England stroll to Grand Slam
March 30, 2003
Martin Johnson lifts the Six Nations trophy
© Getty Images
England have secured a Grand Slam in this year's RBS Six Nations Champioship with a comprehensive 42-6 victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road.
Clive Woodward's men got it right in their fourth final-hurdle Grand Slam clash in five seasons, having failed in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Lawrence Dallaglio and Mike Tindall both scored tries before Will Greenwood crossed twice in the second half ahead of Dan Luger's injury-time effort as England strolled to their first Grand Slam since 1995 - and their 12th in all.
After almost 15 minutes of pre-match spectacle, the game swung into action - six minutes late - as David Humphreys got things going in front of a 48,000 sell-out crowd.
The kick-off went to England wing Ben Cohen, who initially appeared uncertain how to clear, but Jonny Wilkinson did the job, finding touch immaculately.
Ireland had the first scoring chance, and Humphreys was agonisingly close to finding the target with a monster 55-metre penalty kick.
Prop Marcus Horan was the next to threaten, smashing through England's defence, and although he was held up, Humphreys dropped a goal from 25 metres to give his team a richly-deserved 3-0 lead.
England then struck for their first notable attack. With Ireland's scrum under pressure, Matt Dawson poached possession and sprinted away, before supporting number eight Dallaglio powered over between the posts. Wilkinson's conversion gave England a 7-3 lead after 10 minutes.
England's defence was fully stretched, but when the visitors somewhat predictably conceded a penalty, Humphreys sent his straightforward chance sailing wide of the posts.
It was a let-off for England, but they responded with some excellent ball-carrying and support work among backs and forwards.
The visitors lost flanker Richard Hill with a blood injury on 23 minutes - Wasps forward Joe Worsley replaced him - but Ireland were next to threaten.
The dangerous Murphy again raced clear in acres of space, and it took a superb Wilkinson tackle to halt his progress.
Workaholic Wilkinson was at it again just seconds later, smashing Ireland wing Justin Bishop into the turf with another mighty tackle.
England suffered their second blood injury on 27 minutes as Dawson departed to be replaced by Kyran Bracken.
Humphreys immediately cut Ireland's deficit when he landed a 50-metre penalty - his first success from three attempts - but a Wilkinson drop-goal on 29 minutes restored England's four-point advantage.
Hill then returned to the action, rejoining an England team that was slowly but surely beginning to exert a degree of control.
Dawson returned - but soon after a third England player departed with a blood injury just before the break, prop Graham Rowntree going off to be replaced by Gloucester's Trevor Woodman.
Another Dallaglio charge took England deep into the Irish half entering injury-time, and Wilkinson sweetly struck his second drop-goal to give the visitors a deserved 13-6 interval advantage.
Rowntree returned for the second period, and England dominated early possession - but they suffered a setback in the 44th minute when Wilkinson required treatment for what appeared to be a left shoulder problem.
He was clearly in considerable discomfort, but continued, thinking he had struck his third drop-goal just a minute later.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan gave it, but play was called back after the touch judge spotted a wayward line-out throw just seconds before Wilkinson found the target.
Woodman had again replaced Rowntree, and Danny Grewcock went on for a bloodied Kay.
Wilkinson went off in the 54th minute, although it appeared to be for blood, rather than his shoulder, which meant a chance for experienced fly-half Paul Grayson.
Grayson's first contribution was a superb kick to touch, giving England another chance to build momentum but yet another indiscretion - this time from Dallaglio - allowed Ireland a respite.
Ireland sent on lock Paul O'Connell as a 57th-minute replacement for Gary Longwell, but England struck with a telling blow just two minutes later.
Centre Will Greenwood's pass split open the Irish defence, and his midfield colleague Tindall raced 30 metres for a crucial try.
Grayson converted before Wilkinson went back on, with England leading 20-6 going into the final quarter.
If the Grand Slam had been in doubt until Tindall's effort, it was put beyond all doubt when England scored their third try in the 64th minute.
Ireland's defensive wall took a ferocious battering, and Greenwood emerged with the ball from underneath a forward pile, claiming the try. Wilkinson kicked the conversion.
Try hero Tindall then departed with an injury, limping off, and England's subsequent midfield reorganisation saw wing Jason Robinson switch to centre, with replacement Luger going on the wing.
Bracken again replaced Dawson, and the home crowd's enthusiasm started to diminish in the knowledge that England were victory bound.
A 70th-minute Wilkinson penalty took England 30-6 in front - and Greenwood was soon gifted his second try of the match before Luger went over in the corner in injury-time.
Soon after the final whistle sounded, to the delight of Woodward and his players.
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