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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 22 September, 2018
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The Six Nations title is in the bag, but Ireland won’t be satisfied with just one trophy, one accolade in their carry-on luggage for the flight back home.

A third Grand Slam in history is within reach, so too is the Triple Crown which has eluded Ireland on both their Championship wins under Joe Schmidt.

Standing in their way is none other than England.

More than the old enemy or our next-door neighbours. Since the 2015 World Cup they have been the standard-bearers for the sport in Europe.

Ireland, of course, inflicted a first defeat on Eddie Jones when he had his eyes clamped on a second straight Grand Slam this time last year. And the Australian didn’t exactly hide his intent to “get ‘em back”.

Eddie Jones with Joe Schmidt before the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jones is ‘still dirty’ about the win which set Ireland in motion on an 11-game winning streak, through the US, Japan, South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and then into this Six Nations campaign.

However, in Twickenham, Ireland have not tasted victory since 2010 when a late Tommy Bowe strike-play earned a dramatic win. Keith Earls – a try-scorer that day – Cian Healy, Johnny Sexton and captain Rory Best are the sole survivors in the starting XV from that day.

Can they repeat the feat eight years on?

Can they, and the exciting young blood around them, deliver the ultimate prize in European rugby?

We’re here to find out.

While Scotland scrape into a late lead in Italy, here’s a reminder of the teams for the Big One.

Eddie Jones has made seven changes, trusting in Saracens combinations to fuel his team from second row and half-back while adding the dynamism of Kyle Sinckler to the front row.

Joe Schmidt meanwhile, has dropped Devin Toner with Iain Henderson pushed back in beside 21-year-old James Ryan.

England:

15. Anthony Watson
14. Jonny May
13. Jonathan Joseph
12. Ben Te’o
11. Elliot Daly
10. Owen Farrell
9. Richard Wigglesworth

1. Mako Vunipola
2. Dylan Hartley (captain)
3. Kyle Sinckler
4. Maro Itoje
5. George Kruis
6. Chris Robshaw
7. James Haskell
8. Sam Simmonds

Replacements:

16. Jamie George
17. Joe Marler
18. Dan Cole
19. Joe Launchbury
20. Don Armand
21. Danny Care
22. George Ford
23. Mike Brown

Ireland:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Keith Earls
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. Jacob Stockdale
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Cian Healy
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. James Ryan
5. Iain Henderson
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Dan Leavy
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Devin Toner
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Kieran Marmion
22. Joey Carbery
23. Jordan Larmour

Referee: Angus Gardner [ARU].

Meanwhile, back at home, there’s been a fair bit of panic among people who thought avoiding the Paddy’s Day crush was the best course of action and so stayed home to watch the game.

Virgin Media customers have been experiencing trouble watching TV3, but the broadcaster and provider have placed a stop-gap solution in place.

Flick to TV3 +1 and you will now see live footage, not the 60-minute-old feed.

Just over 10 minutes to go and it’s snowing in Twickenham. This will not be an expansive spectacle of a game, but that won’t make it any less of a thriller.

So, while we await the anthems, let’s get some of the puns out of our system like a last few smashes on a tackle bag.

Slampagne rugby

Slambition

Slamunition

Slambush

St Patrick’s Day Slamrocks

We’re Slammin’ and I hope you like Slammin’ too.

… that’s all I’ll subject you to for now.

KICK-OFF: Sexton gets us underway.

A fitting early meeting of Maro Itoje and James Ryan.

England kick clear and Rob KEarney shows great feet to spin out of contact.

Ireland make big yards on three carries, but a knock-on from CJ ends the pressure for now.

3Mins

Breathless opening, the ball still in play after two and a half minutes.

Ireland briefly show some ambition to go from their own 22, but England shut off the route and force a kick.

4Mins

Elliott Daly grubbers in behind as England attack the 22 and James Ryan is under pressure in the line-out. Ireland clear, but there’s more pressure to come.

5Mins

Owen Farrell ploughs into Rob Kearney as he kicks with his right foot.

The 10 let Ireland off the hook there.

5Mins

We’re with the TMO, there’s a bit of confusion caused by Sexton’s big up and under….

5Mins

TMO is only looking at the ground, so this looks like a try for Garry Ringrose.

7Mins

To my eyes, Ireland were a little lucky as Kearney seemed to have a hand contesting the initial dropping ball, but after that there is no doubt about Ringrose’s finish.

