little things

Zebo's slam and Keatley's composure: 4 underrated things that helped Ireland win the 6 Nations

A few key contributors flew a little under the radar amidst all the celebrations.

THE KEY INCIDENTS that propelled Ireland to back-to-back Six Nations championships for the first time since 1949 have been discussed and watched countless times so we decided to give a mention to a couple of smaller moments that proved crucial nonetheless.

Ian Keatley’s performance in Rome

Ian Keatley kicks a penalty Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

As everyone keeps reminding us, Johnny Sexton is the glue that holds the Irish game plan together. Italy is probably one of the few teams who could be brushed aside without Sexton but Joe Schmidt still needed somebody to step up in his place.

Keatley over Madigan was a big call but the Munster out-half justified his coach’s faith by seamlessly slotting into the side. He wasn’t spectacular but he helped Ireland increase their points difference, which proved key at the end.

RBS 6 Nations / YouTube

Mike Ross’ rejuvenation

Mike Ross Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Before the Six Nations Mike Ross had been dropped out of the Leinster 23 for their two big Champions Cup pool games but he was a steady presence for most of the tournament. His display against Joe Marler was particularly noteworthy as the Quins loosehead had gotten the better of the veteran tighthead during the Champions Cup back-to-backs in December.

There was a real fear pre-match that the England scrum would be a key weapon for the visitors but the Irish front row neutralised the threat. One mammoth heave by Ross that day even yielded a penalty, and it was a nice reward for a solid tournament.

Zebo’s big hit

Ireland's Simon Zebo is tackled by EnglandÕs George Ford 1/3/2015

It was a tough end to the Six Nations for Simon Zebo as he was dropped for Luke Fitzgerald after a poor display against Wales but for the first three games he was an integral part of Ireland’s success.

Zebo executed the kick-chase expertly against England and France and his bodyslam on Anthony Watson allowed Ireland to steal the ball in the build-up to Henshaw’s spectacular try in the corner.


The O’Donnell factor

Tommy O’Donnell’s contribution technically isn’t just one moment but the Munster flanker’s cameo in the tournament was a big factor in Ireland’s success. Twice he stepped in for an injured Sean O’Brien and twice he delivered exceptional performances. His marauding run against Italy was one of the early highlights of a tournament that didn’t see Ireland make many linebreaks until the final weekend.

RBS 6 Nations / YouTube

And when SOB got concussed against England, there was a worry that the highly-rated English back row might get on top but once again O’Donnell deputised expertly to ensure that there was no drop-off in standard. The strength of the Irish back row means that he will have a tough fight to make the World Cup squad but he has given himself every chance after his Six Nations displays.

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