Cardiff, UK: Wales claimed a record third Six Nations Grand Slam of coach Warren Gatland’s reign yesterday as Gareth Anscombe kicked 20 points to help beat an ill-disciplined Ireland 25-7.
Later in the day, George Ford rescued England with an 83rd-minute try to secure a 38-all draw with Scotland after the Scots had come from 31-0 down to lead 38-31 in one of the most remarkable games in Six Nations history.
England began the match knowing the title was out of their hands after Wales completed the Grand Slam earlier but still ripped into Scotland from the start.
Jack Nowell grabbed the first try after 56 seconds and further scores by Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May – his sixth of the championship, had them 31-7 up at the break after Stuart McInally scored a charge-down try in a rare bright moment for the visitors.
It clearly gave them a lift as they were unrecognisable in the second half, scoring four tries in 13 minutes – two for wing Darcy Graham and one each for Magnus Bradbury and Finn Russell meant that after an hour they had come back from 31-0 down to level the game at 31-all.
They then looked to have snatched their first Twickenham win since 1983 when centre Sam Johnson blasted through four defenders to score in the 76th minute, only for replacement flyhalf Ford to find a way through under the posts at the death.
Earlier, a clinical performance from France condemned Italy to a 22nd consecutive defeat with a 25-14 win at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
The Azzurri were already guaranteed the wooden spoon before kick-off but dominated large parts of the game and missed several opportunities to record their first Championship win since 2015.
The stunning victory extended Wales’ winning streak to 14 matches, moving them to second in the World Rugby standings and handing Gatland’s team a massive psychological boost looking ahead to this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The Grand Slam was the 12th achieved by Wales, who opened this campaign with a 24-19 victory over France before following up with wins over Italy (26-15), England (21-13) and Scotland (18-11).
It was the third under Gatland in his 50th and final Wales game in European rugby’s showcase tournament following Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, and a first Six Nations title since 2013.
Anscombe, who scored six penalty goals and a conversion, said: “It’s hard to put into words what this means, we’ve worked incredibly hard over the last year. We have a habit of winning. It’s a special group and we worked hard for each other.
“For me it’s a day and weekend to remember for Welsh rugby.”
Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones admitted the team had “just put a big target” on their backs going into the World Cup, adding that there was “still potential in us”.
Ireland captain Rory Best called Wales “a very determinded side and hard to beat here”.
“We couldn’t get footing in the game. Our set-piece wasn’t up to the standard that we expect. They put a lot of pressure on us and we struggled to respond.”
The tone of what turned out to be an electrifying start was set from the off.