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Ireland make history as Schmidt's men claim glorious Grand Slam in London

Joe Schmidt’s side matched the achievements of 1948 and 2009 in convincing style.

England 15

Ireland 24

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

GRAND SLAM CHAMPIONS.

Those words sound sweet and the St. Patrick’s Day party in London and further afield will be riotous tonight as Ireland celebrate just the third Grand Slam of their history.

CJ Stander celebrates scoring a try Ireland celebrate CJ Stander's first-half try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Joe Schmidt’s men saved the best for last as they scored three tries to take Eddie Jones’ England apart in Twickenham, comprehensively underlining their quality.

They were even able to close the game out with key leaders Rory Best and Johnny Sexton off the field, with young guns like Joey Carbery and Jordan Larmour helping them to drive it home after building a brilliant 21-5 half-time lead.

England’s discipline hurt them again but this win was all about Ireland’s quality as they wrote their names into Irish rugby history.

They have shown a repeated ability to score just before half-time in this Grand Slam success and they did it again here as Jacob Stockdale produced a sensational solo score to break the record for most tries in a Six Nations by a single player – this his seventh.

Schmidt’s coaching genius was underlined by a stunning set-piece starter play for Ireland’s second try through CJ Stander as they shredded England’s defence.

And the Ireland head coach had indicated that Ireland would need some luck to get over the line today – they had that too.

Rob Kearney appeared to knock the ball on just before Garry Ringrose’s early opening try but the match officials missed it, while they also opted not to sin-bin Bundee Aki for a no-arms tackle just after Ireland had gone 14-0 up.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That is not to diminish the Irish performance for a second, though, as they were utterly convincing winners in London.

Dan Leavy, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Cian Healy, CJ Stander, captain Best, James Ryan and man of the match Tadhg Furlong set the standard with an immensely physical and controlled performance up front, while Conor Murray oozed composure and even kicked another important penalty in the second half.

Sexton had to head off for a first-half HIA but his kicking quality was vital to the opening try and outside him, Aki and Ringrose were classy all day as their partnership showed up muscularly.

Keith Earls in the back three was sharp before a late injury, while Stockdale’s sizzling score took him to 11 tries in just nine Tests, and Kearney showed his experience.

While they did concede three tries, Andy Farrell’s defence also had impressive spells in the intermittent snow. Temperatures were freezing but some of Ireland’s hits heated the London venue up.

Already, at 21 Stockdale has his name in the record books. That is perhaps what will be most exciting of all for Ireland when the delighted celebrations come to a finish – this team and squad has the potential to go on to more success.

For now, Schmidt and his players can simply bask in the utter delight of having matched the achievements of 1948 and 2009 in impressive style.

Garry Ringrose score a try Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland could hardly have dreamed of a more dominant half-time position here, scoring early and late in the half.

With big hits from the likes of Ryan and Leavy setting the tone in the opening minutes, Ireland were in front after just seven minutes.

A needless penalty for Ireland for Owen Farrell tackling Kearney late after his kick allowed Sexton to deliver a lovely touchfinder up the right-hand side. His next kick was even better.

The experienced out-half hammered a garryowen high into the snowy London sky and it hung there for an eternity, giving Kearney ample time to chase and get off the ground to compete with England fullback Anthony Watson just in front of his tryline.

Kearney’s presence forced Watson to spill back over his tryline and after the ball bobbled back off Kearney, Ringrose swept in to dot down a TMO-confirmed score, converted by Sexton.

Ireland were fortunate in that multiple replays appeared to show Kearney knocking the ball on but TMO Ben Skeen and referee Angus Gardner didn’t spot it and Ireland led.

England’s discipline was a huge issue from early on although Sexton hit the right post with a 22nd-minute penalty attempt, but their control of the game continued to impress.

The second try was a Joe Schmidt special from a set-piece as Johnny Sexton ran his loop line around Tadhg Furlong on first phase of a lineout attack, only for the tighthead prop to instead slip a shorter pass to Bundee Aki to scorch through on a clean linebreak.

Bundee Aki makes a break Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Connacht man showed great composure to draw in the secondary defence and pass back inside to Stander, offering excellent support. With Haskell hanging off him, the Munster number eight grounded against the base of the left post, Sexton again converting.

Ireland lost the restart, however, with Elliot Daly coming up trumps and England finally sparked a lengthy period of pressure in the Ireland 22.

Aki was extremely fortunate not to be yellow-carded for a no-arms tackle high on Daly, seeming to make contact with his head. TMO Skeen was firm in advising Gardner that it was a “penalty only” and Schmidt was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

But now it was Ireland’s turn to give up penalty after penalty, with Peter O’Mahony sent to the sin bin for coming in the side of a threatening close-range maul.

Soon Watson was almost sent clear after a Farrell break, only for Keith Earls to rescue the danger and injure Watson in the process, England finally found their way over with penalty advantage playing.

