Six Nations Week 4: England end Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes

Rugby Tuesday March 12, 2024 By: Harry Howes

After a two-week break, the Six Nations returned at the weekend and there were plenty of shocks. England secured a late win over favourites Ireland, while Italy claimed their first victory of this year’s competition.

Elsewhere, Wales’ misery continued as they slumped to another defeat. The Six Nations comes to a close this weekend with Super Saturday and, as ever, we’ve rounded up the best of the action.

Six Nations Table


England strike late to sink Ireland

While it didn’t quite have the same impact, there were shades of Jonny Wilkinson in 2003 as Marcus Smith’s last-gasp drop-goal secured a famous win for England. With the hosts two points behind at Twickenham, the Harlequins fly-half silenced the reigning champions.

Ireland thought they’d won it through James Lowe’s second try, which would have left Andy Farrell’s side just one win away from back-to-back Grand Slams. But in the game’s final phase, Smith had other ideas and booted between the posts to secure an iconic 23-22 victory.

It was Ireland’s first Six Nations defeat for two years and while they’ll likely still claim the championship against Scotland this weekend, they’ll always have to live with the ‘what if’ of the Grand Slam that never was.

England still harbour faint hopes of securing an unlikely title if results go their way. While it ultimately looks like they’ll finish second at best, their win over Ireland will at least put to bed talk of them not being up to standard.

They’ve flattered to deceive in the competition so far but they showed a fighting spirit against Ireland and they’ll travel to France this weekend with a renewed confidence that the new era under Steve Borthwick really has begun.

Italy beat Scotland to shock the world

After holding France to a draw last time out, Italy fans were in dreamland on Saturday as a second-half comeback saw them beat Scotland. It was just their second Six Nations win since 2015 and ended a run of 26 consecutive home defeats in the competition.

Scotland went into the half-time break 22-16 up but they weren’t able to hold on in the second half, with Italy ultimately securing a narrow 31-29 win. They now go into a crucial clash with Wales this weekend with both sides looking to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon.

Italy have never gone three consecutive Six Nations matches unbeaten and they’ll be looking to make history in Cardiff on Saturday. Meanwhile for Scotland, the defeat all but ends their hopes of securing the Six Nations title.

Gregor Townsend’s side were in the ascendancy at half-time but they collapsed and looked a shadow of the team that saw off England last time out. They’ll be licking their wounds this weekend as they face an Ireland side hungry to confirm their second consecutive championship.

France edge past Wales in tight affair

After being held to a draw by Italy, France put that disappointing result behind them with a comfortable win against Wales. They led by just three points at the break but kicked on to win 45-24 thanks to a masterclass from Nolann Le Garrec.

Fans in Cardiff were treated to eight tries but the home faithful will be mightily concerned looking at the table. Wales are bottom with four defeats from four and they’re in danger of their first whitewash since 2003.

It was Wales’ 11th defeat in their last 12 Six Nations matches and another one against Italy in their crunch clash this weekend will consign them to this year’s wooden spoon.

For France, the victory saw them record their highest-ever points tally in Wales. They now find themselves fourth in the table but are just a point behind Saturday’s opponents England and they’re still mathematically able to win the Six Nations, although it remains unlikely.

Week 5 fixtures

Wales v Italy – Saturday 16th March, 14:15

Ireland v Scotland – Saturday 16th March, 16:45

France v England – Saturday 16th March, 20:00

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