DUBLIN — Peter O’Mahony was never meant to start this match.
In the 74th minute, he rose, stole England’s attacking lineout and with that, the late pre-match replacement for Jamie Heaslip ended Eddie Jones’ unbeaten record, smashed their hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams and extended St Patrick’s Day for another 24 hours.
Not bad for a late call up.
It took England 65 minutes to throw their first shot at Ireland. The finishers, as Jones calls them, were all on, looking to somehow claw victory from the jaws of an Ireland defeat, but as the rain fell, a spilled stout flowed down the steps of the stand, Ireland found another gear just like they did in Chicago when they beat the All Blacks.
If you want to win your 19th consecutive match, do not play the Irish. Back in November it was them who ended the winning run of the Kiwis, this time they were the ultimate party-poopers as Dublin nursed sore heads from Friday’s St Patrick’s Day frivolities.
They call it the luck of the Irish, but there was nothing lucky about this victory. They were better than England. Their control of the close quarters, was superior and they took their chance when it was presented. That’s the basic narrative of the match but it was a tactical masterclass.
Ireland were superior to England in every way in Dublin. Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
It is ironic that an Englishman will be the toast of Dublin on Saturday evening. But this was a brilliant tactical performance from their defence coach Andy Farrell. It had all the hallmarks of his work; an aggressive defence, a rapid line speed and no quarter given. They said to England throw everything at us, when you get a chance, but we’ll be ready. In truth, England never really had a chance to get back into the match after trailing for so long.
After defeat, it was strange to see England celebrating with the trophy; bittersweet to the letter. They can still feel proud of all that has been achieved on this run, they are still champions after all and have set various standards for northern hemisphere rugby — but they were beaten in every area by Joe Schmidt’s side.
Ireland should have been further ahead at the break than their slender 10-3 lead. England defended for their lives in the first half. Wave after wave of Irish attacks peppered their 22; the interplay of the half-backs kept England constantly on their toes, as they targeted the area in and around the ruck as an area of potential weakness.
Ireland were also masterful off the ball, ensuring England’s defenders took the most time possible to rise from the ground. In turn, England searched for Irish blood, running out of the defensive line, targeting Jonathan Sexton and attempting to force knock-ons.
England could not match Ireland’s ferocity at the Aviva Stadium. David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images
England, though, were uncharacteristically sloppy. The usually flawless lineout creaked, players spilled balls and even George Ford kicked out on the full. Nerves? Perhaps, but they looked off-colour. In contrast, Ireland were at the level of intensity which saw them knock over the All Blacks — it was that sort of match where they constantly got across the gainline, and even though they only had one first-half try to show for their efforts, it was the constant pressure which was so impressive.
Jones started introducing the ‘finishers’ at halftime with Mako Vunipola replacing Joe Marler, but still Ireland prevented England from ever getting momentum and phase play together. A string of English phases was such a rarity, verging on non-existent as Ireland brought back their famous choke tackle tactic.
James Haskell was victim to that as Robbie Henshaw and Sexton held him up in the second half and Maro Itoje was also exposed to some of its rough justice. It prevented England getting momentum and with it went their record.
“This England team has always had a slight mystical quality about it; losing was never an option.”
Tom Hamilton in Dublin
This England team has always had a slight mystical quality about it; losing was never an option. But as the Aviva Stadium rose to the sound of Fields of Athenry, it just never seemed like they were going to produce the miraculous. It vibrated through your chest, it was all encompassing — every pore was filled with Irish pride and it galvanised the team. This will hurt England, but it is another key part of their development as a team, but they will have to bottle this as they won’t have another match as a group until November due to the Lions tour.
England have had the most incredible run, but they were always going to one day suffer a defeat. It came in Dublin, and they can have no complaints. This was an Ireland team playing like a group of men possessed and they deserved victory after the most pulsating, passionate of displays.
And at the centre of it was that man O’Mahony — he embodied this Ireland victory, playing himself into the ground and flooring anything in white.
Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/18942923/england-go-all-blacks-ireland-summon-spirit-chicago
England stumped as Ireland summon spirit of Chicago
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