Thursday 25 May 2017

The Slam busters

Fired-up Ireland spoil party for Chariot

Jonathan Sexton, left, and Simon Zebo celebrate after the match. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton, left, and Simon Zebo celebrate after the match. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Ireland made it back-to-back record-wrecking performances when they denied England a Grand Slam at the Aviva Stadium yesterday. Having stopped New Zealand from setting a record for successive wins, with the win in Chicago, they did the same to England yesterday, leaving them stuck on 18 - alongside the All Blacks.

And it came on the back of a late withdrawal from the starting team, when Jamie Heaslip tore a hamstring shortly before the team finished their warm-up. It threw Peter O'Mahony into the back row from the off, from where he produced a man-of-the-match performance.

Joe Schmidt afterwards described the conspiracy theory that it had been tactical as "a slight on the team".

"It's not something we do," he said. "We pick the team and prepare as best as can and go out and play. It was disruptive if anything to us. Dan Leavy got a heck of a shock when we said he needed to grab that shirt off Pete - Pete had to grab the shirt off CJ (Stander) and CJ off Jamie. I don't know if you saw the warm-up but it was very late when it (the injury) happened."

The result gives Ireland the runners-up spot behind England, who wrapped up the Championship last weekend with their demolition of Scotland. Ireland finished level on points with France and Scotland, but with a superior points difference.

The issue of staying in the top band of teams for the World Cup draw in May is also sorted successfully. France's late win over Wales in Paris saw to that before the Aviva game kicked off late.

For England, Eddie Jones was putting a brave face on things despite having seen the Grand Slam and world record go south. When asked how England could avoid having days like this he said: "Unfortunately I don't think you do.

"We're all human beings and we're not perfect and that's why world records finish at 18 games or 17 games. It's so hard to keep going because you get a team on the day that performs above themselves and we were below ourselves.

"They used the conditions superbly and we probably didn't, and you get a result like you did today, 13-9. We have to accept we weren't good enough today."

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