Living up to the heights of Round 1 was a tall order, but as ever, the Northern Hemisphere’s elite competition did not fail to disappoints, offering up yet another trio of breathtaking Natwest Six Nations clashes.
Ireland got proceedings underway in Dublin seeking a bonus-point win over Italy to keep their Grand Slam dreams alive and the men in emerald green completed their mission with verve and panache, racing in eight tries in a 56-19 triumph, albeit they did suffer the loss of centre Robbie Henshaw, scorer of a brace, for the remainder of the competition through injury.
All attention then turned to Twickenham as England welcomed their oldest rivals Wales to rugby headquarters and another ferociously-contested affair resulted in England keeping their hat-trick bid on course with a 12-6 triumph, but it was not without controversy after Wales were denied a try by the television match official, yet two from two means Eddie Jones’ men remain in the hunt for a third Six Nations crown in as many years.
Sunday afternoon was not one for relaxing in Edinburgh either as France did their very best to end Scotland’s bid for a Six Nations title, but despite Les Bleus taking a 20-14 lead courtesy of two wonderful Teddy Thomas tries, yet the hosts refused to relent as Sean Maitland and Huw Jones crossed the whitewash, while Greig Laidlaw kept his cool from the kicking tee, amassing 22 points, as the hosts claimed a tense 32-26 victory.
- Jacob Stockdale
Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale has made a sensational rise to the international stage and looks more than comfortable at the highest level, claiming 132 metres in Round 2, more than any other player in the competition. The Irish flyer was also second in the carries tally too after chalking up 17 runs, only Wales’ Gareth Anscombe making more, leading us to crown Stockdale as king of Round 2 for a remarkable display in Ireland’s routing of Italy, including an intercept try from his own 22-metre line.
- Greig Laidlaw
Scotland began to look toward their better efforts on Sunday afternoon as they eventually broke down France at Murrayfield, but it is fair to say Gregor Townsend’s side look so much better with scrum-half Laidlaw back at the helm. It was the talismanic force of Laidlaw which would see Scotland over the line as the number nine held his nerve throughout to kick his side to victory with 22 points from the kicking tee proving the crucial deciding factor.
- Joe Launchbury
England’s triumph over Wales raised concerns for Jones and his coaching staff to work on during the break in competition, but there were also a number of experienced players who held up their hands with fine performances; Mike Brown excelled at full-back and former captain Chris Robshaw refused to relent in completing a lot of dirty work, but nobody put in more hard yards for the hosts at Twickenham than Joe Launchbury. The Wasps captain completed 19 tackles, second only to Josh Navidi in Round 2, and proved once again he has a sensational engine and desire to lay himself down in defence for his country.
- Unstoppable Underhill
In a tense encounter victory can be defined by the finest of margins and there were merely a few blades of cross between Wales centre Scott Williams and the whitewash, that was, before the remarkable efforts of 21-year-old England back Sam Underhill, who produced a sensational try-saving to wrestle the Welsh midfielder into touch. After Sam Simmonds took top player spot last week, Underhill replaced the Exeter Chief at half-time and put in a top-rate second-half display, optimised by this take-out.
- Sensational Stockdale
Joe Schmidt’s Ireland offered up plenty of highlights in a resounding victory over Italy in the opening encounter of Round 2, with Henshaw completing a fine intercept try and Conor Murray finishing off after some wonderful interplay on the touchline, but our pick of the bunch has to be Ulster wing Stockdale’s 70-metre interception try as the young Irishmen proves to have well-acquainted himself with the international stage.
- Jubilant Jones
Just when it seemed as if France may have Scotland on the ropes, the hosts rallied impressively at BT Murrayfield on a dank Sunday afternoon and it was centre Jones who provided one of the most inspiring plays of the afternoon for Gregor Townsend’s side as he spotted space and ran a searing line with pace and power to penetrate Les Bleus defence and slide right under the posts after a strong Scottish build-up.