Remember the name Louis Rees-Zammit. The 20-year-old Welsh winger again showed why he’s got everyone talking about him on Sunday morning at Murrayfield, scoring a stunning match winner in his side’s 25-24 win over Scotland, which featured a very assured test debut from former Hurricanes midfielder Ulisi (Willis) Halaholo. The Welsh won their second fixture in a row against an ultimately short-handed opposition, with Scotland prop Zander Fagerson sent off in the 53rd minute for a clumsy shoulder charge on Wyn Jones, and this was a recurring theme as lack of discipline summed up the Scottish effort.
It was a remarkable turnaround from last weekend’s win against England and showed that this promising Scottish side still has some work to do to be considered serious contenders. They looked to have done enough as they almost took a 17-3 lead into halftime, thanks to well-worked tries to Darcy Graham and Stuart Hogg, but Rees-Zammit closed out the half with a try in the corner to cut the lead to nine points.
The young winger then turned provider in the 51st minute, floating a perfect pass out for Liam Williams to score. A couple of minutes later Fagerson was shown red, then the target of his madness Jones rubbed salt into the wound by scoring an unconverted try of his own straight away. But the Scots wouldn’t give the game away that easily and went back in front with a Hogg scoring his second after turning down an easy shot at goal.
Rees-Zammit then scored the winner with a strong contender for try of the year already, getting the ball on his own halfway line from Halaholo and chipping over Hogg before regathering and gunning in. Welsh hopes going into the tournament were low, but this momentum could see them cause another couple of upsets.
Earlier at Twickenham, Italy made a fine start against England before normal transmission resumed in the second half, with the English running out 41-18 winners. Former Bay of Plenty wing Monty Ioane scored a very well-worked try for L’Azzuri after only a couple of minutes, but the English got back to what they are good at and smashed their way to a try of their own through lock Jonny Hill, then Anthony Watson waltzed through to score. The half ended with Jonny May scoring a spectacular try that would have looked right at home in the NRL, then the game was effectively over as a contest when Watson picked off a pass and ran 80 metres to score in the 50th minute. Tries followed for Dan Robson, Jack Willis and Elliot Daly to complete a tougher win than the score suggests, as the Italians grabbed a consolation try to Tommaso Allan.
The win for Eddie Jones’ side wasn’t without cost, however, as Willis suffered a gruesome looking knee injury not long after scoring.
Then on Sunday morning, the much-vaunted France hung on for a 15-13 win over the now winless Irish at Aviva Stadium. The teams traded penalties during a kick-heavy first half in damp conditions, but Ireland couldn’t cash in after French lock Bernard le Roux was binned for a clumsy foot trip.
Instead, the outstanding Antoine Dupont made a break that resulted in the first try, scored by skipper Charles Ollivon for France to lead 10-3 at the break. They should have had another straight after the resumption when hooker Julien Marchand went on a storming run into the 22, but Dupont’s follow up pass cannoned off lock Paul Willemse’s head and went dead in goal.
However, not long after, Matthieu Jalibert set up Brice Dulin to score the crucial try out wide. This made it a two try lead, but in the end all Ireland could muster was a Ronan Kelleher try and Ross Byrne penalty. The final five minutes were tight as the home side attempted to set up for a dropped goal, but France hung on for their first win in Dublin in a decade.
Edinburgh: Wales 25 (Louis Rees-Zammit 2, Liam Williams, Wyn Jones tries; Leigh Halfpenny pen, Callum Sheedy con) Scotland 24 (Stuart Hogg 2, Darcy Graham tries; Finn Russell 3 pen, con) HT: 17-8 Scotland
London: England 41 (Anthony Watson 2, Jonny Hill, Jonny May, Jack Willis, Elliott Daly tries; Owen Farrell 4 con, pen) Italy 18 (Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan tries; Paolo Garbisi 2 pen, Allan con) HT: 20-8 England
Dublin: France 15 (Charles Ollivon, Damien Penaud tries; Matthieu Jalibert pen, con) Ireland 13 (Ronan Kellher try; Ross Byrne pen, con, Billy Burns pen) HT: 10-3 France
15: Brice Dulin (France)
14: Jonny May (England)
13: Chris Harris (Scotland)
12: Ulisi Halaholo (Wales)
11: Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales)
10: Matthieu Jalibert (France)
9: Antoine Dupont (France)
8: Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
7: Charles Ollivon (France)
6: Rhys Ruddock (Ireland)
5: Jonny Gray (Scotland)
4: Maro Itoje (England)
3: Mohamed Haouas (France)
2: Luke Cowan-Dickie (England)
1: Wyn Jones (Wales)
Italy v France, Rome, 27 Feb 3:15am
Wales v England, Cardiff, 27 Feb 5:45am
France v Scotland, Paris, 28 Feb 4am