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England’s Grand Slam hopes and winning run ruined by Ireland defeat

The 13-9 scoreline means England have failed to eclipse the Test victory record set by New Zealand last year.

RUGBY UNION 19/03/17 14:02

England’s winning run was finally brought to a close as their quest for consecutive Grand Slams ended in a 13-9 defeat by Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.

The reigning RBS 6 Nations champions fell to a try by Iain Henderson and eight points from Johnny Sexton, denying them the 19th successive Test victory that would have eclipsed the record set by New Zealand last year.

A frenetic but one-sided first half gave way to a more tense rain-swept second period and while the scoreline painted the picture of a close encounter, Ireland were clear masters on a day when history beckoned for Eddie Jones’ men.

England head coach Eddie Jones: “You have these days, Ireland played superbly and they were too good for us on the day. And we weren’t good enough. We’re all human beings, we’re not perfect, and that’s why world records finish at 18 games because it’s hard to keep. They used the conditions superbly we probably didn’t. They played above themselves; we played below our usual level. I didn’t prepare the team well enough today, and the next Test we play I’ll prepare them better.”

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: (On whether Peter O’Mahony replacing Jamie Heaslip was tactical: “That couldn’t be a more flawed theory. It’s not something we do, we pick a team and they go out and play. Jamie’s just pulled his upper hamstring and he was not able to play.”

Tweet of the match

Star man – Peter O’Mahony

The Munster flanker jumped into the starting line-up after a last-minute injury to Jamie Heaslip in the warm-up. And how he took his chance on his return to a starting jersey. England had no answers to his controlled but deadly mix of emotion, passion and ferocity.

Furious defence carries Ireland home

Andy and Owen Farrell
Father wins the Farrell clash (Martin Rickett/PA)

Former England coach Andy Farrell has copped some stick for Ireland’s recent defensive troubles during this tournament. But after this gritty showing in denying England a try, all of Ireland will adopt Farrell overnight. In a first meeting against his son and England fly-half Owen, it was dad who emerged with the bragging rights.

And the award for unnecessary ceremony goes to…

The Six Nations organisers. Sponsors and tradition perhaps dictates that the pyrotechnics and medal ceremonies have to happen no matter the result. But really? England just blew a third grand slam chance in Dublin in 16 years and then had to endure dance music blaring round the stadium, ticker tape covering them all while all they wanted to do was mourn another grand slam lost.

Target of the match

 Johnny Sexton is tackled high by Maro Itoje  (Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA)
Johnny Sexton is tackled high by Maro Itoje (Lorraine O’Sullivan/PA)

Once again Johnny Sexton was used as target practice by Ireland’s opposition forwards hunting any questionable late hit to try to rattle the classy fly-half. Captain Rory Best insisted he had to ask the referee for justice in the interests of safety. England ploughed on undeterred, but then so did Ireland, and that proved pivotal.

Ireland ratings

JARED PAYNE: Bound Ireland’s backline to fine effect on his return from long-term kidney injury. 8.

KEITH EARLS: Unlucky not to end the day with a try but a gritty showing from the Munster flyer. 7.

GARRY RINGROSE: Back to form to stymie England in midfield with a bullish defensive showing under pressure. 7.

ROBBIE HENSHAW: Ireland’s most physical backline operator was back to his potent best as the hosts subdued England’s top threats. 8.

SIMON ZEBO: A quiet night for the Munster wing but he minimised his errors for a tidy enough showing. 7.

JOHNNY SEXTON: Copped another truckload of questionable hits but still kept his head to pilot Ireland home. 8.

KIERAN MARMION: Any concerns about the Connacht half-back coping in Conor Murray’s absence were fully allayed by his impressive effort. 7.

JACK MCGRATH: Fine showing in defence and an excellent set-piece effort to boot. 8.

RORY BEST: The captain blasted back to form to reassert his British and Irish Lions credentials in an all-action showing. 8.

TADHG FURLONG: Kept it simple, kept it tight and kept it niggly too – a good night’s work. 8.

DONNACHA RYAN: Led from the front in the tub-thumping that roused Ireland to their best performance of the championship. 8.

IAIN HENDERSON: The try-scorer fully justified his selection ahead of Devin Toner as Ireland’s lineout and tight game both functioned well. 8.

CJ STANDER: Another blur of ball carriers and big hits from the naturalised South African who just loves wearing green. 8.

SEAN O’BRIEN: Another to find form just when it hurt England most, O’Brien simply refused to let Ireland be overawed. 8.

PETER O’MAHONY: Drafted in at the last due to Jamie Heaslip’s injury, but how he excelled in an unremitting show of excellence. 9.

Replacements: Devin Toner, dropped after a low-key effort in defeat in Wales, clambered off the bench to pinch a key lineout late on. All Ireland’s other bench performers showed up well when called into action too. 7.

England ratings

MIKE BROWN: Took a heavy blow in the tackle in the first half and was typically aggressive. 6.

ANTHONY WATSON: Tried to make something happen but this was an error-strewn display. 5.

JONATHAN JOSEPH: Unable to reproduce the fireworks that yielded a hat-trick against Scotland. 6.

OWEN FARRELL: Goal-kicking was typically flawless but could not get his double act with George Ford going. 6.

ELLIOT DALY: Almost broke the shackles of Ireland’s defence in the first half. 6.

GEORGE FORD: Kicked one routine clearance straight out and this was not Ford at his best. 6.

BEN YOUNGS: Unable to make any meaningful impact on the match, but made one or two darting runs. 5.

JOE MARLER: Mako Vunipola was brought on at half-time, Marler having toiled in vain. 6.

DYLAN HARTLEY: England’s senior players needed to step up but the skipper could not provide the required leadership. 6.

DAN COLE: The collisions and gain-line battle was won by Ireland and Cole could not stem the tide. 6.

JOE LAUNCHBURY: After scaling the heights prior to Dublin, the Wasps second row was lacklustre. 5.

COURTNEY LAWES: Tackled and tackled and he needed to as Ireland poured forward. 7.

MARO ITOJE: Growing in stature as a flanker, but even he was outmuscled. 7

.JAMES HASKELL: Mixed performance, knocking opponents back in defence but also vulnerable. 6.

BILLY VUNIPOLA: A rare poor performance from the giant number eight. His decision-making was suspect. 5.

Replacements: There was no rescue act from the bench this time, all but Kyle Sinckler coming on and proving unable to inspire a successful fightback. Ben Te’o was forced back off with concussion. 5.

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