BBC BLOGS - Tom Fordyce

Archives for February 2010

Ruthless Ireland teach England a lesson

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Tom Fordyce | 22:46 UK time, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Damned lies and statistics? Not always.

In the sodden aftermath of Ireland's 20-16 win over England, two little nuggets sparkled in the dank February gloom. England had 60% of the possession but were out-scored three tries to one; Ireland made 99 tackles and missed just one.

From those numbers comes the story of the game. One side had a cutting-edge, the other did not. One trundled manfully for little reward; the other made their openings count.

Big games are often decided by small margins, and so it was here. In contrast to the visitors' parsimonious defence, England conceded the key score of the match off first phase possession, a simple take by O'Connell off the top of the line-out, Tomas O'Leary popping the ball up and Tommy Bowe crashing past both Jonny Wilkinson and James Haskell to go under the posts and steal the win away.

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Fabulous France end Irish dream

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Tom Fordyce | 20:55 UK time, Saturday, 13 February 2010

As a method of settling an argument or three, it doesn't get much more convincing.

Grand Slam decider. Title showdown. A settling of soccer scores. This match was billed as many things, but by the end, all debates were off. France undeniably won the lot.

Valentine's weekend in Paris is traditionally a time for romance, for roses and chocolates and declarations of undying devotion. Someone should have told the players and supporters.

There was no love to be lost at a frozen Stade de France. It was passionate alright - the atmosphere and performances made hearts pound and scalps tingle - but this was hammer as much as amour, tenderising rather than tender.

Cliché has it that these two nations are united by a fondness for the romantic, for the poetic ahead of the practical. In the chill gloaming of a bitter February evening, when a Grand Slam is up for grabs and glory is there to be grasped, you could forgive either for preferring the prosaic instead.

Not France. This was irresistible rugby, an irrepressible blend of bulldozer and ballet. Ireland, for all their hopes, for all their 15-month unbeaten run and dreams of unprecedented consecutive Slams, were powerless to resist.

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Moment of madness gives England edge

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Tom Fordyce | 22:34 UK time, Saturday, 6 February 2010

A stadium packed to the steel girders with 80,000 screaming fans should be an impossible place to be alone, but for Alun Wyn Jones, Twickenham in the chill Saturday gloaming must have felt like the loneliest place in the world.

A split second of madness, a championship spoiled for one side and saved for another. It sounds too stark and too severe - we're one round in, with hours of rugby yet to be played - but this most enduring of tournaments provides the most exposed of stages.

When Wyn Jones left the field after tripping Dylan Hartley, the match was poised at 3-3 and bang in the balance. By the time he returned, 10 minutes of game-time later, England were 17 points clear.

There was room for ebb and flow afterwards, for an almost-comeback of epic proportions and a stirring grandstander of a last 15 minutes, but the key play in the day had been made. And if the scoreboard didn't tell you enough, the coaches' faces afterwards did.

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