on the fixture. In the end, few will remember that he refereed the game, which is always a good sign! He probably could have done a little more around the post tackle / breakdown area as he gets quite static, and he may need to pre-empt sanction on poor defensive behaviour even more through a presence there. But there were no real dramas, and he was accurate on the whole.
I thought the tackle by Haskell on McLean was dealt with (some were calling for a yellow card) in a sensible manner; not so sure on the Hartley clean out at the ruck, where he appeared to use his arms (perhaps they didn’t replay the right clip). England probably need to be careful not to attract too much attention from the referees as they wouldn’t want the penalty count to go much above the 10-12 mark in a tournament as tight as the six nations. There are still too many needless penalties being given away when they do not seem under that much pressure. The championship teams would punish that type of reckless abandon.