Joe Schmidt: Mike Brown was the difference between the teams
Published 22/02/2014 | 20:17
Full-back Mike Brown's "complete package" proved crucial to England denying Ireland a first Triple Crown since 2009 and the chance to chase a Grand Slam, according to visiting head coach Joe Schmidt.
Brown's superlative midfield break set Danny Care away for England's sole try, that helped the hosts overturn a 10-3 deficit and grind to RBS 6 Nations victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
Ireland clawed a second-half lead through Rob Kearney's fine finish, but were unable to hold off Stuart Lancaster's resurgence and dogmatic England to lose 13-10.
Ireland boss Schmidt hailed Harlequins full-back Brown as the Six Nations' form player after two rounds.
The former Leinster coach saw no reason to change that opinion after another match-turning performance from England's last line of defence.
"Mike Brown's goalkeeper save when there was no one behind him in the first half after our kick on, that was probably the defensive highlight, even without anyone having to make a tackle," said Schmidt.
"And then his running in broken field was maybe the difference between the two teams.
"They are the small instances in the game when things break open, and unfortunately for us they broke open for England.
"It was very much a complete package from him today."
Fly-half Johnny Sexton dropped a restart straight into touch after England had slotted a penalty, and that brought the scrum from which the hosts pounced with Care racing in for the try.
Schmidt said that mistake from Sexton did not have any bearing on the try, believing his side should still have shut down England's subsequent attack.
"Mike Brown hit that line really well, and they got away," said Schmidt.
"I wouldn't really focus on the kick-off as much as the scrum defence was good, then from that we didn't get organised well enough.
"Three points, that's ultimately the fine margin that existed.
"We felt we searched pretty long and hard for that three in the last 10 minutes of the match.
"We had a pretty good scrum turnover, and those are the fine margins and we didn't quite get there."
Ireland are among a pack of four that can still claim the Six Nations title, England, Wales and France the other sides to have suffered one defeat in the three rounds so far.
Schmidt said Ireland have no time to dwell on their missed Triple Crown opportunity, or the loss of that Grand Slam tilt.
Instead he has called on his squad to refocus quickly for their Dublin clash against Italy on March 8.
"We've just got to make sure in the next few weeks we put ourselves in the best position to beat Italy," said Schmidt.
"If you take them any less than 100 per cent you saw what happened to Wales.
"They will be devastated by the loss against Scotland, and that makes them that much more formidable.
"One step at a time and unfortunately we tripped up on Saturday."