Ireland produced a ruthlessly composed performance to derail England’s Grand Slam chances in the final match of this seasons RBS Six Nations series at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
The writing was always on the wall that this set of overinflated gym-bunnies would self destruct, following the absurd performance against Italy, and Eddie Jones and his management team should have a look at their “World Class” Women’s side if they want to learn how to play under intense pressure.
As we’d predicted, Ireland didn’t have to do a lot to win this one. Composure under pressure, secure scrums and lineouts and harass England was all it was ever going to take. Of course there was the huge physical commitment, but that was always a given, given the enormity of the occasion.
It was a dour, but excitingly tense, game and the inclusion of Peter O’Mahony, as a late replacement for Jamie Heaslip, made all the difference, the Munster man bringing a delightfully hard edge to the Irish game. The inclusion of Jared Payne took a lot of pressure off Johnny Sexton and the Leinster man responded with a far more composed game, brushing off the schoolboy tactics of the English defenders unwelcome attentions.
With their failure to rattle Sexton so went England’s only obvious game plan. Outside of this tactic they were slow clunky and a little too obvious, more focused on stopping Ireland than in playing their own game. Poor, poor stuff from the Six Nations Champions.
Ireland were forced into a late change minutes before kick off with Jamie Heaslip rolling his ankle in the warm up. In stepped Peter O’Mahoney at 6 with CJ Stander moving to No. 8.
A frenetic opening saw both sides swap penalties trough Sexton and Farrell before a series of penalties saw Ireland opt for a 5 m lineout. A successful gather and a series of rucks ended with Iain Henderson stretching for the line for the games only try. Sexton added the extras and Ireland led 10 – 3 at the start of the second quarter.
England were clearly rattled and mistakes crept into their game but with Ireland dominating possession and territory the visitors were somewhat relieved to take the same score into the half time break.
TRY: Iain Henderson. CON: Johnny Sexton. PEN: Johnny Sexton (2).
England (3) 9
PEN: Owen Farrell (3).
If so much hadn’t been at stake the second half would have been described as nondescript instead of the tense thriller it proved to be.
As far as scoring went, Farrell landed a penalty on the 51st minute before Sexton hit back with a howitzer from the halfway line ten minutes later to take the score to 13 – 6.
The English commentators talked up the replacements as the teams made changes but the English “finishers” proved just as ineffective, and the Irish substitutes were just as determined, as those they replaced.
Plenty of endeavour from both sides but little creativity. Farrell knocked over a 71st penalty to make it 13 – 9 but it was a small bump on Ireland’s steady progress towards the win.
England roused themselves for a grand slam finish as the game got down to it’s last play but the game fittingly ended with a Mike Brown knock on, the English full back concentrating more on posturing than playing throughout the game.
Final Score: Ireland 13 England 9