Mon, Mar 19, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Ireland crush England for Grand Slam

‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’:Ireland’s stunning defense saw England lose in their worst home performance in 35 years, hammered into fifth place in the overall standings

Reuters, LONDON

England’s Elliot Daly, center, is tackled by Ireland heavyweights on Saturday in their Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium in London.

Photo: Reuters

Ireland on Saturday sparked the mother of all St Patrick’s Day parties by overwhelming defending champions England 25-14 to secure their third Six Nations Grand Slam and join the men of 1948 and 2009 in the country’s rugby hall of fame.

It was a fully deserved win for a committed and disciplined Ireland, superbly coached by Joe Schmidt, and a day never to be forgotten for the players, staff and thousands of fans who had a shell-shocked Twickenham Stadium ringing to the strains of The Fields of Athenry.

In stark contrast to Ireland’s joy, England’s third successive defeat and results elsewhere left them fifth in the standings — their worst performance in 35 years.

“Words can’t describe how delighted we are,” said Ireland captain Rory Best, who was also a part of the 2009 side. “It was a ferocious Test match. We had to make every moment count and we knew the reward would be worth the massive effort required.”

England coach Eddie Jones said Ireland were worthy Grand Slam winners, but vowed his team would be better for their chastening experience culminating in a first home Six Nations loss since 2012.

“They played exceptionally well and we just weren’t good enough,” Jones said. “In these three games we have learned about ourselves. It’s been an enormously beneficial, if disappointing tournament.”

Ireland, who have now won 12 games in a row, topped the standings on 26 points. Wales edged France in Cardiff to finish second on 15, ahead of Scotland on 13 after their win in Rome. France have 11 with England on 10 and Italy on one.

Last time England finished outright fifth was in 1983 and matching that was not what Jones had in mind during his oft-stated references to building a team capable of challenging New Zealand as the best in the world.

At the moment they have dropped so far off the pace that they are not even close to being the best in Europe.

That honor goes to Ireland — although the Grand Slam looked a long way off when they began the 41-phase move that ended with a Johnny Sexton drop goal to snatch victory in their first match away to France.

However, they had no need for such heroics on Saturday, as they were rarely troubled at a ground where they had lost on three of their last four visits.

They were quickly 14-0 ahead as the television match official ruled that Garry Ringrose had fairly reached the ball after Anthony Watson spilled a Sexton up and under, before CJ Stander skidded into the base of a post after Bundee Aki had blasted through the English midfield.

Elliot Daly replied for England after a deft kick by Owen Farrell, but just as the crowd were getting ready for halftime with the game delicately poised, the visitors struck in stoppage time as Jacob Stockdale dived over for his 11th try in nine internationals to send Ireland in 21-5 ahead.

England, seeking to avoid a third successive defeat in the competition for the first time since 2006, came out full of fire in the second half, but came up against the disciplined, organized and hugely motivated defense that has been a key aspect in Ireland’s march to the title.

Conor Murray’s penalty after an hour stretched the lead to 19 points and Daly’s second try and a last-gasp score by Jonny May made little difference and, summing up England’s day, Owen Farrell failed to convert any of his side’s tries.

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