The second weekend of the Six Nations saw both Scotland and Wales record their first victories of the tournament. Wales’ gritty win was especially impressive for the strength of character it showed given their previous poor run of eight straight defeats. The cool headed Leigh Halfpenny slotted eleven points to put his side’s title ambitions back on track. In Dublin, it was the cool head of Owen Farrell that left England with the only 100% record in the championship – his twelve points were enough to see off the Irish. Here is a look at the star performers from all the action:
1. Gethin Jenkins (Wales): The Wales and Lions loosehead had his best game in recent memory. Jenkins struggles to make the Toulon starting XV so a performance like this against France will be doubly rewarding for him.
2. Richard Hibbard (Wales): The blonde bombshells’ return to the Welsh pack helped bring consistency at the set piece as well as around the park.
3. Dan Cole (England): Leicester’s tighthead prop had to absorb a lot of pressure from his fired up opposite number Cian Healy. Cole does a lot of good work in defence and this was evident on a filthy Sunday in the Irish capital.
4. Andrew Coombs (Wales): The Gwent dragon has taken to international rugby like a duck to water. His abrasive, all-action attitude has helped eased Welsh second-row worries.
5. Ian Evans (Wales): It was the sort of game in Paris where the engine room would always have a big say in the outcome. Thankfully for the Welsh their newly formed second row partnership were more than a match for their French opponents; Evans looked back to his best.
6. Ryan Jones (Wales): In for the injured Sam Warburton, Jones led from the front in manner that only he knows how. He must be favourite to retain his place in the side for the rest of the championship.
7. Kelly Brown (Scotland): Brown was another back row forward to put in a big shift on Saturday. Scotland have developed a cutting edge under the stewardship of Brown and they could stil play a big part in where the title ends up this year.
8. Tom Wood (England): Moved to the number eight position thanks to the injury of Ben Morgan, Wood showed his footballing talent with good control in difficult conditions. The Northampton back row forward was also an important presence at the break down.
9. Ben Youngs (England): Youngs has been the subject of much debate over his relatively short career, so often seen as a loose cannon who makes mistakes. His performance against Ireland was mistake free – he kept the defence honest with sniping runs and kicked with precision and purpose.
10. Owen Farrell (England): Dubbed the ‘ice man’, he seems to feel little to no pressure kicking off the tee. This young fly half has set his stall out to be England’s general for years to come after another controlled Six Nations display.
11. Tim Visser (Scotland): Visser scored the opening try in a match that was billed to be a lot closer than it was. The winger’s try scoring instinct is a major factor in the northern nations more attacking outlook under Scott Johnson – his try eased any nerves around Edinburgh.
12. Jamie Roberts (Wales): Roberts collected his fiftieth cap in Paris and came home with a rare win in the French capital. The battle hardened twelve was at his confrontational best nullifying the anonymous Maxime Mermoz.
13. Brad Barritt (England): To many Brad Barritt will have been equally anonymous in Dublin, but not to his team mates. Yes, he rarely attacks with panache, but his defensive work is second to none; in Ireland he stopped O’Driscoll, no mean feat.
14. Chris Ashton (England): It was the sort of day where many wingers hide out near touchlines, not Ashton. He got involved on the front foot and the back. It was always going to be hard to influence the game going in attack but his contribution was impressive nevertheless.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales): In a match where six foot, seventeen stone backs were the norm, Leigh Halfpenny stood out for his giant ability rather than his stature. Indeed, if Halfpenny continues to produce such composed performances under pressure he is sure to be the Lions’ starting fifteen.
Sam Knibbs is a UK based blogger who will be doing some European reporting for us. You can check out his blog here. Also, feel free to follow him on Twitter: @sportingdreverTweet