Ireland outmuscled England up front to claim a 32-18 victory in CJ Stander’s final Test match in the final round of the Six Nations in Dublin on Saturday.
Finishing strongly: Saturday’s match was easily Ireland’s best under head coach Andy Farrell. The home side had England comprehensively beaten in the pack, causing Eddie Jones’ side plenty of problems in the scrum and at the breakdown. Ireland were also able to nullify the threat of England’s main ball-carriers, with Billy Vunipola in particular having a quiet outing.
Run of play: After the two flyhalves traded early penalties, Ireland laid a decisive blow when a superb move off a lineout had wing Keith Earls sprinting away for the opening try. Jack Conan then went from provider to scorer as Ireland were able to take a commanding 20-6 lead into the break. In a tighter second half, Ireland ground England down, winning penalty after penalty which were converted by Johnny Sexton. England had the final say of the match when Jonny May went over for a consolation try.
Seeing red: The match was not without controversy as Ireland centre Bundee Aki was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Billy Vunipola in the 63rd minute. Aki had made contact with Vunipola’s head, so referee Mathieu Raynal was left with little choice. However, it could be argued that the England No 8 had put himself at risk by dipping his own head into the tackle, as Aki’s tackle height was already quite low. Regardless, it shed light on another grey area in the tackle department.
Standout player: Robbie Henshaw has had an outstanding Six Nations and he finished the tournament with a man-of-the-match performance. The outside centre made 10 carries and eight tackles while also winning a turnover.
Farewell Stander: The post-match focus went to CJ Stander who this week announced that he would be retiring from all rugby at the end of the season, making Saturday’s game his final Test for Ireland. Stander left it all out on the park, completing all 10 of his tackles and he made a few powerful carries. To their credit, England gave Stander a guard of honour and clapped him off the field.