DUBLIN (AP) – Ireland mastered the hype and anticipation to win the Six Nations and a historic first Grand Slam in Dublin with a 29-16 victory over England on Saturday.
The Irish entered the tournament as heavy favorites and swept it to confirm their No. 1 status in the world and make a big statement after six months of the Rugby World Cup, where they had never won a knockout match.
A month after beating runners-up and defending champions France on home soil, Ireland dealt with an underpowered England who took the most points from a win and at least four tries at a busy Lansdowne Road.
Dublin’s Irish home had never seen an Irish major, nor a title in the Six Nations era, and those Irishmen were delivered by the strains of England. They led 10-6 at halftime and added three tries in the last quarter to Robbie Henshaw, the second to Dan Sheehan, and the last to his replacement Rob Herring.
Captain Jonathan Sexton received a perfect bye in his final Six Nations game with his second grand slam and points-scoring tournament win. He limped out with six minutes to a standing ovation.
England redeemed themselves after hiding out at home from France last weekend by fighting hard, but that effort was undermined when defender Freddie Steward was sent off just before half-time. Steward took some of the tension with him and the result was an air of inevitability about it.
Ireland players celebrate after Rob Herring scores a try during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Saturday, March 18, 2023 (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
But Ireland couldn’t ignite the St Patrick’s weekend celebrations until Henshaw and Sheehan had tries for 24-9 after just over an hour.
Herring’s late try capped Ireland’s first Six Nations title since 2018 and fifth this century. Previous major championships were in 1948, 2009, and 2018.
England did not feature at Twickenham last weekend in the unprecedented match at home to France, but showed early on that it was up to the Irish with a number of conversions that led to an Owen Farrell penalty.
Farrell scored another 6-0 as Ireland were coping with the pressure from England’s excellent defense and collapse. Ireland were pushing a lot of passes and running slow.
Sexton, who was stopped over the line for a quick penalty, converted his first penalty kick and received his first applause. He left behind a tie with his Irish predecessor Ronan O’Gara as the tournament’s top scorer. By the way, Farrell is fourth on the list, behind Johnny Wilkinson, who recently helped Farrell overhaul his goaltending success at 47%. Sexton and Farrell each landed four out of four runs.
Ireland finally converted a try opportunity in the 33rd position from a short line-up. England obliged with a rolling stroke, but instead Josh van der Vlaer crept back and fed inside hooker Sheehan, who lunged into line.
With seconds left in the first half, Irish fullback Hugo Keenan caught a forward pass and ran straight to Steward, who turned shoulder first to prepare for the tackle. This failure to show Kennan a duty of care caused the steward to be sent off by referee Jacko Pepper.
Keenan did not return either, as he failed to assess a head injury during the intervening period.
Ireland were running into the new half to make the most of their man advantage, and Farrell’s third penalty closed the deficit to one.
When England winger Anthony Watson received a cross from Sexton and was flicked back across the try line, he hit Ireland off the attacking goalkeeper. Henshaw, who had only recently been fit after wrist and hamstring injuries, met a pass from midfield partner Bondi Ake into the gap to score.
Minutes later Ireland went short side again, and defender Jack Conan leveled two defenders to put Sheehan in for his second try of the game.
With Sexton’s additions, the score was safe and Lansdowne Road took off on song.
On a day for the Hookers, England’s Jimmy George scored from their only try chance on a knock, but Ireland had the last word when substitute Sheehan Herring burst in from a run and scored. ___
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Ireland’s Rob Herring scores a try during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Ireland’s Dan Sheehan celebrates after scoring a try during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Ireland and England at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, on Saturday, March 18, 2023 (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
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