Farrell stabbed a low grubber wide to the left in behind Earls for Daly to race onto and dot down, although the English out-half missed the conversion.

Ireland lost Sexton to a HIA in the frenetic madness of conceding that 33rd-minute score and he only returned after half time, but Schmidt’s men still managed to conjure a third try before the break, with O’Mahony back from his 10 minutes on the sidelines.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring their third try Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was a stunning score from Stockdale to set a new record, as he accepted Murray’s clever pass down the short blindside on the left, chipped over Mike Brown – Watson’s replacement and was then tackled by Brown and Jonny May as he attempted to gather on the tryline.

He couldn’t do so but the ball bounced off his left leg and rolled forward, Stockdale showing great strength to keep his feet and race forward to just dot down before the ball rolled dead – the Ulsterman benefiting from the in-goal area having been extended by the freshly-painted blue pitch lining painted in case of heavy snow.

Joey Carbery, in for Sexton, converted for a commanding 21-5 lead at the interval.

With Sexton back in situ, Ireland had to defend ferociously across the opening six minutes of the second half.

First, they needed a brilliant recovery from Earls after Farrell’s wide pass in the left corner had allowed Daly to skirt around him. The Munster man turned superbly and got in a tap tackle to feel the excellent Wasps wing, Kearney forcing him into touch.

Then, after 15 meaty phases of English attack, Gardner’s TMO review of a Daly clearout found he had made contact with Kearney’s head and a penalty allowed Ireland to relieve the pressure.

Belief reinforced, the Irish crowd in Twickenham boomed out a rousing rendition of The Fields. After the English responded with Swing Low, the Irish scrum munched their way to another set-piece penalty in an area of increasing dominance.

Johnny Sexton leaves the pitch with a blood injury Sexton passed a HIA in the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Andy Farrell would have been pleased with the next 10 minutes of Irish defence too as they put up a brick wall against England’s desperate attack, although they lost Aki to a head injury when he got his head on the wrong side of a tackle and took a huge blow.

20-year-old Jordan Larmour entered the fray in midfield as England introduced George Ford and pushed Farrell to inside centre, also replacing their props as they looked for energy off the bench.

With Ringrose moving to inside centre for Ireland, there was very nearly a sublime first run for Larmour as Ringrose offloaded to the rapid youngster and he very nearly scored, only a desperate tackle from Daly stopping him.

But Ireland were playing advantage for England replacement hooker Jamie George not rolling away and they came back for Murray to take over from the tee – Sexton apparently struggling.

The Munster scrum-half showed his composure again, slotting the three points from just to the left of the posts for a 24-5 Ireland lead.

England threatened next as the ever-dangerous Daly grubbered ahead down the left, but Earls was sharp again to turn and dot down after the ball had skidded over the Irish tryline.

Jonny May is tackled by Ireland's Keith Earls and Conor Murray Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Wasps man was able to get over just minutes later, however, as Ford and Farrell linked expertly in midfield for the replacement out-half to fire a pass wide to Brown, who fended Earls long enough to draw last defender Kearney in, then offloaded one-handed off his left to the unmarked Daly.

Farrell’s conversion was wide, however, and Ireland still had a 14-point lead with 15 minutes remaining.

Rory Best had just left the field before that score and Sexton followed him off just after, Carbery entering the game again as Ireland lost considerable leadership.

Carbery missed a 71st-minute penalty that might have eased any remaining Irish nerves, and Jonny May scored a third English try with the clock in the red, but nothing could spoil the Irish party.

England scorers:

Tries: Elliot Daly [2], Jonny May

Conversions: Owen Farrell [0 from 3]

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander, Jacob Stockdale

Conversions: Johnny Sexton [2 from 2], Joey Carbery [1 from 1]

Penalties: Johnny Sexton [0 from 1], Conor Murray [1 from 1]

ENGLAND: Anthony Watson (Mike Brown ’33); Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph (George Ford ’56), Ben Te’o, Elliot Daly; Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Danny Care ’61); Mako Vunipola (Joe Marler ’53), Dylan Hartley (Jamie George ’58), Kyle Sinckler (Dan Cole ’53); Maro Itoje, George Kruis (Joe Launchbury ’71); Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Sam Simmonds (Don Armand ’66).

IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls (Kieran Marmion ’74), Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki (Jordan Larmour ’56), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton (HIA – Joey Carbery ’33 to ’40, permanent ’66), Conor Murray; Cian Healy (Jack McGrath ’51), Rory Best (captain) (Sean Cronin ’65), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter’ 65); James Ryan (Devin Toner ’66), Iain Henderson; Peter O’Mahony (yellow card ’29) (Jordi Murphy ’74), Dan Leavy, CJ Stander

Referee: Angus Gardner [ARU].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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