Sunday 17 February 2019

Five things we learned from Ireland's pulsating victory over England

Cormac Byrne

What did we glean from Ireland's exhilarating 19-9 victory over England at the Aviva?

1. What weakness in the Ireland scrum?

We feared that the English front-row of Marler, Hartley and Cole would dominate the scrum and lay the platform for an English win but that didn't transpire.

The Irish scrum was exemplary and now know that they can take on the world's best in this set-piece.

The penalty earned  in the 50th minute at scrum time was a major turning point in the game.

Joe Schmidt's loyalty to Mike Ross rewarded in spades.

scrum.jpg
James Haskell, England, leads his pack in an Ireland scrum. RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship, Ireland v England. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

2. Ireland kicked to reclaim, England didn't

Johnny Sexton's bombing restarts and garryowens led to a lot of Irish territory with the back three of Bowe, Zebo and Kearney brilliant in their chasing.

George Ford continuously kicked deep to Simon Zebo who gave Ireland a fine platform every time.

3. We lost a legendary outside centre but have gained a world class inside centre

Replacing Brian O'Driscoll at 13 is an almost impossible task but boy have we unearthed a classy number 12.

His brilliant try aside, that echoed of Shane Horgan's epic touchdown in 2007, Robbie Henshaw was amazing today. His tireless ball-carrying, clever line running and brilliance in defence made him a deserved man  of the match.

4. Alex Goode gives Stuart Lancaster food for thought

Mike Brown's horrific head injury ruled him out of today's game but Saracen's full-back Alex Goode came in and was very impressive.

He was composed under Sexton's aerial assault and his counter-running was very strong, especially when he evaded Henshaw's clutches when defending under his own posts.

5. Johnny Sexton shows why he is just as dangerous in defence as in attack

Johnny Sexton made his first blip in terms of place-kicking today but he was tremendous again in every facet.

His two hits late in the first half that earned Ireland a brace of penalties were bone shatteringly good.

His hamstring injury is a concern because we are a different team with him at 10.

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