The remarkable rollercoaster ride that was this year’s Six Nations upheld the splendour of the championship, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld as he selects the 10 best tries of the tournament.
Another stellar Six Nations is in the books. The captivating championship race went down to the final game in Paris, where Scotland stunned title-chasers France 27-23 on Friday to hand Wales the spoils.
Indeed, the 2021 edition of the northern hemisphere showcase produced plenty of excitement, drama and historic triumphs, as well as stunning tries. Terrific teamwork, prolific power and exceptional skill were on show and collectively make up my list of the 10 most breath-taking tries of the tournament:
10: Watson Finds a Way
England had hosts Wales in trouble with quick and crisp recycled ball, but few would’ve been able to finish off as Anthony Watson did. The winger beat four defenders in a phone booth, stepping inside Liam Williams and finding a blade of grass despite the efforts of Josh Adams, Alun Wyn Jones and Josh Navidi.
9: Scotland Sweep Italy Aside
South African-born Duhan van der Merwe was at his destructive best when he led Scotland’s rout of Italy. The No.11 scored a brace and had a key hand in the pick of the hosts’ eight tries in Edinburgh, an end-to-end stunner that saw the ball go through over half a dozen pairs of hands before centre Huw Jones dotted down under the posts.
8: Duhan the Destroyer
There’s American muscle, country strong and then there’s South African strong. Duhan van der Merwe had a Six Nations debut for the ages as he helped power Scotland to a first triumph at Twickenham since 1983. Big, strong and supremely determined, the monster wing was an unstoppable force when he was fed the ball in the 22 in the first half. A small army could seemingly not have denied the 25-year-old as he steamrolled three English defenders on his march over the try line.
7: Zamm Good Finish
Like Van der Merwe, Louis Rees-Zammit could not have hoped for a better Six Nations debut. Despite playing against 14 men for the majority of the clash against Ireland in Cardiff, the hosts found themselves trailing near the hour-mark. Great hands by fullback Leigh Halfpenny, in particular, opened a window of opportunity and the young wing snuck through to touch down in the corner.
6: Picture Perfect
It’s a joy to watch when a youngster plays with freedom at the highest level. A week after his cracker in Cardiff, Welsh rookie Zammit was at it again and showed zero fear of failure when he stunned Scotland at Murrayfield. Having already scored in the first half, the 20-year-old winger doubled down with an excellently executed chip-and-chase effort.
5: French Flair
It was not to be for Les Bleus, but they pulled out all the stops in the championship decider against Scotland in Paris, including this superb score sparked by fullback Brice Dulin from inside his 22. Wing Damian Penaud’s chip and re-gather weren’t as smooth as Zammits, but the added grubber and silky handling leading up to it, especially centre Virimi Vakatawa’s fantastic chicken-wing offload, put it over the top.
4: Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee
Sublime synergy from a set-piece saw French flyer Damian Penaud score a pearler in Le Crunch. Centre Gael Fickou ran onto hooker Julien Marchand’s bazooka ball from a lineout just outside England’s 22 and linked up with Antoine Dupont on the wraparound. The nuggety No.9 shipped the ball to halfback partner Matthieu Jalibert, who sucked in two defenders and floated a perfect pass to Penaud out wide to round off.
3: Irish Eyes are Smiling
Ireland produced a slice of set-piece perfection of their own en route to downing England in Dublin to give South African-born flank CJ Stander a fitting farewell. Exactly as it was drawn up, Rob Herring’s over-the-top throw-in found Jack Conan, whose pat inside put Keith Earls through a hole. The flyer changed lanes like a Formula 1 race car and left Jonny May in his tracks to score in the corner.
2: May Day
Jonny May left all and sundry in awe when he went full-on Superman against the Azzurri at Twickenham. One of the best finishers in the game, the England winger has a flair for the spectacular but this was truly special even for him as he soared over Luca Sperandio and somehow managed to dot the ball down before his legs landed into touch.
1: The Wizard of France
An electrifying example of why Antoine Dupont is the world’s leading scrumhalf. Amidst a masterclass against Italy, the French No.9 hooved a wayward pass from the hosts ahead, doubled up to regain the ball from wing Gabin Villiere and channelled David Campese with a stupendous no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to centre Arthur Vincent on the switch.