AWC FINAL & 6N FINALE!

17 Mar 2017

Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column

AWC FINAL & 6 NATIONS FINALE!

The Anglo Welsh Cup and the Six Nations Championship come to a close this weekend and The Rugby Channel will deliver all four matches, beginning early on Sunday morning. All you have to do is Subscribe Now for less than a single dollar per week and your day of rest will be filled with outstanding rugby of the highest caliber.

Last weekend saw the AWC finalists determined at Allianz and Sandy Parks as Leicester and Exeter both emphatically booked places at The Stoop for the Final. Meanwhile, Wales, France, and England all came away as test winners at the Principality Stadium, Stadio Olimpico, and Twickenham.

To check out the full highlights from all five matches, give TRC Report #42 a look, hosted this week by yours truly!

To watch each match from start to finish, click on the links below.   

SARACENS 10 – 32 LEICESTER

This was a huge win for Leicester. They were in control throughout the entire match, played top-notch defense, scored some quality tries, and were the first team in more than a year to beat Saracens at home. And all this from a club that only recently were stumbling so badly in the European Cup and elsewhere that they felt it necessary to fire their longtime Director of Rugby!

They look to be somewhat back on the right track now, headed to their first final in a number of years in the AWC, in fifth place in the Premiership, and only one point away from a postseason slot.

To be fair, Saracens did start a rather young lineup in this fixture but even when they brought on veterans like Neil de Kock and Schalk Burger they weren’t able to turn the tide.

EXETER 24 – 7 HARLEQUINS

The Chiefs forwards were a force in this match and showed why they are not only heading to the AWC Final but also why they are second in the Premiership. The pack set the platform and applied the pressure, the backs capitalized on the opportunities.

Two converted tries in the first fifteen minutes and then two more in the second forty were all that Exeter needed to get the job done as their defense held Quins scoreless until the last minutes of the match.

WALES 22 – 9 IRELAND

Wales desperately needed a win in Cardiff to salvage their Six Nations campaign and against Ireland they put in a performance to do exactly that. They looked much more like the side that almost upset England than the one that fell to Scotland.

The Welsh forwards played strong enough defense to keep the Irish out of the tryzone for 80 minutes and gave their backs enough ball to cross the line three times. The Welsh backs were solid as well with their defensive responsibilities and took the chances they were given.

Ireland were in this match the whole way and just needed something to break right for them, which it never did. The Henshaw maul penalty in particular was a match turning point.  

ITALY 18 – 40 FRANCE

France also needed a win to breathe life into their year and they had the good fortune to play the worst defensive side in the championship. The problem with a big win against the Italians is that one can never be sure if it came from positivity by the winner or negativity from the loser.

France started to look like the type of team that could be very dangerous in the near future but they also tended to lack consistency of execution.

The Italians made the best possible start to the match by scoring right away but eventually their defense faltered and they let in both some typical and soft French tries.

ENGLAND 61 – 21 SCOTLAND

This was supposed to be a close match where Scotland overperformed and gave England a run for their money. Instead the Scots were on the back foot from the very beginning and had to play from behind from the outset.

England was superior in almost every aspect of play and their line-breaking ability really proved to be the difference against a Scotland defense that had previously only allowed 51 points in the tournament. There are many reasons why England have won eighteen matches in a row and the ability to score tries in bunches is one of them.

Scotland had a lot of people wanting them to beat England but the reality was that even as the fifth-ranked nation in the world they weren’t quite ready to take on second-ranked England in their home environment.

Here’s what The Rugby Channel has on offer on Sunday!

EXETER V LEICESTER – Sunday, March 19 at 10:15 am ET

This will be Exeter’s third straight appearance in the Anglo Welsh Cup Final. In 2013/14 they defeated Northampton to win the crown and in 2014/15 they lost a tight championship match to last week’s semifinal opponent Saracens. Winning the title again would be a big deal for the club and could provide extra motivation to then win the Premiership for an historic double.

Leicester are in need of some silverware. They last won the Premiership in 2012/13, took the AWC final in 2011/12, and haven’t hoisted the European Cup since 2002. The struggles that led to the firing of Richard Cockerill and elevation of Aaron Mauger will fade from memory if they win the Anglo Welsh Cup and make the Premiership playoffs.

Exeter has won both Premiership matches against Leicester this year but I think you can throw records out the window in this final and I can’t wait to watch it!

SCOTLAND V ITALY – Sunday, March 19 at 8:30 am ET

Scotland were riding high heading into their showdown with England and even a close loss at Twickenham would have probably built their confidence. Now they have to regroup and not let their disappointment cloud their preparations for their encounter with Italy.

Based upon their play prior to last week, a solid win over the Italians shouldn’t be too big an ask for Scotland but they’ve thought that before and been upset on the day, most recently in 2015 at Murrayfield.

Italy can save themselves from another whitewashing and finish the championship on a high note by beating Scotland. A win would help raise excitement for their Summer Tour and give coach Conor O’Shea a sign of progress.

I’m ready for both sides to go at it with renewed vigor, definitely required viewing.

FRANCE V WALES – Sunday, March 19 at 10:45 am ET

A win by either contestant in this clash will likely see them end up in second place. Plus, there are some proud and committed rugby players on both these teams that just want to win because they are playing in their country’s jersey, regardless of where they finish.

But there’s more than pride and position at stake, much more.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup draw is scheduled for May 10 and World Rankings points will determine pool seeds. This is the last test where they can earn points and improve their rankings. A big win by Wales, coupled with losses by Ireland and Scotland, could see them leapfrog up to fourth place and get a number one seed. A win by France would solidify eighth place and get them a number two seed, hopefully avoiding a Group of Death scenario if they were to fall to ninth.

Keep all of this in mind as you enjoy what promises to be one of the most important matches of the championship.

IRELAND V ENGLAND – Sunday, March 19 at 1:00 pm ET

This was supposed to be the big finale for the Six Nations title but England’s demolition of Scotland and Ireland’s unexpected loss to Wales has changed the script a bit. Don’t worry though, I doubt the lack of a championship on the line will change the intensity of the battle.  

As mentioned above, fourth-ranked Ireland has a lot to gain in 2019 by winning or by keeping this match close. They are also in a unique position to end England’s record win streak at 18, just like they did to New Zealand in Chicago in one of the sport’s all-time greatest upsets.

Don’t think England is going into this match with anything other than full concentration on the task at hand. A nineteenth straight victory would put them in the record books and give them a second consecutive Grand Slam.

What a great way to end the championship, it’s going to be fun to watch!   

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