International Rugby, Opinions

Halfpenny lands hammer blow to Scotland & sensational Sexton drop goal finishes off France

Leigh Halfpenny scored 24 points, including two tries in a thumping 34-7 Welsh Natwest Six Nations win against Scotland in Cardiff. But the real drama unfolded in Paris where Ireland produced a stunning finish to beat France 15-13.

Ireland had been in total control at 12-6 but a converted Teddy Thomas try in the 75th minute gave the hosts an unlikely 13-12 lead. They then had the chance to seal the most improbable of wins but missed with a penalty from just 30 metres out.

Ireland then won the ball back in the 78th minute, 20 metres from their try line and kept it for five minutes, which included 41 phases, before Sexton nailed the most fabulous of drop goals from 40 metres.

It was dramatic and the kind of controlled escape synonymous with the best All Blacks victories. It’s a win that will add more merit to Irish claims of being a side with the potential to win the World Cup and certainly enhanced their Natwest 6 Nations championship credentials.

It was also just the fourth drop goal of Sexton’s Test career, two of which have come in the last two Tests against France.

Halfpenny, who hadn’t scored a try in five years for Wales scored one in each half as Scotland’s euphoria at beating Australia at Murrayfield and running New Zealand close in last year’s Autumn international proved short lived.

Halfpenny also kicked four conversions and two penalties.

Welsh coach Warren Gatland has never lost in 10 years against Scotland. It is doubtful he could have imagined just how one-sided the win would be against a Scotland team ranked in the world’s top five.

Gatland praised Halfpenny’s performance: ‘We’ve worked with him on staying square and he has worked hard on staying upright with his ball-carrying. He’s the best defensive full-back in the world.’

Wales lead 14-0 at halftime and 34-0 after 78 minutes before Scotland finally had something to show for the opening weekend.

In terms of the league standings the Scots left with nothing while Wales produced their most impressive performance in a long time.

Opta’s did you know?

*Only once (v France in 1996) have Wales failed to win a Test match after leading by 14+ points at halftime, winning 44 of 45 such games, including Saturday’s 34-7 win against Scotland.

5⃣0⃣ – Wales’ win against Scotland represents their 50th Test victory under Warren Gatland, and their 50th overall in

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