Phew. Breathe everyone. The first two weeks are over. The results are in. We now have a couple of weeks to process everything before it all begins again. So what happened?
Well, we predicted the correct outcomes again, calling Ireland, England and Scotland as victors, with a little tighter scorelines than last week, but still not great.
So what does this mean? Well, our model feeds in games from the previous 4 years and works out an expected score for each team based on location and current ranking. More accurately speaking, this means each score is actually a metric to describe the relative strengths of the two teams, based on their performances over the previous 4 years. However, we think it is more fun to think of them as predictions. Any significant difference to the predicted score could therefore indicate over or under performance relative to their previous matches.
Ireland demolished Italy by a margin of 37 points on Saturday, scoring eight tries in a comprehensive win. Unfortunately, this has been rather par for the course in this fixture in recent years, with the winning Irish margin in the last seven years being 37 points. Italy score three good tries and very nearly secured a four try bonus point (which would have been their first Championship point since 2015), but sadly at this stage the game had long gone.
Ireland started strongly and never really looked back, displaying the sort of try scoring ability that they so lacked in last weeks fixture against France. They will need to continue to show this against more difficult opposition than Italy as the tournament continues, and probably tighten up the defence – the Irish will not have been happy with the tries conceded as the game progressed.
They will be pleased with a bonus point win however, and the points difference achieved that puts them on top of the table over the first tournament break. Ireland also take their current winning streak to 9 games in a row, with their last defeat to Wales in last years Six Nations. Next up for them is Wales again, but this time at home in Lansdowne Road.
Ireland will be favourites going in, but this will be a difficult game for the Irish despite their recent home success, as Wales are one of the few teams to have enjoyed consistent triumphs in Dublin, winning three of the last six games played, and drawing one. It’s worth noting that a slip up for Ireland here would probably hand England the title.
Unfortunately for the Italians there was little to take from this game. They were 28 – 0 down by half-time and had little to fight for from thereon in. However, as already mentioned they scored three good tries against an Irish side that is famously drilled in its defence. They also stretched England last weekend when they played front foot rugby, so there is definitely something there for Italian rugby. They will need to tighten up in almost every other facet of the game however, if they want to compete in these matches. A tough ask for the Italians and Conor O’Shea.