The final day of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations Championship more than lived up to its billing of ‘Super Saturday’ with a record 221 points and 27 tries scored, smashing the former marks for a round of RBS 6 Nations rugby. Previously the highest tally of points from a three-match round was 196 on February 17, 2001, while the most tries had been 23 in the final round in 2007.
The try fest boosted the total of tries and points scored in 2015 to 62 and 660 respectively – the best aggregates since 65 tries and 698 points were scored in the 2007 RBS 6 Nations.
THE ECLECTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
These days there are three Six Nations Championships to play for – the main tournament, the RBS 6 Nations, the Under-20 version and since 2002 the Women’s event. The Under-20 Six Nations began life in 2000 as an Under-21 competition, but it was only in 2007 that four of the teams switched to Under-20 qualifications with France and Italy following suit a year later.
Combining all the results together over the years for the three events then the only ‘perfect season’ came in 2002 when all three French sides each claimed a Grand Slam. There have been two other instances of combined records of 14 wins, and just one defeat; in 2004 when the France Under-21 team let the side down and lost in round 5 and in the title chase to England, and in 2011 when the England senior men’s team suffered a round five defeat to Ireland.
The unofficial combined title has been won by England on nine occasions, France follow with five, while Ireland are the only nation to break the Anglo-French axis, claiming the record in 2009 and 2015.
The only ‘perfect storm’ was set reluctantly by Italy in 2009 when all three sides gained a Wooden Spoon for a played 15, lost 15 record.
DESTINY OF THE CROWN
The graphic below illustrates the ebbs and flows of the final day and when the three protagonists had their hands on the trophy. The day of course began with England in the box seat with a +37 points difference, four clear of Ireland at +33, with Wales in third spot on +12.
By half-time in the Italy v Wales game little had changed, but then the Welshmen started running in tries: Dan Biggar’s conversion of George North’s second try overhauling Ireland’s points difference, while North’s hat trick score, five minutes later, took the Dragons to the top of the pile. With just six minutes
left Wales had increased their difference to +60 until Leonardo Sarto ran in a converted try to see them
raise the bar and finish the campaign at +53.
Paul O’Connell’s ‘captain’s try’ after just five minutes at Murrayfieldwas crucial in that it took Ireland
ahead of England on points difference. The next target was Wales which was eventually eclipsed with
Jonathan Sexton’s 62nd-minute penalty goal.
All that remained was to rack up the points, and stop Scotland scoring, to set England as difficult a chase as possible. Eight minutes from time, Sean O’Brien grabbed a pivotal try and Ian Madigan a vital conversion, but the drama was not over. Shortly afterwards, Jamie Heaslip crucially knocked the ball from Stuart Hogg’s grasp as he was going for a touchdown, but by full-time at Murrayfield the challenge was set with the Englishmen knowing that they needed to beat France by 26 points to take the title on try count.
The wavy white line shows how England pushed and pushed, but France kept coming back with scores
of their own. The line has a distinct upward trend and maybe if they played for another ten minutes they
could have overtaken Ireland.
However, when Nigel Owens’ whistle brought down the curtain on a momentous 2015 RBS 6 Nations, Ireland had won a second successive title by just six points in five rounds and 400 minutes of rugby.
A GOLDEN DAY OF RECORD BREAKING
Here are just some of the all-time records broken last Saturday, March 21, arguably the most exciting day of international rugby ever seen.
ITALY v WALES
– Italy conceded their highest total of points in a home RBS 6 Nations game
– Wales achieved their highest ever score and their biggest victory in the RBS 6 Nations
– Wales scored 8 tries and 6 conversions the best they have ever achieved in the tournament
– George North grabbed Wales’s first Championship hat-trick since Maurice Richards scored three against England in Cardiff in 1969
– Dan Biggar kicked 6 conversions, a new Welsh RBS 6 Nations record
– 54 points in the second half of this game is a new RBS 6 Nations record
– For the third time Wales won all their three away games in a season
SCOTLAND v IRELAND
– Ireland equalled their biggest away win in the RBS 6 Nations
– Ireland conceded only 3 tries in 2015, equalling the lowest tally they had ever previously recorded in 2009
– Scotland have now lost six home games in a row in the RBS 6 Nations – their worst such run
ENGLAND v FRANCE
– England conceded 35 points in the game, their highest ever RBS 6 Nations total at Twickenham
– England conceded 5 tries in the match, their highest RBS 6 Nations total
– England conceded 11 tries in 2015, two more tries than they have ever conceded in an RBS 6 Nations campaign
– France conceded 55 points, 7 tries and 7 conversions in the match, all their highest RBS 6 Nations totals
– 12 tries scored in the game equals the previous RBS 6 Nations best (England v Italy in 2001)
WHO’S THE BEST OF THE SIX NATIONS?
Each country has now played 80 games in the history of the RBS 6 Nations but the side who has claimed the most titles, France with five, are in third place in the match winners’ league, being victorious
in 65% of their encounters in the tournament.
Ireland have just claimed a third crown but lie in second place with 53 wins. England top the pile with 55 victories but have only taken four titles, and just one of those since 2003. Wales have, along with France, been the most successful in terms of achieving three separate RBS 6 Nations Grand Slams, but interestingly have won only 55% of their games.
England have scored 36 more tries than any other side, while Scotland are the poorest attackers with
just 91 tries scored in their 80 fixtures.
A MILLION UP – YET AGAIN
For the fourth year in succession, over one million fans attended the 15 matches of the 2015 RBS 6 Nations, the precise figure being 1,040,964 at an average of 69,398 per game – or almost 97% of the
total ground capacities.
This is the third best figure in the history of the tournament – the best being in 2007 when Ireland moved ‘across town’ to the larger Croke Park venue while the new Aviva Stadium was being created, and the average per match going over 71,000 for the only time.
This season was also only the second in which more matches were won by the away side than
the home one, with 2015 equalling 2005 with 7 home wins and 8 away ones.
– Compiled for the RBS 6 Nations by Stuart Farmer