With three teams in the hunt for the championship and the end result likely to come down to points difference; Wales on +12, Ireland on +33, and England on +37 at the start of the day, we looked to be in for close, tense, and defensively minded rugby. However, ‘Super Saturday’ could not have gone more differently.
Instead, it will go down in history as one of the greatest days of drama northern hemisphere rugby has ever encountered, with 221 points being scored across three games, consisting of no less than 27 tries. On 21 March 2015, the Six Nations witnessed the rebirth of no-holds-barred attacking rugby.
Wales were the first of the main challengers to play, taking on an Italian team playing in the inhospitable Stadio Olimpico in Rome; it would not have been a surprise if the result had been tight. After the tense and tight first half which left Wales ahead by a point, the second half try-fest that followed was certainly unexpected. The Welsh team blitzed the Italian defence time and time again with line-breaks, slick handling and kicking. This skill, alongside Italian mistakes, led to a deluge of scoring.
The poster-boy of Welsh rugby, George North, grabbed a hat-trick, each one of his tries a fantastic mix of teamwork and individual skill. With a minute to go, Wales were leading by 48 points, but in the dying embers of the game a last-gasp try from Leonardo Sarto converted by Luciano Orquera left Wales with a winning margin of 41, and an overall points difference of 53.
That left a battered Irish team with the unenviable task of beating what should have been a dogged Scotland team at Murrayfield by more than 20 points, a margin that would have been unlikely on any day but ‘Super Saturday’. The game started quickly for Ireland, with Paul O’Connell crashing over after only four minutes. It didn’t get much better for the horrendously poor Scots. On 25 minutes, Sean O’Brien peeled off the back of a lineout and with a sidestep had bypassed the whole of the Scottish defence, leaving him with a simple score to put Ireland 17 points ahead, only four points behind the target the Welsh had set so impressively earlier in the day.
To their credit, and it’s a stretch to give them any at all, Scotland kept Ireland on their toes. Direct running and strong ball carrying did eventually bring about a try after a period of possession that dragged the Irish defence centrally, and after some nice work in the hands, this left Finn Russell with a simple run in out wide. It just wasn’t to be though for the Scots despite what was a relatively positive scoreline of 20-10 in favour of the Irish at halftime. What followed in the second half was anything but positive. Jared Payne and Sean O’Brien both crashed over under the posts, and after Stuart Hogg dropped the ball when certain for a try, Ireland had won 40-10, and led the Six Nations by 10 points.
England were next, taking on a French side which has been as inconsistent as ever. England knew what they needed; a victory of 27 points or more would win the championship. In a game that saw more tries than a whole weekend of Six Nations rugby usually would, the English came within inches of stealing the crown off the Irish. Ben Youngs scored twice, as did Jack Nowell, with Billy Vunipola, Anthony Watson and George Ford scoring one apiece, and if it hadn’t been for a leaky defence, England would have been out of sight after an hour. France, however, continually pegged them back, and even led at one point, but with try after try and a final score of 55-35, it couldn’t have been closer. England came within inches of the try-line in the last moments after intense pressure on the French line, but the trophy was retained by Ireland.
Photograph: Conor Lawless