What you need to know about Ireland’s 24-15 win over England at Twickenham in the final round of the 2018 Six Nations
England v Ireland Talking Points – Grand Slam secured at Twickenham
Ireland won only the third Grand Slam in their history with this comprehensive win over England at Twickenham to round out their 2018 Six Nations campaign.
Rory Best’s side had scored their first try within six minutes, had their third by half-time, and despite an improved England performance from Paris, wrapped up a clean sweep to go with those of 1948 and 2009.
Related: What is a Grand Slam?
Another bright stat from an Ireland perspective was Jacob Stockdale taking his championship tally to seven tries, more than any other player has scored in a single Six Nations.
As for England, this is the first time they have lost three games in a Six Nations campaign since 2006 and it’s their first home defeat in the championship since 2012. Even more damning, England finished fifth in the table – their worst finish since the tournament expanded to include six teams.
Ireland were better in every facet, as they have been in every game of this championship, and the 24-15 scoreline flatters England thanks to Jonny May’s late try.
Clinical, physical, composed, organised, accurate, smart – there are myriad adjectives to describe these Ireland Grand Slammers, and Man of the Match Tadhg Furlong epitomises them all.
Joe Schmidt has built a team that can play in different ways and has much more depth than we saw at the last World Cup. They are advancing towards Japan 2019 with a bounce in their step.
England, in contrast, are stuttering and the three-Test tour to South Africa in June is taking on ever more importance. Can they get back on track against the Springboks? We’ll have to wait a few months to find out.
First, here are the big talking points from Twickenham…
People talk about players being dangerous with ball in hand but at Twickenham we saw a mix of kicks coming to the fore.
Johnny Sexton’s high ball resulted in a try for Garry Ringrose in the sixth minute. Rob Kearney and Anthony Watson jumped for it, the TMO ruled that Watson had knocked on – although later replays hinted that Kearney’s hand may have knocked the ball forward first – and Ringrose came through to touch the ball down.
England’s first-half try came from an Owen Farrell grubber behind the Ireland defence and over the line. Keith Earls was forced to turn and Elliot Daly beat the Irishman to the ball.
Then came Jacob Stockdale’s finish as the clocked ticked past the 40-minute mark. Conor Murray somehow got the ball away to Stockdale on the wing and he chipped over Mike Brown and Jonny May. The ball deflected off Stockdale’s knee as May and Brown tried to bring him down, but the Irishman managed to work his way clear and ground the ball just before the dead-ball line.
England had apparently asked for the dead-ball area to be extended for this game and the blue line was clearly a good metre or so further back than the original white one, giving Stockdale that extra time to touch down. They might now regret that decision!
There was more intensity – and endeavour – to this England performance than we saw in Paris. They were much better at the breakdown, supporting carriers to ensure they were more likely to retain possession, and built phases into double figures too.
Related: France v England talking points
Kyle Sinckler and Ben Te’o were direct in their runs, but again England struggled to break the gain-line and burst through the green wall constructed with such efficiency by Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell.
It was actually the introduction of George Ford at fly-half, with Owen Farrell moving to 12, that saw England find more rhythm in attack and space out wide. They spread the ball along the line fast and Elliot Daly did find the room to score his second try in the final quarter after a neat offload from Mike Brown. Jonny May followed in the last minute, although England had butchered a couple of overlaps prior to that.
Yet England’s ill-discipline let them down once more…
Owen Farrell’s late charge on Rob Kearney as he cleared from his 22 resulted in the Ireland penalty that led to the position to set up their opening try for Garry Ringrose.
Maro Itoje then conceded a penalty for grabbing Dan Leavy at the lineout – this after a free-kick and penalty concession by England at the scrum. That Itoje penalty allowed Ireland to build the phases inside England’s half and create the try for Jacob Stockdale at the end of the first half.
As England were building phases in the Ireland 22 at the start of the second half, Elliot Daly was penalised for a high roll on Kearney at a breakdown, allowing the visitors to clear.
It was England’s needless and silly penalties that allowed Ireland to set up try-scoring opportunities – or scuppered their own chances.
That Bundee Aki tackle
In the 26th minute, with England pressurising in the Irish 22, a Bundee Aki tackle on Elliot Daly was sent to the TMO to review for potential foul play. Daly had already been tackled low and was falling when Aki came in with a big shoulder hit, wrapping one arm but not the other.
TMO Ben Skeen ruled that he did lead with the shoulder but it was only a penalty offence. The England fans were disappointed it was not a yellow card, or even a red, but there was a sin-binning a couple of minutes later as England opted to go for a series of five-metre lineouts as Ireland conceded penalties.
Peter O’Mahony was sent to the naughty step for collapsing a maul but England’s long throw at the next lineout was pinched by Ireland.
The choice of lineouts rather than posts was odd considering this game was about winning, not scoring four tries like it was last week in Paris. And against France they went for the posts when they needed a bonus point. An interesting mindset – but one the crowd appreciated.
The forecast of snow on St Patrick’s Day had led to the Twickenham groundstaff painting the pitch markings blue. The snow did fall but it didn’t settle, so the blue lines weren’t actually required – although one did come into play for the Jacob Stockdale first-half try.
The chilly temperature didn’t seem to cool the spirits of the crowd. There were quiet periods around the stadiums but also plenty of chants from both sets of supporters. And the Irish fans in the crowd stayed behind for the trophy presentation and lap of honour.
England – Tries: Daly 2, May.
Ireland – Tries: Ringrose, Stander, Stockdale. Cons: Sexton 2, Carbery. Pens: Murray.
Yellow card: O’Mahony (29min).
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