Ireland secured their third ever Grand Slam as they saw off a lethargic England 24-15 at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day.
An error-infused English performance allowed for Ireland to score three tries meaning that last season’s Six Nations champions end this campaign with only two wins to their name, their lowest amount of wins in the competition since 2006.
Ireland’s impressive form has seen them overtake England as the number two side in the world and it now seems as if the Irish are the European side best set ahead of the World Cup in Japan next year.
Ireland got off to a flying start as Jonny Sexton launched a ball into the snowy sky of Twickenham and as it came back down under pressure England full-back Anthony Watson failed to catch the ball, the Bath speedster had a chance to recover but the ever-impressive Garry Ringrose was on hand to dot down and give Ireland a perfect start. Sexton, with a little less height on his kick, added the extras.
Ireland continued to press as they looked to pile the misery onto an English side who have struggled in this tournament. Quick ball retention in the English 22 allowed for the ball to be flung outwide to Bundee Aki but the bullish centre couldn’t catch the ball cleanly allowing England to clear their lines.
Sexton missed out on a chance to extend Irish’s lead as he hit the post with a penalty after Kyle Sinckler went off his feet at a ruck.
The St Patrick’s Day celebrations continued shortly though as Aki made up for his mistake earlier finding a gap in England’s defensive line to burst through before releasing CJ Stander who rampaged his way towards the line and touched the ball against the bottom of the post to score Ireland’s second try of the game. Sexton’s kicking boots returned as he made it a seven-point score.
England’s best phases of attack came soon after. A lineout close to the Irish line was dragged down by Peter O’Mahony, who was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements. England were able to capitalise on their man advantage as Owen Farrell put a kick in behind Keith Earls allowing Daly to pounce for England’s first score of the game. Farrell couldn’t add the two points.
Ireland not content with two tries, and back to a full fifteen, continued to attack with the clock in red. Jacob Stockdale made Six Nations history as he gathered in his own chip to score his 7th try of the campaign, overtaking the record previously held by Will Greenwood, Shane Williams and Chris Ashton. Joey Carberry bisected the uprights and gave Ireland a 21-5 lead at half-time.
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England started the second half in promising fashion. Farrell’s flat pass out to Daly put the Wasps back in space but a covering tackle from Keith Earls and Rob Kearney pushed the winger into touch.
In a cagey second half it took until the hour mark for the first points of the half. Conor Murray, kicking in place of Sexton, calmly slotted a penalty to extend the lead.
England finally got some reward for their hard work in the final half. George Ford, on at fly-half, linked up nicely with Farrell before releasing Mike Brown. The Harlequins full-back offload found Daly who went over for his second of the game. Farrell missed from the touchline with the conversion.
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Ireland continued to press for a bonus-point try but couldn’t capitalise on England’s errors. A resulting penalty for further infringement at the breakdown set Carberry up with the chance to add to his conversion from earlier but the replacement fly-half missed off the tee.
England went in search of a consolation score deep into the second half and their patience paid off. Phase after phase saw the ball finally spread out to Jonny May on the right wing who ran in for England’s third try of the game. Farrell made it a match to forget from the boot as the kick missed once again, meaning that England missed out on a losing bonus point, leaving them at risk of finishing 5th in the table.