Best player, best try, best match: Our writers give their verdicts on another Six Nations for Ireland

Our writers pick their top moments from the Six Nations Championship 2024

Gerry Thornley

Best Player: Bundee Aki. Seamlessly continued his World Cup form. Once again Ireland’s go-to and with his amalgam of footwork, explosiveness and leg-pumping power beyond contact consistently giving the attack a reference point. A serial hauler of winners medals and as confirmed by the roar which followed his name being announced before kick-off, now a fans’ favourite.

Best Try: In the absence of Antoine Dupont, the brilliant young French scrumhalf Nolann le Garrec was belatedly given the chance to invigorate Les Bleus in the last two games. Backed up that pass of the tournament against Wales by finishing off the try of the tournament against England. From a lineout against the throw, Les Bleus sprang into life, Gael Fickou doing good work to release Leo Barre and throw was le Garrec running a classic scrumhalf’s support run to finish. A very French try by a very French 9.

Best Match: Maybe it was partly the different venue, the Friday night air, the Stade Velodrome, La Marseillaise, the sense of anticipation over the new Big Two, Ireland and France, confronting each other again in another potential – if premature – title decider. And the consequences of losing. But certainly Ireland’s performance, and Jack Crowley’s skilful and mentally strong performance, lived up to the occasion. In the end, they were the top two again. Besides, not picking an Irish defeat!

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Gordon D’Arcy

Best Player: Ben Earl was probably more known for his “energetic” celebrations before this year’s Six Nations. However the English backrower has hit a vein of form that is very impressive, and he is certainly letting his rugby do the talking at the moment and for me is a fitting player of the tournament.

Best Try: Ireland secured back-to-back championships and only our 15th title in the 6 nations. Andrew Porter’s try on 64 mins may not go down in history as the most glamorous try ever scored, however in terms of importance, there are very few to rival the significance of that try.

Best Match: England and France shaking off their poor early form in the Six Nations to deliver a phenomenal match in the final outing of the tournament. It had everything, right up to the dying moments. A penalty to break English hearts but another performance to be proud of.

Matt Williams

Best Player: After a magnificent Rugby World Cup 2023, Bundee Aki has carried that form into this year’s Six Nations Championship. His powerful ball-carrying, mixed with his superb running lines has him as the form inside centre across the Six Nations. Ireland have based much of their initial go-forward on his sustained ability to cross the gain line and overall physical energy.

Best Try: Joyously, backline attacks from scrums are making a much overdue resurgence. While Duhan van der Merwe touched down for the opening try against England at Murrayfield, the credit belongs to the immaculate attacking design of the coaches and the Scottish centres who ran such perfect lines that they created indecision in the English defence. A joy to watch.

Best Match: As much as it hurt Ireland, their encounter at Twickenham was a classic. Spectacular tries from both teams. Adversity as injuries created high drama from a flawed 6-2 split Irish bench. Redemption for England who had been lost are now found and a quality Irish team watched their Grand Slam hopes gargled down the rugby drain as Marcus Smith chipped over a famous drop goal.

John O’Sullivan

Best Player: England’s Ben Earl deserves honourable mention, so too Italy’s Tommaso Menoncello, Duhan van der Merwe but in the big matches during Ireland’s run to the Six Nations Championship title, Bundee Aki was the pointy edge of Ireland’s best attacking moments, continuing on from the brilliant form from the World Cup.

Best Try: Jamison Gibson Park against France in Marseille epitomised good decision-making and in the Ireland scrumhalf and Bundee Aki it involved two of Ireland’s standout players. Robbie Henshaw played a link role, quick transfer, and soft hands put Aki through a gap and he spotted Gibson-Park on the trail line and gave him a scoring pass.

Best Match: France and England in Lyon was a doozy, thrills, spills, some brilliant attacking rugby, and a game that just kept giving until the final whistle. The ebb and flow of the match also contributed handsomely to the excitement levels punctuated by French outhalf Thomas Ramos’ nerveless match winning penalty from the halfway line.

Johnny Watterson

Best Player: Number eight Ben Earls had one of his strongest showings in an England jersey. His rampaging style and ability to link well with backline players in combination with being almost unstoppable from close range. Speed, power. Footwork, he carried 19 times for man of the match against Ireland.

Best Try: The second try of Duhan van der Merwe’s hat-trick against England in Murrayfield. A handling error from George Furbank and Huw Jones scoops to the winger, who takes off down the left. Centre Henry Slade, no slouch, covers across. But the after burners are on and a 60-yard run is rewarded.

Best Match: England v Ireland. A game that went down to the last kick from Marcus Smith was everything a rugby match should be, the scores changing hands and the outcome unknown until the end. A high tempo attack in the outside channels against Ireland’s famed defence. Edge of the seat stuff.

Nathan Johns

Best Player: Given England’s poor start to the tournament, it’s hard to give it to one of their players, as impressive as Ben Earl was, particularly against Ireland. Bundee Aki at times single-handedly gave a stuttering Irish attack the required oomph to be effective.

Best Try: Jame Lowe’s first effort vs England. The way Jack Crowley checked his pass to beat the blitz defender in his face was a reassuring sign, albeit in defeat, that he has the composure to play against such a system. Lowe’s finish was also outstanding.

Best Match: France v England. Narrowly eclipsing Ireland against England given that the end-game had an air of inevitability about Steve Borthwick’s side finding a winner. The last game of the Championship in Lyon instead had a much less certain last-minute winner in Thomas Ramos’ 80th-minute kick from the halfway line.

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