Ireland shatter England's Grand Slam dream
March 19, 2011
Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll powers over to score a record-breaking try
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Ireland smashed England's Grand Slam dream with a dominant 24-8 victory at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday.
Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll broke Ian Smith's all-time Championship try-scoring record by pouncing for the game's vital try just after half-time, with Ireland having flown out of the traps in a ferocious first-half.
Winger Tommy Bowe had crashed over in the opening period to set Ireland on their way and fly-half Jonathan Sexton kicked nervelessly for 14 points as England failed completely to deal with the hosts' pace and power.
Replacement hooker Steve Thompson scored a try for the visitors but they were never in danger of securing a first Grand Slam since 2003, with this encounter resembling more closlely the exploits of Keith Wood in 2001 than Martin Johnson and Co two years later.
Matt Banahan, introduced in midfield for injured skipper Mike Tindall, snaffled the kick-off and set up some early pressure for the visitors but Ireland wrestled the momentum back at the first scrum, where the unfancied home front-row took a huge bite out of the English set-piece with a penalty. Keith Earls charged into space and kicked long, but after Ben Foden's tidying up Ireland lost their first lineout to relieve the pressure.
Ireland kept the heat on and were rewarded when England strayed offside, Sexton slotting a penalty to follow up an earlier raking kick to touch. England repaid the compliment to the Irish scrum with a penalty of their own but early nerves got the better of them as an attack in midfield broke down, Ireland winning more territory following another blast from the whistle of Bryce Lawrence.
A knock on from Eoin Reddan spared the visitors any damage to the scoreboard but loose play at the ensuing scrum allowed Sexton to extend Ireland's lead to six points, his penalty following a high tackle from Chris Ashton.
Errors blighted both side's progress in the ensuing phases but Ireland maintained a high-tempo, only to be denied the opening try due to a forward pass. Ben Youngs conceded position with a foolish penalty and after Ireland had secured the lineout, a charge from Bowe opened the door for quick hands to put O'Driscoll over in the corner.
After the referee's intervention, play was called back for an earlier penalty and Sexton landed his third kick on 22 minutes. England finally found a response from a quick free-kick taken by Dylan Hartley and after Ashton and Alex Corbisiero had hurtled into the Irish defence, England were awarded a penalty only for Toby Flood to hook his kick wide.
Disappointment quickly turned to disaster for Johnson's side as Ireland capitalised on the restart. Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan hacked the ball ahead and England were guilty of rushing up ahead of Foden's clearance. Sexton charged to the mark and tapped, firing the ball out to Bowe and the Ospreys wing stepped inside to score.
Sexton missed the extras but Ireland were not finished for the half. David Wallace ripped the ball clear from a tackle and set off along the touchline, where Youngs made the tackle to force the flanker out inches short. The young scrum-half threw the ball away, denying Ireland the quick tap, earning himself 10 minutes in the bin and Sexton three more points.
England began the second-half with another scare as a misjudged Banahan offload almost fell to the onrushing Bowe and Ireland kept the pressure on as Earls broke along the flank and stabbed the ball through, where Foden cleaned up to the tune of an Irish lineout.
Youngs' evening ended with the conclusion of his sin-bin, when Danny Care was introduced in his place, and Ireland ground through the gears again to propel O'Driscoll into the history books. Cian Healy picked off an England lineout at the tail and barrelled for the line, with Ireland recycling the ball and O'Callaghan marching into a half gap. His offload went to ground but O'Driscoll grasped the loose ball and crashed over out wide.
Sexton added the two points but England almost hit back immediately. Strong work by the forwards laid the platform and the familiar axis of Flood and Ashton kicked into gear, with the winger haring into space only to offload to the lurking Gordon D'Arcy.
Ireland flung a lifeline to England immediately after when a careless pass from Reddan was picked off by Thompson, on in place of Dylan Hartley, and the hooker romped home. Jonny Wilkinson uncharacteristically missed the conversion.
England were emboldened by their score and enjoyed their first meaningful possession as the hour mark approached, but again their advance was halted by an error as Tom Wood knocked on to end multiple phases of possession.
The visitors gained a foothold following the replacement of tight-head Mike Ross by Tom Court, when the previously dominant Irish scrummage was placed under pressure. One penalty was belted deep into Irish territory in pursuit of a maul and try, but Ireland stood tall and Jamie Heaslip emerged with the ball, O'Driscoll hacking his clearance away.
Earls lit up the later stages of the game with a brilliant break from deep and as the seconds ticked away, Ronan O'Gara took hold of proceedings and planted the ball into England territory, where it remained as the last vestige of their Grand Slam petered out.
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