Ruck-solid performance makes it 2-0 vs England
Published 20/03/2011 | 05:00
We didn't win the Six Nations and we didn't win the Cricket World Cup, but beating England twice in a fortnight at the games they invented is sweet.
And for all that, after a hit-and-miss season for Declan Kidney's men, there is also deep satisfaction that our unconquerable warrior Brian O'Driscoll became the outright top scorer in the history of the Six Nations championship during yesterday's 24-8 demolition of the grand slam contenders.
It was O'Driscoll who copperfastened Ireland's best performance of the season picking up a loose ball at full pelt before squeezing in for Ireland's crucial score early in the second half
After the conversion by the impeccable Jonny Sexton, who threw off the shackles of the indecision and nerves that dogged his recent appearances, it was 24 points to three in favour of Ireland.
Ireland got sloppy for 10 minutes afterwards and a bad mistake led to England substitute Steve Dobson being gifted a try.
If the considerable English support thought there was still a hope of picking up a Grand Slam they were mistaken. It was a false dawn.
Ireland got serious again with Ronan O'Gara bringing some order after replacing Sexton, who went off to a standing ovation at the Aviva and received the man of the match award,.
Ireland had started at a blistering pace and were camped in the English half for most of the first half.
Their handling and discipline at the breakdown -- so often criticised during a patchy Six Nations championship -- was rock solid.
Sexton gave the home side the lead after just five minutes after pressure led to an English offside.
There was another penalty before the end of the first quarter after a high tackle on Sexton and there were signs England were losing their composure even at that early stage.
England's giant pack, much feared before the match, looked sluggish. Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip on the other hand were ferocious in the tackle.
O'Driscoll had a try disallowed for a forward pass and England managed to get a penalty of their own, which a nervous Toby Flood drifted wide.
But Ireland struck again devastatingly soon after. Quick thinking by Sexton was the creative factor. He scampered forward, took a quick toe-tap penalty and suddenly the ball was in the hands of Tommy Bowe for his 17th international try. Sexton missed the conversion and although Flood eventually broke England's duck with a 31st minute penalty, it was still all Ireland.
Again a magnificent Irish move led to immense pressure and the threat of another Irish try. Ben Young received a yellow card for petulantly throwing the ball away to stop a quick throw-in. Sexton drilled the resultant penalty right between the posts for a 17-3 half-time lead.