World Rugby

Guinness Six Nations Round 4 Wrap-Up: The Weekend Of The Underdogs

Guinness Six Nations Round 4 Wrap-Up: The Weekend Of The Underdogs

Round 4 of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations saw Italy beat Scotland, England beat Ireland and France defeat Wales. Here is a full recap of all the action.

Mar 10, 2024 by Philip Bendon
Guinness Six Nations Round 4 Wrap-Up: The Weekend Of The Underdogs

Round 4 of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations will be remembered as the round of upsets in 2024.

Kicking off the run of underdog wins was a mighty performance from Italy, which showed immense composure in defeating Scotland in Rome.

Hours later, in London, a last-second drop goal by Marcus Smith would see an impressive England home win against an out-of-sorts Ireland at Twickenham.

Completing the wins was a flamboyant French revival, which closed out a strong win over an improving, but ultimately underpowered, Welsh side in Cardiff.

Italy 31, Scotland 29

The biggest upset in this year’s Six Nations Championship, Gonzalo Quesada’s Italy built on its Round 3 draw with France and closed out a superb comeback win over Scotland.

Starting the match brightly, the Azzurri scored first with a Paolo Garbisi penalty.

This start sparked Scotland into action, which resulted in two tries in quick succession through prop Zander Fagerson and wing Kyle Steyn to take a 14-3 lead.

Italy, as it has done all Championship, struck back quickly with a superb try through center Ignacio Brex, who got on the end of a well-placed chip kick.

Scotland scored again, as prop Pierre Schoeman got over the line, but as Italy showed against England and France, the team simply did not go away.

Trailing 22-16 at halftime, Italy launched an early onslaught to start the second half and was rewarded, as debutant Louis Lynagh crossed for his first try in the blue jersey.

Italy went on to dominate the second half but did concede a late try to second row Sam Skinner, before shutting down a multiphase Scottish attack to close out the game.

Speaking after the match, Italy head coach Quesda said, "It was a tough game. I think we managed to become good in the second half. We didn't deal with the first half the way we should. It's a special day, though, it's a step on the growth of the team. I'm happy for them to experience a win.

"It's an amazing feeling for a coach. Eleven years without a win here and 13 against Scotland, I want to talk about the staff and the whole team, not just me. We have created a special group that has worked tirelessly." 

On the other side of the fence, Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend clearly was frustrated as he said, "Italy played better in the second half and got more points than us, so of course they deserved it. I thought we came out in the second half and got the contact area sorted and created a score, but it was disallowed, and after that, we were ill-disciplined.

"After that try, we gave away about six penalties in a row, which let them back in the game. The players started well and finished well. We lost our discipline and gave Italy opportunities - that is the most disappointing aspect."

England 23, Ireland 22

The back-to-back Grand Slam no longer is available for Ireland, as Marcus Smith slotted an 80th-minute drop goal to sneak England home.

In reality, England was the dominant team throughout the 80 minutes but was unable to shake Ireland, which showed that even when the team was not at 100%, it could stay in the fight.

Leading 12- 8 at halftime, Ireland felt as though it had no ball or territory to play with, and yet, it had leaked just one try to Ollie Lawrence in the opening minutes.

Starting the second half, Ireland took control, as winger James Lowe crossed for the first of his two tries on the afternoon with a sublime finish in the corner.

Now leading 17-8, it appeared as though Ireland would kick on, but credit has to go to England, which found the right emotional pitch in front of their raucous home crowd.

Chipping away at the Irish lead, England struck back immediately through fullback George Furbank, who claimed his second international try.

Now, back in the fight, England claimed the lead through the ultra-impressive Ben Earl, who had his best game in a white shirt to date.

Ireland, now trailing and a man down following captain Peter O’Mahony’s yellow card had it all to do.

Still lacking possession and now down two backline players, as Ciaran Frawley joined Calvin Nash in having to leave the action with a HIA. This meant a major backline shift, with Jamison Gibson-Park moving from scrumhalf to the wing when Conor Murray entered the contest.

Lowe’s second try gave Ireland a crucial late lead with just a few minutes remaining, but unlike at any point since the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal, Ireland did not handle the pressure.

Instead of clearing the lines, a couple of wayward passes from Murray and a questionable box kick handed England valuable field possession. Capitalising on this, England put the Irish line under intense pressure and was rewarded with two penalty advantages before the decisive Smith drop goal.

Speaking post-match, England coach Steve Borthwick was pleased with his team’s efforts, saying, "The team has been progressing. We are four games into building a new team, and I am delighted for the players and especially the supporters.

"When you look at that game, the players showed incredible intensity from the first minute to the 80th minute.

"Against a team of this quality, you know you are going to have to problem solve, and there were small adjustments we could see from the box.

"The blend of the game for periods was an arm wrestle, and then it would break open with a counter-attack."

Echoing his opponent's sentiments, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell was clear and classy in his assessment of the fixture.

"For large parts of the game, I thought we were a little bit off, and that's down to England, but I felt we had the resilience to keep bouncing back," Farrell said. "England found a way in the end; they really deserved to win.

"We have been very good at winning. We have to be good at losing. We have to make sure we review that properly and come into work on Monday with a smile on our faces because there is a championship to win."

France 45, Wales 24

Warren Gatland’s band of youngsters put in a mighty shift for 60 minutes against a powerful, but inaccurate, French team to close out Round 4.

Playing fast and loose, both sides scored some scintillating tries, before Les Bleus knuckled down and went back to their power game for the final quarter.

Scoring tries through Rio Tyler, Tomos Williams and Joe Roberts, Wales looked to be on course to pull off the third upset of the weekend.

Pulling the string masterfully, young fly-half Sam Costelow showed why Gatland views him as first choice, as he kicked well and kept his side on the front foot. Thus his removal, along with his halfback partner Tomos Williams, was head scratching to say the least, as the Welsh attacking shape fell apart when they departed.

France, which has been under intense pressure so far this Championship, rebounded from its draw with Italy to score six tries.

Falling victim to a multitude of basic errors in the first half, France still led at the break, but took full control in the second half.

Scoring 25 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes, France asserted its physical dominance over the hosts and scrummaged the Welsh into the ground.

This display of power seemed to reignite the French flair, as their lethal backline played freely off the well-laid platform of the forwards.

In the end, this was the most complete performance from a French side that's still in the hunt to finish second in this year’s Championship with a win over England and an Irish victory over Scotland in Round 5.  

Speaking post-match, Welsh head coach Warren Gatland felt the match was one his team had let slip away. 

"We were up 24-23, but we didn't manage the game with turnovers, and we're disappointing with some soft points given away," Gatland said. "We probably overplayed. When we were down by six points, and you're thinking, just play territory and make it easy for yourselves, but we hurt ourselves and did not play well enough in that last period.

"France put our scrum under pressure; that's something we've been working hard on, and we're not there at the moment. I thought our lineout was excellent, and our line speed could have been better.

"The plan was if we went multiple phases then we'd cause them lots of problems and we did.

"But we didn't help ourselves with some of the mistakes for us."

Returning French captain Gregory Alldritt clearly was happy with his team’s return to form when he spoke post-match.

"We had a great performance today," he said. "We were really frustrated after Italy and wanted to make France proud again, so it's great to do that at this stadium. We have a massive massive pack, and we wanted to be tough on the collision. We have some really good young players, and I'm really proud of them. Nolan Le Garrec scored a try as well."

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