The conclusion of the 2015 RBS Six Nations championship proved worthy of a season finale George R.R.Martin himself would have been proud of.
As the participant nations broke their fast yesterday morning, it was a three-way battle between Ireland, Wales and England, with an outside mathematical chance for France thrown in for good measure.
There was no denying the billing had the makings of something great.
CHAPTER ONE: ITA v WAL (Stadio Olimpico)
Wales needed to secure as high a points tally as possible against Italy to have any hope of securing victory, but no-one expected had quite expected the riot that Wales wrought in Rome in the day’s opening clash. After only a 14-13 lead at half time, Wales pumped up the volume in the second half to win by margin of 41, with George North reminding us all of his sheer speed and power as he contributed to three of Wales’s seven mid-afternoon tries.
If nothing else, Wales’ performance had guaranteed a thrilling afternoon of rugby.
CHAPTER TWO: SCO v IRE (Murrayfield)
Having foiled Ireland’s chance of winning a second consecutive Grand Slam in Cardiff last weekend, Wales had once again made Ireland’ quest for the title difficult, by setting Ireland’s gauntlet for their next battle over championship outcasts, Scotland, at 21.
Ireland, however, cruised ahead of the Northmen, beating them by a clear 30 points. Scotland were left commiserating at the bottom of the table with their trusted wooden spoon in its familiar tow.
CHAPTER THREE: ENG v FRA (Twickenham)
For England, word from the North was unwelcome. The point deficit challenge surely, at 26, an insurmountable one. But England were certainly game for it, and what ensued was possibly one of the most exhilarating games of rugby in the tournaments’ long history.
The unpredictable French cast aside any thoughts of a possible surrender, and instead resisted fiercely against everything thrown at them by the attacking English pack. For the full 80 minutes, all 30 men on that grassy battlefield fought with both blood and sweat, the struggle epitomised by the terrifying bone-breaking tackle inflicted on France’s fly-half Jules Plisson by Courtney Laws.
It was an epic finale, and England managed to clock a massive 55 points against France’s 35.
But in spite of their most courageous efforts, it just wasn’t enough. England fell 6 points shy of what was needed, and the elusive title remained beyond the home team’s grasp for the fourth time in as many years.
After a staggering and record breaking 27 tries and 221 points, Super Saturday ended with Ireland lifting the brand new tournament trophy in Murrayfield, thus retaining their reign over the realm.