Terrific response by Ireland to early pressure, all that courtesy of a really daft penalty conceded by Owen Farrell.

England 0 Ireland 7

10Mins

England show a bit of intent there as Ireland concede a penalty for going off their feet. It’s kickable, but the Chariot diverts to the corner.

Come the maul, Rory Best and Dan Leavy do a stellar job of stalling the momentum.

12Mins

England are incredibly poorly disciplined right now. Itoje offside while Murray attempts to kick out of a corner.

Sexton can boot Ireland up to halfway.

Another fierce-looking English approach successfully repelled.

17Mins

While England put themselves in danger of implosion with poor discipline, Ireland look marvelously composed as they navigate through 18 tight phases.

Unfortunately, Bundee Aki spills the pill just as a bit of space on the left flank opens up.

21Mins

Another error from England, Kruis spilling in possession and a few phases later Robshaw is penalised for being off his feet.

Chance to extend the lead.

22Mins

Sexton hits the post!

23Mins

With the snow swirling in the air, Sexton’s 40 metre shot just won’t stay away from the upright.

Keith Earls hares after the loose ball, but England look after it and clear.

24Mins

We’re with the TMO, but I can’t see “any reason” why that try can’t be awarded.

Bundee Aki made the break and cut the pass inside to CJ.

Flag 24Mins

TRY! England 0 Ireland 14 (CJ Stander ’24)

The big Munster man had built up enough steam, just, to barrel his way to the foot of the post after taking Aki’s inside ball.

26Mins

This is a stunning effort from Ireland. England can’t find a way into this game and they’re cornered off by Ireland’s defence out left.

We’re back with the TMO for a check on Aki’s tackle on May.

It looks like the Connacht man didn’t try to use his arms.

26Mins

TMO and Gardiner decide that, despite Aki leading with his shoulder, it’s a penalty only.

England again pass on the three-point shot and they go to the maul.

28Mins

England put a little spice in what looked set to be a stodgy pick and drive, but Ringrose reacts brilliantly to strip possession and deny Te’o a chance to go wide.

The penalties keep coming against Ireland though and here comes the white pack.

Flag 28Mins

YELLOW CARD: Peter O’Mahony is pinged for collapsing a rampant English maul and Ireland will defend with 14 .

29Mins

Hartley over-throws the line-out and Conor Murray and Sexton are the first to react.

Another big bit of pressure released.

31Mins

TRY! England 5 Ireland 14 (Elliott Daly ’31)

33Mins

A sublime grubber kick through from Farrell while England attacked with 14 (Anthony Watson down receiving treatment). Daly beat Earls in the foot-race and held onto the bouncing ball.

Farrell misses the conversion though.

35Mins

Joey Carbery is on to take the kick-off as Johnny Sexton goes off to stem some blood flow.

Sexton had earlier angrily reacted to the referee’s request that he go to the blood bin with “I don’t have to come off” and placed a towel on his bloodied nose.

38Mins

There’s a bit of debate between Gardiner and the players about the James Haskell barge on Conor Murray.

If you’re not watching this game, think back to how Glasgow targeted the scrum-half on box-kicks. Haskell flew into him from the blindside after the ball left his boot and sent him spinning.

Gardiner gives a warning for ‘a push’, but you can hear Murray on the ref mic pleading for it to be checked with more scrutiny.

39Mins

Itoje penalised again. He’s lost his magic McCaw invisibility cloak this season.

40Mins

Stockdale!!?

We’re with the TMO yet again, but it looks like the Ulsterman has got this down!

That was the most remarkable passage of play. The clock had gone red, but Ireland attacked on even with Sexton in the blood bin.

A few minutes earlier I was asking if Stockdale had more than a single touch in this game, but this is one prolific 21-year-old. When space opened up for him on the left flank, he clipped the ball over Mike Brown.

The ball ricocheted off his knee and thighs and Brown and Daly looked like they were about to drag him to ground, but Stockdale shrugged them off, kept chasing and SLAMMED a hand down on the ball before it bobbled over the end line.

A sensational score that gives Stockdale a seventh Championship score.

41Mins

Just take a long look at Bundee Aki’s break here. Superb.

They take all England’s knowledge of the Sexton loop and turn it on its head by sending Aki through the gap.

Source: Six Nations Rugby/YouTube

And what about that silky soft pass to the centre from Tadhg Furlong.

The Second half is under way

45Mins

England laying serious pressure on Ireland’s defence, they know they need a score and soon to save this game.

