It was inevitable wasn’t it? On his final appearance in the famous emerald jersey, Brian O’ Driscoll was always going to go out in style as the curtain fell down on another enthralling Six Nations campaign. Two trophies and plenty of drama, the Northern Hemisphere’s finest didn’t disappoint .
First to Paris, where amid all the emotion and hysteria which greeted a certain player’s retirement a title was to be decided. Ireland, looking for their first victory in the French capital since 2000, entered the arena knowing exactly what they had to do. Win at all costs! And win is what they did as Brian O’ Driscoll finished his international career with a second six nations title, as Ireland brought home their first piece of silverware since the Grand Slam triumph of 2009. Inspired by tries by Jonny Sexton (2) and Andrew Trimble, Ireland ran out 22-20 victors against a French side who will be left to contemplate what might have been if they had showed the same heart as their opponents throughout the tournament. A victory for tactical astuteness as Joe Schmidt, in his maiden six nations campaign, led an Irish team missing key players such as O’ Brien and Bowe, to the top prize in European international rugby.
Next to Rome, where a rampant England fell just short of the line in an incredibly one-sided contest. Needing a victory by fifty points to overturn Ireland’s superior points difference, Chris Robshaw’s men went to work by putting an extremely poor Italian side to the sword by racking up seven tries in a 52-11 victory. Unfortunately for the English, a sloppy handling error by lock Joe Launchbury allowed Italian winger Leonardo Sarto to run in a consolation score which denied England their first six nations title under Stuart Lancaster. On a positive note however England can celebrate a comprehensive final victory, with a first international try for young Jack Nowell as well as a score for returning talisman Manu Tuilagi, to go with a promising campaign which brought a first Triple Crown in eleven years and fresh momentum as we approach a World Cup year.
Finally to Cardiff, and the so-called unimportant fixture of Wales versus Scotland. Both coming off the back of defeats in round four, pride was the only thing at stake for these two nations. Scotland, looking for their first victory over Wales since 2007, looked to finish on a high for out-going head coach (and former Wales assistant coach) Scott Johnson in his final match in charge. For Wales, after the disappointment of Twickenham, reputations needed restoring. However despite Wales already leading thanks to a try by man-of-the-match Liam Williams, this game was over as a contest when a rush of blood by Scottish full-back Stuart Hogg saw Scotland reduced to 14 men for the remaining three quarters of the match following a late hit on Welsh No.10 Dan Biggar. Following Hogg’s send-off, inevitably Wales ran riot, running in a further six tries to condemn Scotland to a record 51-3 defeat. Particularly pleasing for Warren Gatland would have been a brace of tries each from Jamie Roberts and George North, both players having been guilty of squandering try-scoring opportunities the previous week, along with a superb performance from full-back Liam Williams who replaced the injured Leigh Halfpenny. For Wales, an exciting finish to a mixed campaign, while for Scotland another hard luck story to go with an ultimately disappointing campaign.