Ireland beat England 13-9 in Dublin to deny the Six Nations champions back-to-back Grand Slams and a tier-one record 19 consecutive Test wins. SIMON BORCHARDT reports.
Last November, Ireland beat the All Blacks in Chicago to end the world champions’ 18-match winning streak. And on Saturday, they did the same to England, who having retained their Six Nations crown last weekend, were looking to another Grand Slam and that record-breaking 19th successive win.
Ireland lost to Wales in Cardiff last weekend, but raised their game significantly when given the opportunity to spoil England’s party.
The hosts totally dominated the first half, enjoying 74% of the possession and 76% of the territory. And while England got their hands on more ball in the second half, they never really threatened the Irish tryline.
Ireland’s forwards were immense, and their lineout outstanding. A crucial moment came in the 73rd minute when England kicked a penalty into touch to set up a lineout on Ireland’s 22. But Peter O’Mahony got in front of Maro Itoje to steal possession and his side were able to relieve the pressure.
It was clear from the opening minutes of this match that Ireland had come to play.
The hosts opened the scoring with a penalty goal, but would have been disappointed not to come away with an early try. They looked set to score one when Jared Payne broke through a couple of tackles and found Keith Earls, only for the winger to knock on in the tackle with the tryline in sight.
Owen Farrell levelled the scores with a penalty, but Ireland stormed back on,to the attack. When awarded a kickable penalty, they went for touch and set up a lineout driving maul, from which Iain Henderson went over to make it 10-3 after 24 minutes.
The Irish looked set to score again soon after, when Earls took play from England’s 10m line deep into their 22, but the ball was lost forward at the breakdown.
Ireland continued to camp deep in opposition territory and England would have been relieved to have gone into the break still only seven points down.
The second half was a tight affair, with two penalties from Farrell and one from Sexton making it 13-9 with 13 minutes to go.
England then appeared to step up a gear, but losing that lineout on Ireland’s 22 was a big blow from which they never recovered.
A knock-on two minutes after the hooter ended the visitors’ challenge, and while there were smiles on the players’ faces when they lifted the Six Nations trophy, there was also a palpable sense of disappointment.
Ireland – Try: Iain Henderson. Conversion: Johnny Sexton. Penalties: Sexton (2).
England – Penalties: Owen Farrell (3).
Ireland – 15 Jared Payne, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Tadgh Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Cian Healy, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Andrew Conway.
England – 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 James Haskell, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Danny Care, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell.
Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP Photo