Wales claim a fifth Six Nations crown and fourth Grand Slam

Wales claim a fifth Six Nations crown and fourth Grand Slam
Welsh coach Warren Gatland. Photo: National Assembly for Wales, Wikimedia Commons

Wales have claimed a shock Grand Slam win in the 2019 Six Nations, overcoming the far more heavily fancied England and Ireland. Home games against these two heavyweights helped, although Wales ended up winning every game through gritty defence rather than an incisive attack.

The Welsh saved their best for last, demolishing Ireland 25-7 in Cardiff in the final round after seeming to fall over the line at times earlier in the tournament. The away wins against France, Scotland and Italy were all unconvincing examples of winning ugly, beating France and Scotland by single scores, and Italy by 11.

Wales took the lead and established their credentials in their first home game, against England in round 3. Against the (by then) tournament favourites, Wales backed their defence and held England to 13 – by far their lowest score of the tournament (the next lowest was 32 against Ireland). Wales were also the only team to hold all of their opponents to less than 20.

Wales also won the tournament without getting a single bonus point for scoring 4 tries in a match – the only team other than perennial easy beats Italy to do this. The overall picture is that defence is what wins games against the top teams, rather than running rugby – although it remains to be seen whether that approach will win a World Cup later in the year.

Ireland, who won a Grand Slam last year and are steered around the field by the current world rugby player of the year, largely went missing in the big games this year. The pre-tournament favourites, who beat the All Blacks in November, were stunned in Dublin by England in round 1 of the tournament and never seemed to recover. They managed some unconvincing wins against Scotland, Italy and France before going down to Wales to end the tournament in third.

England looked impressive in attack against everyone but Wales, but their defence deserted them at the final hurdle. After leading 31-0 at one stage against Scotland in the final round, a converted try after the buzzer was needed to salvage a 38 all draw.

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