Talking points,

England put the dragon to bed

England came out on top in the Welsh cauldron while Man Utd launched an improbable quadruple charge, I discuss the biggest talking points from the weekend’s sporting action.

1. Resilient England

Wales endured a tumultuous build up to Saturday’s game, but that certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the 70,000 odd Welsh fans who gathered at the Principality to rouse their struggling troops.

Land of My Fathers was belted out with extra gusto and the opening exchanges were played out at a frenetic tempo against a raucous backdrop of home support. But Farrell’s early conversion sucked the air from Welsh lungs, and despite a scrappy performance, England were not to be denied with Ollie Lawrence landing the knockout blow in the 74th minute.

The only negative on the day was Owen Farrell’s wayward kicking, missing two penalties and two conversions, with his kicking success rate down 44.3%. Overall, England’s attack functioned well, if a little wasteful in key moments. Next up is the visit of France. This improving England certainly have a sporting chance, but can they make it count?

England to beat France @ 11/10

2. Vanillier for the Grand National?

It was a quiet weekend on the Cheltenham front with most festival runners wrapped up at home in many layers of cotton wool.

But racing is a sport that can’t help but think ahead, and with few Cheltenham pointers this weekend, punters’ minds were cast further into the future towards the distant balmy climes of Aintree in the Spring: The Grand National.

Enter Vanillier. A festival winner two years ago in the Albert Bartlett, the eight-year-old has managed only one win since then, perhaps not quite living up to expectations. However, after starting the weekend widely available at 66s and even 100s in some places for the Grand National, by Sunday evening he was into 25-1. He’s certainly one to watch.

Vanillier to win the Grand National @ 25-1

3. Resurgent Red Devils

On Sunday Man Utd ended their six-year trophy drought in so doing consigning Newcastle to a 69th campaign without silverware. From a shambolic start to the season, the manner of their victory – controlled, professional, dynamic – shows just how far Erik Ten Hag has brought them and they remain in the shake-up for the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League.

Ten Hag and his players believe their Carabao Cup success can inaugurate a new era of dominance, but, Liverpool and Chelsea’s woes this season beg the question: is a quadruple charge a blessing or a curse?

The Reds played a whopping 63 games in all competitions last term while Chelsea – who were beaten in both domestic finals – clocked 60. Both teams have shown the ill-effects of fighting on all fronts looking weary and psychologically drained from last season’s exertions.

Man Utd to win the quadruple @ 125-1

4. Irish craics?

Ireland’s Grand Slam hopes remain undented with a perfect tally of three wins from three. However, they were far from perfect in Rome on Saturday. This fast-improving Italian side have nothing to show after three games, despite demonstrating plenty of gumption and guile in the process – going out on their shield to France in the opener and running the Irish close here.

The fact of the matter is Ireland found a way to win as they seemingly always do. But stiffer tests await. Their upcoming trip to Murrayfield against a Scottish side with serious hopes of quenching their Six Nations drought should provide a bona fide test of their title-winning ambitions.

Scotland to beat Ireland @ 13/5

5. Looking the part 

While Arsenal have led the table for what seems like forever, throwing in spirited victories against Man Utd and Villa along the way, as Jose Mourinho will tell you, it’s not the the glamour days that win you a Premier League title.

It is days like Saturday, cold East Midlands afternoons, where Premier League points are pried from unwilling opponents’ hands. Leicester have been up and down this season, but the King Power remains a tough place to go. After all it was only a little over two weeks ago when the Foxes ruthlessly put four past Arsenal’s North London rivals.

But the Gunners came through the challenge, winning 1-0 in the gritty manner that all would-be Champions must do. They are two points clear of City with a game in hand, is it now a case of being Arsenal’s title to lose?

Arsenal to win the Premier League @ Evs

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