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Ireland's composure, O'Mahony's brilliance and Dublin heart

Joe Schmidt’s side finished the Six Nations with their best performance since Chicago.

IRELAND ENDED THEIR Six Nations campaign with a 13-9 victory over England, denying Eddie Jones’ men a Grand Slam.

Read our full match report here.

O’Mahony’s brilliance

This was the performance of a brilliant leader. Top of the tackle count for Ireland, Peter O’Mahony led the physical onslaught that played a major role in denying England a second consecutive Grand Slam.

Simon Zebo celebrates at the final whistle with Peter O'Mahony Peter O'Mahony embraces Simon Zebo. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Munster man, named to start on the bench this week but thrown into the starting mix after the late withdrawal of Jamie Heaslip, demonstrated why he should have been in Ireland’s XV earlier in this championship.

His lineout expertise was crucial in this Irish win, with his high-quality jumping proving a thorn in the side of the English lineout. O’Mahony secured crucial Irish ball too, including for Iain Henderson’s first-half try.

Watching O’Mahony spring off the ground is almost comical, with his leap making it look as though he is being dynamically lifted from above.

With his ball-carrying strong too, O’Mahony provided the whole package for Ireland. There were a couple of penalty concessions, but they were the only times his utter aggression spilled over the top.

The 27-year-old simply must be a starter for Ireland moving forward.

Heart

We will analyse the details of this fine Ireland win in the coming days, of course, but the thing that stood out more than anything watching the game live was the raw passion in the home side’s performance.

Jamie Heaslip, Simon Zebo, Sean O’Brien and Johnny Sexton celebrate after the game Ireland's players celebrate their win in Dublin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Almost every hit was thunderous, each carry had venom, each little win in the game was celebrated as if it was a try.

O’Mahony pumped his fists with eyeballs wide, Donnacha Ryan got in English faces, Johnny Sexton stood up to every moment of English intimidation.

The out-half was a symbol of the Irish steel in Dublin, taking huge amounts of punishment time after time, being hit just after passing repeatedly.

The 31-year-old picked himself up off the turf every time, with Rory Best highlighting it to referee Jerome Garces. Still Sexton got hit, but like the rest of his team, there was no shirking and no hint of the out-half dropping deeper.

Like each of his team-mates, Sexton simply went back for more.

High note

This was Ireland’s best performance since beating New Zealand in Chicago, although we knew it would have to be in order to end England’s 18-win streak and deny them the Grand Slam.

Joe Schmidt celebrates after the game with Sean O’Brien Joe Schmidt congratulates Sean O'Brien. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

And Ireland hit similar heights collectively, with their defence at its very best since Andy Farrell took charge, limiting England to just three shots at goal, all of them converted by Owen Farrell.

Ireland did give up 10 penalties, now a surprising total for his side, but they hammered English carriers without any let up.

Ireland had more than 60% of the possession and territory in this contest and will be critical of some of their failings in attempting to convert that into points, but they did secure the crucial try through Henderson.

It was ballsy of Ireland to back their five-metre maul after the failings against Wales last time out, as well as at other stages in this Six Nations, but the clinical score was exactly what Ireland needed to build their belief.

This was undoubtedly the high point of a Six Nations that sees Ireland finish second, a position that probably doesn’t quite satisfy this ambitious coaching and playing group.

Composure

Ireland lost a hell a lot of experience before and even during this game, but the younger members of the group stood up superbly.

Kieran Marmion Kieran Marmion was excellent for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Finishing the game with the twice-cap Dan Leavy and Luke McGrath hammering into tackles and debutant Andrew Conway pressuring England from out wide might not have been part of the long-term plan, but they made it work for Ireland.

Coming into the team for the influential Conor Murray, starting scrum-half Kieran Marmion was superb throughout. His passing quality was delightful, while he also provided a try-saving tackle on Elliot Daly and lots of other composed moments.

The selection of Iain Henderson ahead of previous totem Devin Toner proved a masterstroke from Schmidt, after it had raised eyebrows earlier this week, with the Ulsterman relishing a highly-physical contest.

Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw, both still relative youngsters, were muscular in midfield too, while John Ryan and Niall Scannell off the bench were more than up to the task.

Even without some experienced men who have looked vital for Ireland in recent times, Schmidt’s squad stepped up.

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