Wins over France and Scotland have seen England and Ireland both improve their position in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings.
England reclaim the third place they lost a fortnight ago thanks to their thrilling 23-20 victory in the 108th edition of ‘Le Crunch’, while Ireland move above Australia and into sixth following their equally tight 27-24 win at Murrayfield.
Argentina benefitted from Scotland’s near-miss, taking eighth place off them with the Scots dropping to ninth.
Meanwhile, Uruguay swap places with Spain, who were narrowly beaten 25-19 at home by Georgia, and are now 17th and 18th respectively.
And the closest result of them all, a 28-27 home defeat to Romania, has cost Portugal three places. Os Lobos drop to 24th with Hong Kong, Namibia and Canada the countries to benefit.
Re-live all the action from an incredible match at Twickenham 👇— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) March 14, 2021
England bounce back
Maro Itoje’s close-range try three minutes from time ended France’s Grand Slam dreams and helped England put the disappointment of defeat to Wales in round three of Six Nations 2021 behind them.
England were behind for much of the match and trailed 17-13 at half-time following tries from Antoine Dupont and a brilliant strike move finished off by Damian Penaud.
Man-of-the-match Anthony Watson was dangerous throughout and scored England’s only try of the first half, but 13 points from the boot of captain Owen Farrell and a gutsy effort in the second half, capped by Itoje’s try, denied Les Bleus a first win at Twickenham since 2005.
France, who play unbeaten Wales in Paris next weekend, can still win the title for the first time since 2010.
Wales one win away
Wales had brushed aside Italy in the earliest of the two Saturday kick-offs, running in seven tries in Rome to win 48-7.
Hooker Ken Owens bagged a brace and he was joined on the scoresheet by both starting wingers, Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit, centre George North, number eight Taulupe Faletau and replacement Callum Sheedy.
Monty Ioane’s well-taken try was scant consolation for the Azzurri, who have now gone 31 consecutive Six Nations games without a win.
The result did not have any impact on the rankings with Wales and Italy staying fifth and 15th, respectively.
Sexton the saviour
Johnny Sexton’s late penalty was all that separated Ireland from Scotland in a bruising battle at Murrayfield, one which sees Ireland move up to sixth and Scotland fall to ninth in the rankings.
Scotland outscored the visitors three tries to one but Sexton held his nerve to land the winning kick from wide out on the left with three minutes left to go.
Finn Russell, Huw Jones and Hamish Watson scored Scotland's tries, while Robbie Henshaw and the outstanding Tadhg Beirne crossed for Ireland.
Pain for Spain
The second round of the Rugby Europe Championship 2021 was equally as exciting, especially with Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification points again at stake.
Georgia currently top the table and lead the race to claim the place set aside in Pool C for Europe 1 at the tournament in France after a tense 25-19 win over Spain made it two wins from two for the Lelos.
Following on from their opening round victory over Portugal, Tornike Jalagonia gave Georgia the perfect start in Madrid with a try after just two minutes. But Spain responded almost straight away through record points scorer Brad Linklater and, at the end of the first half, it was anyone’s game.
A brilliant break by captain Merab Sharikadze kick-started Georgia’s effort and led to a try from Akaki Tabutsadze on 48 minutes, and Jaba Bregvadze added a third with 14 minutes to go.
However, ill-discipline from Georgia was punished by Spain, who remained in the game until the final whistle thanks to a pair of penalties apiece from Bautista Guemes and Linklater.
With just under two-tenths of a rating point for the win, Georgia could only put a small dent in the large points deficit between themselves and Fiji above them and they stay in 12th place.
Spain, who would have equalled their record high of 16th had they won, drop down one place to 18th.
Oaks stand tall at the death
Florin Vlaicu became the first player from an emerging nation to score 1,000 test points on the weekend, but it was Ionel Melinte’s last-gasp conversion that saw Romania come from behind to beat Portugal 28-27.
Portugal looked on course to follow up last year’s victory over Romania with tries from Dany Antunes, Jerónimo Portela and Raffaele Storti and 12 points from the boot of Samuel Marques putting them 27-14 up.
But two converted tries in the last six minutes from Nicholas Onutu and Ovidiu Cojocaru saw the Oaks double their score to snatch a remarkable victory which maintains their position of 19th in the rankings.