Keith Earls shoots out of the line sniffing an intercept and almost gives Daly a route to the line. Ireland are holding firm though.

46Mins

A big, big neck roll on Rob Kearney looks set to take the wind out of England’s sails here.

We’ve had our differences with Jaco Peyper over the years, but he’s made the call.

47Mins

Gardiner calls it a penalty only. Daly gets the benefit of an angle showing he had a fair bit of purchase around the back shoulder of Kearney. Very fortunate, though, that act is a very hot topic among referees.

52Mins

Immense Irish scrum!

With that slave-era song Swing Low, Sweet Chariot echoing around Twickenham, Cian Healy drills in to brilliant effect on the white scrum and the white pack crumble.

53Mins

Lovely soft hands from Ringrose gives Stockdale space to raid again. His kick ahead is effective again and Mike Brown is wrapped up in green on his own line.

Wigglesworth clears and Ireland’s maul gets in its own way so England can kick clear into Ireland’s half.

55Mins

The ball refuses to go out in this game so the ref has to call the game to a stop as there is a concerning injury for Bundee Aki.

The centre caught his head in the wrong position in a tackle, so Jordan Larmour will come into the game. 

57Mins

Larmour’s addition doesn’t bring a reshuffle. Keith Earls stays on the wing and the 20-year-old is in the centre alongside Ringrose.

59Mins

Ireland back on the attack now, within touching distance of the try-line after Larmour made an outside break.

The penalty comes back in front of the posts.

Do Ireland extend the lead, or really rub it in?

60Mins

They’ll go for the posts, but Johnny Sexton is not on the tee. This one is for Conor Murray!

What a ridiculously talented man.

PENALTY! England 5 Ireland 24 (Conor Murray ’60)

65Mins

TRY! England 10 Ireland 24 (Daly ’10)

66Mins

England get in for a second try to keep hopes of a Slambush alive.

Daly finishes in the corner after a lovely pass from Brown, but the angle is too much for the out of sorts Farrell so the gap is still 14.

70Mins

Sexton is now off, with Carbery on permanently, but Keith Earls doing his bit of groundhog work to keep Ireland going in the right direction.

The Limerick man snaffled a dropped ball to put Ireland in attacking position. The go wide where Stockdale is high on confidence, but low on space. Never mind, he shrugs off Brown and faces the next tackle.

That’s the end of his move for now though.

England clear their lines, but back Ireland come. Carbery is looking in fluid mood and draws a penalty from a high tackle.

71Mins

Despite the range, the kick is given to Carbery. The young Athy man just can’t keep it on the tracks from 40 metres, it pulls two or three feet left of the uprights.

73Mins

Keith Earls will be celebrating his Grand Slam with dose of painkillers tonight.

He hobbles off injured and Kieran Marmion will be taking up his not unfamiliar position as a wing for Schmidt’s team.

74Mins

Jordi Murphy is now in to add his weight to this final shove. Peter O’Mahony makes way after an immense effort.

76Mins

We’re four minutes away from the Grand Slam. It’s going to happen, but England are attacking desperate to put a positive sheen on what will be a third straight defeat under Eddie Jones.

77Mins

Ooof! That looked close.

Mike Brown dots down, but Sean Cronin nugget him into touch.

Conor Murray is down getting treatment, he has been absolutely immense today, adding a series of tackles in these late stages to his superior control throughout.

80Mins

England are a shadow of themselves. Owen Farrell passes into touch, he’s lucky they have a penalty already on the way.

Itoje taps and sets up the closing moments of Ireland’s glorious Grand Slam campaign.

In 2009 we didn’t know it was coming until Geordan Murphy held the ball under his posts, but today it’s been all but secured from a long way out.

81Mins

TRY! England 15 Ireland 24 (May ’81)

Flag

FULL-TIME: Ireland have won the Grand Slam for the third time in history

England 15 Ireland 24

Wow. Just Wow!

We began this Championship questioning Ireland’s away record. Taking well over 80 minutes to beat a poor French team in round one didn’t exactly quell that perception, but it was put to bed for a few weeks while Ireland racked up three consecutive bonus point wins to secure the title a week before hitting the road for Twickenham.

Once in London, there was was no hint of white line fever. They withstood England’s early kitchen sink throwing and responded in utterly clinical fashion – time and time again.

Add 2018 to 1948 and 2009. This is a special, special day in Irish sporting history.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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