By Lucky Maree
It’s one of those matches that is loaded with dramatic potential. The Irish are the favourites by a country mile.
But the Red Rose, wounded, almost fatally, may just go out in a blaze of glory and upset Ireland’s Grand Slam plans.
It seems that Steve Borthwick has at last decided that Owen Farrell is his regular choice for flyhalf. It won’t make much difference but it does represent some consistency going toward the World Cup.
After 12 minutes England have a three point lead. Johnny Sexton blows a penalty on the five metre line with a quick tap that goes nowhere. It’s the way the game has gone for a nervy Ireland so far. No doubt they’ll settle in due course.
Farrell’s second penalty is a butt-clencher but he slots it perfectly and England have a six point lead after 15 minutes.
When Johnny Sexton kicks a penalty the crowd rises to its feet. Sexton is now the all-time record Six Nations points scorer. If it matters to him it doesn’t show.
The Ireland strategy of the up-and-under is not working as the England backs match Ireland kick for kick but Ireland don’t change their strategy. If anything is going to cost them, this will be it.
When England’s defence fails, hooker Dan Sheehan slices through a gap as wide as the proverbial barn door. Sexton converts. Ireland have a four point lead.
Into the red at the end of the first half, Jaco Peyper whips out his ultimate weapon. The red card sends England’s Freddie Steward off the pitch for the rest of the match. Yes, he has applied the law. Does he have to be so happy about it? This, after ball carrier Hugo Keenan ran straight into Steward’s shoulder without looking. When will the ball carrier one day have to take some responsibility for his own injury?
At the end of the first half, England have been so-so, but that is to be expected. Ireland, however, has looked flat. Andy Farrell will have to come up with a different action plan if Ireland want to finish the Six Nations on a high.
After ten minutes into the second half Ireland have done nothing but kick away possession. Coach Andy Farrell is an acknowledged rugby expert, but why he persists with this strategy is not immediately obvious.
Owen Farrell converts a penalty, leaving England trailing by one point. A fair reflection of the game so far.
It takes 25 minutes before Robbie Henshaw scores Ireland’s score try from a maul on the England try line.
On 70 minutes Ireland seem to find their mojo as Dan Sheehan scores a dominant try. England are now 15 points adrift and have not scored a single try.
Irishman Johnny Sexton has now adopted his usual role of not only explaining the rules to the England forwards, but also shouting some useful tips at the ref. How does he get away with it?
Jamie George’s try for England is more than a consolation try it’s a mini victory. Steve Borthwick and the England players – and all of England – will feel a lot better than they did after last week.
Referee Jaco Peyper has the final say when he hands out a yellow for a tip tackle. With 13 players on the field, England immediately concede a try as Rob Herring crosses the line.
Ireland have the perfect finish with the four-try bonus point as the last minute of the 2023 Six Nations ticks down.
Ireland (4 tries) 29-16 (1 tries) England.
Pictured above: Ireland celebrating their victory
Image source: Irish Rugby