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If Only Every Day of Rugby Could Be Like the 6 Nations Decider

The final day of this year's 6 Nations was a fantastic avalanche of rugby that saw Ireland triumph, while England and Wales wondered 'what if?'
March 22, 2015, 5:00pm
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The 2015 Six Nations provided us with one of the greatest days of drama seen in any sport, never mind rugby, for many a year. It was a day that provided more unexpected twists than a nineties M. Night Shyamalan flick and restored our faith in humanity and Northern Hemisphere rugby. Or perhaps just the latter.

Before this memorable finale, the tournament had been dominated by drab, one dimensional rugby that, to be honest, has come to define this competition in recent years. For all the talk of intense, tribalistic rivalries - which no doubt do exist - the fare on the pitch had been a second rate spectacle at best.

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But all that was all about to change.

The day kicked off in Rome, where the Welsh were looking to achieve an Italian Job that even Charlie Croker might have struggled to blow the doors off. They began the day in third place, equal on points with leaders England but behind on points difference by 25. Only a cricket score would do.

At half-time the Welsh claim to the title looked to be all but over. They led by just one point (13-14) and metronomic kicker Leigh Halfpenny has been removed from the action after trying to tackle giant number eight Samuela Vunisa with his head, rather than the more conventional arms/shoulder combination.

The second half, though, was as complete a 40 minutes of rugby as you could wish to see. Wales scored a whopping seven tries but, crucially as it turned out, missed an easy opportunity to add an eighth and then conceded one of their own right at the death. At the time, sitting on a 61-20 victory and +53 points difference, it felt like a job well done. Little did they know how important that late Italian score would be.

The ink barely dry on hacks' match reports (metaphorical ink, of course - all digitalised these days,), attention shifted squarely to Murrayfield where Scotland hosted Ireland. Wales' demolition job left them sitting in first place and the Irish facing a 20 point deficit.

Half an hour into the game, though, they wee 17-3 up and seemingly cruising to a total that would not only see them eclipse Wales but also set England a huge ask against France later in the day. But a Finn Russell try for Scotland reduced their lead - and increased pulse rates.

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Standing in the bar at Twickenham at the time was a surreal experience. With the game being broadcast on big screens, Russell's try was met with a genuine roar, the loudest cheer for Scotland you are ever likely to hear at the home of English rugby.

Again there was late controversy. Scotland's Stuart Hogg dropped the ball over the line with the last play after an almost-impossible cover tackle from Jamie Heaslip, and Ireland won 40-10. At Twickenham, plastic pint glasses were cast aside momentarily as iPhones emerged from Barbour jackets en masse; the calculator app is loaded and England fans trudge to their seats with the grim realisation that they must beat France by 26 points to win the title.

With 131 points from the first two games, no one quite expected the final game to live up to those lofty standards. But then this was no ordinary day of rugby.

Ben Youngs went over within the first five minutes and England were daring to dream. France then hit back with two tries of their own to leave the fans deflated. That general pattern was repeated for the rest of the game, the noise level inside Twickenham never dipping below anything other than cacophonous.

England conspired to score some brilliant tries that, at the time, gave them one hand on the trophy, only moments later to forget that defending was part of the game too and undoing all their good work by allowing the French a score of their own.

England won 55-35, six points short of the margin of victory they needed to win the title. Fans seeped out of the stadium in a deflated daze, a strange sense of paradox hanging over the crowds who had just viewed one of the greatest games of rugby to which Twickenham will ever play host, yet wishing to forget the whole thing had taken place.

It was a record-breaking day that will be remembered for the 'what ifs'. What if Wales hadn't conceded a late try? What if Stuart Hogg had grounded the ball late on against Ireland? What if Noa Nakaitaci's debatable try for France had been ruled out?

And of course: what if every day of rugby could be like this? Oh, what if.