Imperious England humiliated Scotland to win the Calcutta Cup and Six Nations titleYoutube: RBS 6 Nations

This round of the Six Nations action saw two brilliant games at Twickenham and in Cardiff, whilst those who made the trip to Rome will have left wondering why they bothered, as England sealed the title with a week to spare and Italy made certain their position at the bottom of the table.

The match of the weekend came on Friday night, as Ireland were downed by Wales at the Principality Stadium. While England v Scotland had plenty of flare and excitement, it was over as a contest by half-time. In Wales, the two sides threw everything at each other for the full 80 minutes in a brutal encounter which ultimately ended Ireland’s title hopes.

Wales defended heroically in the second-half as Ireland came at them relentlessly, threatening to score on several occasions, but falling short each time. They can probably count themselves a little lucky, though: when Ireland set up a rolling maul in the 67th minute, captain Rory Best looked certain to score before the try was ruled out for obstruction – centre Robbie Henshaw had needlessly joined the maul in front of Best.

That said, this was clearly Wales’ best performance in some time. George North responded public criticism by scoring two tries, and man-of-the-match Rhys Webb controlled the game impressively from half-back. His sniping runs and accurate passing put Wales on the front foot in the first half, as he put his hand up for a Lions call.

The game still wasn’t decided until the 78th minute, though, as Ireland continued to push for the converted try that, at 9-15 would have won them the game. In the end, it cost them the decisive try, as a speculative attempt at a chip led to Ireland’s Jonny Sexton being charged down in his own 22, and Jamie Roberts pounced. Final score 22-9 to Wales.

“This was the performance from England that we had all been waiting for. The team who conquered all in 2016 is back.” 

Ireland will be disappointed that they couldn’t quite find the magic touch to unlock the Welsh defence, but you can't fault them for trying. CJ Stander had another barn-storming game with the ball in hand which, if he hasn’t already, should have guaranteed him a place on the plane to New Zealand. Sexton, too, looks to be in good form, and continually asks questions of the defence, but Ireland missed Connor Murray after he went off injured. While his replacement, Marmion, played well, they lacked the direction and kicking game that Murray brings. He's another who'll be pulling on a red jersey this summer.

In contrast, the second match of the weekend was, quite frankly, boring. The error count on both sides – particularly Italy – was very high, making for a disjointed game without much excitement. True, Italy led early on after Sergio Parisse’s try, and it was only 16-11 to France at the break but, in the second half, Italy fell away yet again. They did manage to score try in the final play of the match but, by then, the game was well-and-truly over.

Despite the high scoreline, Italy v France at the Olimpico was something of a snooze-festYoutube: RBS 6 Nations

France themselves were average, cruising to the four-try bonus-point win. Italy were undone by far too many basic errors, a high penalty count, and a shocking number of missed tackles. They have done little to justify their automatic inclusion in the tournament so far and I can’t see them posing any threat to Scotland next week. The less said about this match the better.

Fortunately, that bore-fest was followed by the highest scoring game of the tournament, as England drubbed Scotland 61-21, scoring 7 tries and securing the trophy with a game in hand.

This was the performance from England that we had all been waiting for. The team who conquered all in 2016 is back. It had been coming, and Scotland can count themselves unlucky to have come across England in this mood: accurate, confident, and ruthless.

They scored three tries in the first half off a first-phase line-out ball, as training ground moves were executed to perfection. Ford and Farrell combined delightfully in midfield to put Jonathan Joseph through on each occasion, the centre scoring the first two before setting up the returning Anthony Watson for their third. Joseph’s footwork for his second try is well worth a watch.

England’s play made Scotland’s defence look decidedly amateur, as centres Alex Dunbar and Huw Jones were pulled in all directions, creating space for England’s deadly back-line. By half-time it was 30-7; a Gordon Reid try from short-range pulling one back for the Scots.

Joseph scored again soon after the break, cutting a beautiful angle off Ben Youngs to complete his second hat-trick in England colours. Having been dropped from the squad to face Italy, Joseph fully justified his selection and has nailed on his place in Eddie Jones’ starting XV, if ever there was any doubt. He has also significantly advanced his cause to be the Lions’ starting 13.

One of the most pleasing features of England’s performance was their start. Having failed to lead at half-time in each of their games so far this year, Jones would have been delighted with the way that his side came out of the blocks, scoring within the first 3 minutes. They were 20-0 up after 25 minutes.

Scotland weren’t helped, by hooker Fraser Brown’s yellow card in the second minute after a dangerous tackle on Elliott Daly. In truth, Brown was probably lucky that it was only a yellow, as Daly’s head hit the ground and, since the new directives, softer red cards have been given. Referee Mathieu Raynal was probably reluctant to send a player off so early on and, to be honest, I'm glad that he didn’t. After so much hype, it could have turned the game into something of an anti-climax. That said, you wonder how many points England would have scored against 14 men.

Ireland eventually succumbed to a 22-9 turnover by WalesYoutube: RBS 6 Nations

Unfortunately, Scotland never recovered from their nightmare start, and were visibly rattled – even captain John Barclay ended up in the middle of several bust-ups initiated by frustrated Scottish players. They were also hamstrung by injuries to both Stuart Hogg and his replacement, Mark Bennett in the first 40, before winger Tommy Seymour had to depart in the second half, leaving them with a back-three of scrum-half Ali Price, replacement fly-half Duncan Weir and Tim Visser. Their inability to adapt to a new situation, in contrast to England over the past year, meant they stood no chance. They will be hugely disappointed with their performance.

Plenty of players in the England team put their hands up, with most players having outstanding games. Owen Farrell shone, missing only 1 kick out of 12 – an attempt from his own-half which missed by a whisker – and creating space for those around him. He was also still leading the defensive press deep into the second half. Mentions, too, should go to Ben Youngs, whose box-kicking and passing game got England on the front-foot in the first-half, Joe Marler, who dominated the scrum on his 50th cap, and to Billy Vunipola, who scored a try on his return from injury weeks ahead of schedule.

By beating Scotland, England equalled New Zealand’s World Record for the most consecutive wins by a Tier One nation of 18. Their muted celebrations at being presented with the Calcutta Cup suggest that they won’t be happy unless they make it 19 on Saturday in Dublin and, with it, win the Grand Slam

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