Wales thrashed England by a record-breaking 30-3 in Cardiff on Saturday to retain the Six Nations title and deny the visitors the Grand Slam.
As the tournament enjoyed a frenetic finale, Italy handed Ireland a 22-15 defeat in Rome, while France recorded their first win with a 23-16 victory over Scotland in Paris.
However, that triumph was not enough to prevent rock-bottom France from landing the dreaded wooden spoon.
Wales wing Alex Cuthbert’s two second-half tries at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium proved decisive in a match they had to win by seven points to retain the title for the first time since 1979, provided they maintained their superior try-count.
As it was, the defending Grand Slam champions beat a 108-year-old record to clinch their biggest win over England, surpassing a 25-0 win back in 1905.
“We were outstanding. This is better than the Grand Slam last year. We outclassed them,” Wales interim coach Rob Howley said. “This is a unique place in world rugby. With the crowd behind us, we needed to start well.”
England coach Stuart Lancaster admitted Wales had been the better side.
“We are gutted. We didn’t get the execution right and didn’t turn up,” he said. “We just weren’t good enough. We have no complaints, we couldn’t match their physicality.”
After building a 12-3 lead early in the second half, through four penalties by fullback Leigh Halfpenny to one from England flyhalf Owen Farrell, Wales surged ahead through a try by Cuthbert.
That put them 17-3 in front and minutes later Farrell missed his second penalty in three attempts.
Dan Biggar added a drop-goal before Cuthbert stormed in for another try, with flyhalf Biggar completing the rout with a penalty.
Meanwhile, at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, superstar Brian O’Driscoll, in his 125th and possibly final appearance for Ireland, saw his team slump to a 22-15 loss to Italy.
It was Italy’s first Six Nations win over Ireland, who had started the tournament with a 30-22 win over Wales in Cardiff.
Winger Giovanbattista Venditti scored the only try in the 49th minute, while O’Driscoll’s afternoon was further clouded when he was sin-binned in the first half for stamping on the stomach of Simone Favaro.
“We’re improving. We play France and Ireland in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup and we have sent a strong message to them,” said Italy skipper Sergio Parisse, whose side had also beaten struggling France in this year’s championship.
“There were a lot of positives in this game from a psychological point of view,” he said.
Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip insisted his team would learn from their three defeats.
“Going forward, the experience will be good for the squad. It’s been a very frustrating tournament, just one or two scores in it,” the backrow forward said.
France landed the dreaded wooden spoon for the first time since 1999, despite beating Scotland 23-16 at the Stade de France.
Second-half tries by Wesley Fofana and Maxime Medard saw them to their first win of the tournament, but a late try by Tim Visser reduced the margin and that left them rock bottom on points difference behind Ireland.
“We were controlling the game well, but couldn’t get points on the board,” Fofana said. “This has been a problem throughout the tournament — we have a good first half where we have the ball, but can’t convert. We were a little worried towards the end, but we are happy to have won the match.”
Scotland lock Jim Hamilton, whose team finished third in the table, said: “Naturally we’re pretty disappointed. We thought we could come to Paris and win.”
“We’ve had a half decent tournament. We’re a team that never gives up,” he said. “We’re on an upward curve, we’re trying to learn. There’s still a lot of work to do and we’re just looking to improve every time we play.”