|2018 Six Nations|
|England (5) 15|
|Tries: Daly 2, May|
|Ireland (21) 24|
|Tries: Ringrose, Stander, Stockdale, Cons: Sexton 2, Carbery Pen: Murray|
Ireland thumped England on St Patrick’s Day to win only the third Grand Slam in their history in thrilling fashion.
First-half tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale lit up a snowy Twickenham as Joe Schmidt’s men opened up a 21-5 lead despite having Peter O’Mahony in the sin bin.
A brace from Elliot Daly and Jonny May’s try with the clock in the red at the end of the game brought only faint consolation for the home side on another chastening afternoon for Eddie Jones.
Clinical with their chances, composed on an afternoon of immense pressure, Ireland were fully deserving of their triumph.
This team now joins the heroes of 1948 and 2009, their thrilling blend of experience and youth a class above their northern hemisphere rivals.
England had won 14 matches on the bounce at Twickenham but their poor Six Nations went from disappointing to disastrous under a green-shirted onslaught.
Not since the dark days of 2006 have they lost three matches in a single Six Nations campaign, and with Scotland beating Italy and Wales v France to come, they could yet finish fifth in the table for the first time.
Ireland charge towards history
Ireland got off to a wonderful start when Anthony Watson, challenged by Rob Kearney, spilled a testing high kick sent into the snow by Sexton and Ringrose dived on the loose ball as it bobbled over the try line.
England had the chance to hit back but opted to put a kickable penalty to the corner and then had their rolling maul held up.
It was Fields of Athenry that was ringing through the freezing air rather than Swing Low and it was Ireland who came again on the pitch, Bundee Aki on the left wing dropping a Kearney pass eight metres out with only a scrambling Jonny May ahead of him.
Sexton hit the post with a penalty from distance but straight in front and England were relieved not to be 10 points down.
The let-off was short-lived. Aki smashed through the English midfield after sweet hands from prop Tadgh Furlong and a flat pass to his left found CJ Stander charging on to slide at the line and touch the ball against the base of the left post for a try given after confirmation from the TMO.
From in front Sexton converted for 14-0, and at last England awoke.
Daly was felled by a shoulder from Aki, who was lucky not to receive at least a yellow card, and from a series of penalties kicked to the corner a driving maul was illegally brought down to see O’Mahony sent to the sin bin.
England overthrew the subsequent line-out but came again, and from a clever grubber from Farrell, Daly gathered in the left-hand corner for 14-5.
Most teams would have tried to see out the period with a man down. Ireland were both braver and better.
A series of penalties won territory before Stockdale kicked over Mike Brown, kneed the ball on as it bounced and did wonderfully well to regain his balance before diving to get a hand to the ball just before it went dead.
Joey Carbery, on with Sexton having a head injury assessment, stroked over the conversion and at 21-5 Ireland had one hand on history.
England fightback too little too late
England came out seeking redemption and went close down the left when Daly was tap-tackled by a scrambling Earls and again when Ben Te’o’s poor pass forced May to stop with the line beckoning.
At last their forwards were starting to make inroads, the ball quick and the runners hitting passes at pace, but there were no points to show for it.
Remorselessly Ireland took back control. Aki went off injured and England coach Eddie Jones threw on his finishers for a job that had barely been started, yet it was the men in green who threatened again.
Aki’s replacement Jordan Larmour chose to go solo with Earls outside him on the right before Conor Murray knocked over a penalty for 24-5.
Twickenham was silenced, the gap between two sides on the scoreboard far greater than most had foreseen but an accurate reflection of their respective form.
The excellent Daly profited from a clever Brown offload to dive over in the left-hand corner to make it 24-10 with 15 minutes to go as replacement George Ford made a late impact.
With Sexton off too Ireland lost their fluency and Brown was denied in the corner before May went over down the right at the death.
But the work had been done, and the celebrations reverberated from Twickenham to Tyrone as the final whistle sounded.
England: Watson, May, Joseph, Te’o, Daly, Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Hartley (c), Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Robshaw, Haskell, Simmonds.
Replacements: George, Marler, Cole, Launchbury, Armand, Care, Ford, Brown.
Ireland: Kearney, Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale, Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best (c), Furlong, Ryan, Henderson, O’Mahony, Leavy, Stander.
Replacements: Cronin, McGrath, Porter, Toner, Murphy, Marmion, Carbery, Larmour.