Friday 22 March 2019

Ireland have been richly rewarded for brave calls

Ireland captain Rory Best is greeted by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross during the Ireland Rugby homecoming at the Shelbourne Hotel,Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ireland captain Rory Best is greeted by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross during the Ireland Rugby homecoming at the Shelbourne Hotel,Dublin. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

When the dust eventually settles on Ireland's stunning Grand Slam, several 'championship winning' moments can be pointed to.

Johnny Sexton's drop goal will live long in the memory, but so too will the ruthlessly clinical performance at Twickenham that blew England away.

Leading 14-5 with the clock having ticked into the red, the easy option would have been to settle for what they had and regroup at half-time.

However, Ireland's ambition went so far beyond that and rather than accept a healthy nine-point cushion at the break, they kept their foot on England's throat and put the game beyond them with a third try.

It was a clear sign of a team that has so much confidence in what they are doing. We so often hear coaches speaking about 'trusting the process' and that was typified in that instance.

There were echoes of what they managed to do after 41 phases in Paris, when every player knew exactly whet their role entailed, right down to the smallest detail.

"It's our mentality to go and attack," captain Rory Best explained the reasoning behind launching a final first-half attack. "We want the ball, we want to keep it, we don't just want to get it off. We're fit, we train to play in those moments. If we'd lost the momentum we would have put it out.

"When you have momentum, sometimes either side of half-time teams can switch off and you can capitalise. It's all about how we feel.

"We knew we had to attack England with and without the ball. We can't expect them to hand us something.

"That was following through with our mentality and what we'd preached all week."

This Ireland team are so well coached that they will always back themselves, regardless of the situation they find themselves in, and by doing so again on Saturday it ensured that they wrote themselves into the history books.

Ryan gets one over on Itoje

James Ryan 1 - Maro Itoje 0

The first of many epic battles between two young, totemic locks, you suspect, but it is James Ryan who will look back on this one with fond memories.

Another mature performance that was far beyond his years, if a Lions squad was being picked today the 21-year old would not only be selected, but he would also be in the starting XV.

Many older and more experienced players have struggled against the outstanding Itoje, but Ryan set the tone from the off with a crunching hit that sent the English star backwards.

It was exactly the kind of start Ryan needed and from there he thrived, whereas Itoje allowed his frustration get the better of him as his discipline went out the window.

The two youngsters couldn't be any different in terms of their make-up and while you could never imagine Ryan celebrating winning a penalty in the exuberant manner that Itoje does, this particular battle will be thrilling to watch for many years to come.

Where now for England?

It was difficult to tell if the boos that rung around Twickenham when Eddie Jones was interviewed on the pitch after the full-time whistle were solely from Irish supporters, but there is every chance that some of the English were at it as well.

England have not become a bad team under the Australian overnight, yet there were some alarming issues again on Saturday.

It's not often that you see an English pack bullied, let alone in their own back yard, but the manner in which Ireland obliterated them was quite something.

Jones hasn't freshened up his squad anything like Joe Schmidt has done.

There is no doubt that England need new blood and it's not as if they are short of options as their U-20 teams are continuously churning out quality talent.

Bringing the likes of Dan Cole and Joe Marler off the bench added little impact, and in many ways it summed up why there is no reason to fear England right now.

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