Six Nations - Rampant Ireland deny England

Sat, 19 Mar 19:15:00 2011

Ireland produced a blistering display to outclass England 24-8 at the Aviva Stadium and deny the visitors the Six Nations Grand Slam.

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Despite the loss England still won the overall title after Wales, the only other challengers for the trophy heading into the final day, slumped to a 28-9 defeat to France at Stade Francais.

Tommy Bowe and Brian O'Driscoll scored tries either side of half-time while Jonathan Sexton kicked 14 points as Ireland wrapped up the match inside 50 minutes.

An abject first-half performance from England was compounded by Ben Youngs's sin-binning in the 36th minute as Ireland kept them pinned back inside their own 22.

But Ireland deserve full credit for the win and O'Driscoll had the added honour of becoming the highest ever try-scorer in the competition with his 25th try, and 44th overall in an Ireland jersey.

Ireland made a blistering start to the match as full-back Keith Earls took a quick penalty before setting off down the left wing only to be stopped by opposite number Ben Foden.

And it was not long before Ireland got on the scoreboard, Sexton kicking the first points of the game after seven minutes as the Aviva Stadium descended into near silence.

The young fly-half, who will have taken major steps towards wresting the number 10 jersey away from Ronan O'Gara heading into the World Cup with his performance, doubled Ireland's lead eight minutes later with another solid penalty.

The hosts thought they had crossed over for the opening try in the 22nd minute when Bowe found O'Driscoll on the left wing and the captain forced his way over the line only to be called back for a forward pass.

The decision was a close call but Sexton ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over with his third kick at the posts.

England finally made some in-roads into the Irish half and earned themselves a chance to get off the mark when Ireland were penalised for slowing the ball down. But Toby Flood badly skewed his kick, pulling it across the front of goal.

And almost immediately Ireland punished England for the miss, Sexton breaking down the centre of the field before off-loading to Bowe on his outside, the winger skipping over the line with ease.

The conversion went begging but the lead was 14-0 before England eventually got off the mark with a Flood penalty.

But far from that being the catalyst that spurred England into action, Youngs was sent to the bin less than five minutes later, punished for petulantly throwing the ball away in touch to deny Ireland the opportunity to take the quick line-out.

Sexton added another three points from the resulting penalty to keep the hosts firmly on the front foot, leading 17-3 at the interval.

The second-half started in much the same fashion with Ireland firmly in control against 14-man England.

And second time around there was nothing that could deny O'Driscoll as he produced an inspired pick-up off the ground, after a Donncha O'Callaghan pass had gone astray, to burrow over in the corner.

This time Sexton did add the conversion to essentially wrap up the win and threaten to turn the match into a rout.

Lacking not only regular captain Lewis Moody but tournament captain Mike Tindall, England were bereft of leadership and Martin Johnson quickly resorted to the old guard by bringing on Jonny Wilkinson and Steve Thompson.

The veteran hooker provided the only real highlight for England as he intercepted a loose Eoin Reddan pass before storming away for an unchallenged try just minutes after coming on.

But Wilkinson badly miscued his conversion attempt and anything vaguely threatening a comeback was quickly quelled by Ireland.

No more points were scored but Ireland continued to pin England back and could have scored two or three more tries in the final 25 minutes.

Ireland will have picked up a huge amount of confidence from the game, and avoided equalling their worst finish in the Championship.

But England fans will struggle not to think their team have taken a couple of steps backwards after a string of positive performances.

Pippa Davis / Eurosport

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