by Marcus Leach
As the teams prepare for a week off we look back at all the action from round two of the 2014 RBS Six Nations.
There is no doubt that Ireland and France are the two favourites after the latest round of action, but England will believe they can still have a say in where the title ends up.
Ireland 26 Wales 3
Ireland produced a relentless display to tactically outclass Wales in Dublin as they recorded their second win of the tournament, running out convincing 26-3 victors.
In truth the scoreline flattered Wales, as Ireland, guided by the astute kicking game of fly-half Jonny Sexton suffocated their opponents to the point they had little idea what to do. And this is the reigning champions, a side chasing their third consecutvie title, or at least they were until this horrorshow.
From the very first minute Ireland had a controlled ferocity about their play that was simply too much for Wales to handle, so much so that all they could do was give away a string of penalties to try and quell surging drives and incisive attacks.
Sexton is a real talent at ten, his kicking game was as close to perfection as you can get, helped by the platform his powerful forwards lead. With Paul O'Connell back and Peter O'Mahonny and Chris Henry wreaking havoc with ball in hand Ireland looked every bit a championship team.
Wales on the other hand were, as Warren Gatland said, dreadful. If it wasn't basic handling errors it was penalties, and if it wasn't penalties it was a poor kicking game that all contributed to their downfall. But it wasn't just that Wales were bad, Ireland made them worse with pressure and the perfect execution of tactics.
Joe Schmidt talked about the importance of winning their opening two games at home before they go on the road, and with that objective soundly complete Ireland can start realisitically dreaming of bigger prizes. The way they are playing you can't see an imporoving Italian side causing them too many problems, leaving mouthwatering away fixtures against England and France to come. With the latter a potential, dare we say it, Grand Slam decider in Paris.
Tries: Henry, Jackson
Cons: Sexton, Jackson
Pens: Sexton 4
Scotland 0 England 20
England produced a simple, yet effective performance to outclass Scotland at Murrayfield as they got their campaign back on track with a 20-0 victory.
With heavy rain leading up to the game the pitch was a mess even before kick-off and quickly deteriorated as the game went on. Yet England didn't let that hamper their game as they outclassed a worryingly bad Scotland side. Desperately unlucky to lose last week Stuart Lancaster's men played like a team with a point to prove, and prove it they did.
Defying the conditions England played with a real sense of urgency to their game, stretching the Scottish defence this way and that with a lovely mix of powerful forward play and incisive attack from a dangerous looking back line.
Truth be told the final score could have been a lot worse but for a few last ditch defensive efforts by Scotland. What will please Lancaster the most is the way that his side executed simple, yet effective tactics that suited the conditions perfectly. Owen Farrell had an off day with the boot, but that didn't matter too much.
The emergence of Billy Vunipola at number eight has given the England pack huge impetuous and power. Danny Care, in the form of his life at the moment, is thriving off the quick, front foot ball and slowly but surely England are starting to look like a serious team.
Scotland on the other hand are in a right state. The belief was, after last week's defeat in Dublin, that things couldn't get any worse. Yet here, in front of their own crowd, they did. Not a single point to show for their efforts and you wonder how Scott Johnson, or Vern Cotter when he arrives, are going to change the slump.
You can't fault their heart, but they are simply a poor side with poor players in key positions. Duncan Weir is no more an international fly-half than he is six foot tall, whilst the once influential Jim Hamilton is becoming something of a liability to this Scotland pack with his indiscipline.
Stuart Hogg, the one player Scotland boast who has x-factor, is wasted at full-back and the sooner he is moved to play at ten the better. With an away trip against Italy to come next Scotland are already looking favourites for the wooden spoon.
Tries: Burrell, Brown
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 2
France 30 Italy 10
France built on their moral boosting victory against England with a 30-10 win over a lively Italy in Paris.
However, if ever a scoreline flattered, this was it. Not that France didn't deserve their victory, yet had it not been for a ten minute purple patch they may have had to work a little harder for this one. As it was with barely fifty-five minutes on the clock the game was over and became rather dull.
Leading 9-3 at half-time, after forty minutes of hard fought international rugby, France ran away with the game thanks to three quick-fire tries that did for the Italians, who up until that point had been more than competitive. Even after the game was over as a contest it was Italy who kept throwing wave, after wave of attack at France.
There was a sense that France did what they had to do for the win, and nothing more, a tactic that won't win them too many fans when they have such potential. Jules Plisson looked more comfortable at fly-half this week, although questions still remain about his composure.
With the likes of Gael Fickou waiting in the wings it is hard to see how Mathieu Bastareaud can continue in the side for much longer. His game has become so predictable, head down run straight, that defenders no longer fear him and can deal with his threat. France need more flair and less muscle, especially if they are to continue their push for the title.
For all of this though France will simply point to two wins, not caring much for the manner in which they came, as we head into a mini-break before the next round of fixtures.
Italy are a new team under Jacques Brunel, not the finished article but a vast improvement on the old Italy. One of the biggest differences is the fact their back line now attacks on the gain line, and not twenty metres behind it as used to be the case. This means they are playing on the front foot and look dangerous doing so.
They welcome Scotland to Rome next and will more than fancy their chances of picking up their first victory of this season's tournament.
Red cards for Rabah Slimani and Michele Rizzo for an exchange of head butts soured the final stages of the game, although it has to be said the slow motion replays made it all look a lot worse than it was. Still, the law is the law and they were both given their marching orders.
Tries: Picamoles, Fofana, Bonneval
Cons: Doussain 3
Pens: Doussain 3