Match in a minute: Ireland defeat Grand Slam-chasing England

Simon Lewis relives the game-defining moments from Ireland's hard-fought 13-9 victory over England.

Key moment: There would be plenty of drama to come but when Ireland's fly-half Johnny Sexton picked himself up off the floor after England had hit him with yet another late tackle in the 62nd minute, he coolly slotted a long-range penalty to defiantly show it would take more than foul play to knock him out of his stride. That the penalty provided the winning points made the statement all the sweeter.

England's Owen Farrell with Jonathan Sexton of Ireland. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Talking point: The withdrawal of Jamie Heaslip just before kick-off prompted a back-row rejig that gave Ireland a much better balance with Peter O'Mahony promoted from the bench to blindside flanker and CJ Stander switching from six to No.8.

O'Mahony provided all the snarl that had been missing from previous outings and proved a valuable boost to a lineout that had struggled during the championship. Stander, meanwhile, was far from diminished in his new role, getting on the ball with just as much frequency.

However long it took to accommodate O'Mahony and Schmidt, it is a formula Joe Schmidt should stick with.

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony. Photo: PA

Key man: It could not have been anyone but Peter O'Mahony. The flanker had been named on the bench last Thursday but when Jamie Heaslip went down injured in the warm-up, the Munster captain got the call and delivered in spades.

O'Mahony was everywhere, on both sides of the ball, tackling with gusto, scrapping at the breakdown with an intensity that set the standard for his team-mates and stealing valuable lineout ball while offering much-needed variety in that set-piece for caller Donnacha Ryan. A tour de force.

Ireland's Donnacha Ryan during a maul. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ref watch: Jerome Garces, the French official who red carded England captain Dylan Hartley for his terrible swinging straight-arm “tackle” on Sean O'Brien in a December Champions Cup match, took an unfortunately laxer approach when it came to the treatment dished out by the hooker's team-mates on Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton.

England were relentless in their harassment of the number 10 and though he had the last laugh he deserved better protection.

England's Billy Vunipola is tackled by Ireland's Iain Henderson at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Penalties conceded: Ireland 10 England 9

Injuries: Ireland's fitness problems are now the concern of the provinces and Munster will be hoping scrum-half Conor Murray recovers quickly from the stinger injury to his left shoulder that caused him to miss the England game as they prepare for the Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Toulouse on April 1.

Likewise Leinster full-back Rob Kearney, whose knee injury kept him out of Saturday's Six Nations finale while Jamie Heaslip was withdrawn from the line-up just before kick-off.

Next up: From the championship to the Champions Cup, Ireland's players leave their Six Nations camp to reintegrate with their provincial colleagues, with Leinster and Munster facing big last-eight dates in Europe in two weeks. Most of the frontliners will be given next weekend off when the Guinness Pro12 campaign resumes.

The Ireland team stand for a minute's silence in memory of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick of Rescue Team 116. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland

KEYWORDS: rugby, 6 nations


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