Ireland claims fourth Six Nations grand slam with victory over England
Sealing the grand slam
Ireland completed just their fourth-ever Six Nations grand slam with a 29-16 victory over England at the Aviva Stadium, emphatically underlining their status as the world’s top-ranked team heading into September’s World Cup. None of Ireland’s three previous clean sweeps had been completed in Dublin but this victory over their fiercest rivals was the sweetest way to seal a deserved grand slam on St Patrick’s Day weekend.
Controversy and Irish dreams
There was controversy late in the first half when England full back Freddie Steward was sent off for a dangerous hit on Hugo Keenan despite bracing for impact and turning away from his opposite number, with contact appearing accidental. The harsh call prompted a mountain of reaction on Twitter, including from England cricket captain Ben Stokes. However, Ireland were still good value for their victory, as Dan Sheehan scored two tries, with Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring also dotting down, to fulfil Irish dreams.
Battling for success
Ireland reignited the St Patrick’s weekend celebrations by clinching Grand Slam success in Dublin for the first time with a battling 29-16 bonus-point victory over 14-man England. The world’s top-ranked side were odds-on favourites to sweep aside their rivals but were made to work hard for the country’s fourth championship clean sweep overall. Dan Sheehan’s two tries and further scores from Robbie Henshaw and Rob Herring ultimately elevated Andy Farrell’s class of 2023 alongside the heroes of 1948, 2009 and 2018 on a historic occasion at a rowdy Aviva Stadium.
The head coach speaks
“It’s only the fourth time we’ve done it and the first time we’ve done it here,” the Ireland head coach tells ITV. “Winning a Grand Slam is always special. It was squeaky bum time there for a while…Credit to France for the pressure they put on over the last couple of days. It was win at all costs. The game was stop-start, a proper old-fashioned test match. We are disappointed with some aspects of our game but it is a bonus point win again – that’s where we are at the moment. Hopefully there are bigger fish to fry for Johnny with the World Cup but it is unbelievably fitting for him to have this moment. He wanted to go and lift the trophy with someone else, but I said to him he had to have this moment.”
“Firstly, congratulations to Ireland. Winning a Grand Slam is special. “I thought we showed a tremendous amount of fight. The game changed with the card but we still showed a brilliant amount of fight, worked hard, stuck in it. But against a top team like Ireland it showed in the end. [On Freddie Steward’s red card] ”It’s not for me to have an opinion on. It seemed harsh to me but the people make the rules for a reason. It’s not for me to say. “We’ve got to go back to our clubs and work hard to be better players so when we do get together again we are better as a team. Clearly we want to be a better team. [On Johnny Sexton] “It is a special achievement to win a Grand Slam, and he has orchestrated it. He epitomises what they are about. He’s been fantastic.”
Up the twin prizes go together, Johnny Sexton handing the trophy around to his teammates after hoisting it aloft. Brian O’Driscoll on ITV: “Certainly in my time it is the greatest Ireland team, the most consistent Ireland team. Even in defeat they have pushed the boundaries of performance, that French game last year, the game they lost in New Zealand in the summer. There is something special within this team.” The Irish squad embrace, sharing great hugs and broad smiles in the ecstasy of Grand Slam triumph. They really had to work for it, and who knows what might have happened had the officials viewed Freddie Steward’s challenge differently, but you fancy that whatever the circumstances this brilliant Ireland side would have found a way. For the fourth time in championship history, Ireland are Grand Slam champions.
A positive performance from England
England may have fallen short, but there was some much-needed fight shown by Steve Borthwick’s side, perhaps giving the England head coach a little more confidence his team are heading in vaguely the right direction ahead of the autumn’s World Cup. The gap that needs to be closed is still massive, of course, but it wasn’t the thumping many feared.
A dominant victory
It’s one of the most dominant Grand Slams in history, too – five sides beaten, all by a margin in double digits. That’s not to say Ireland weren’t tested, surviving significant first-half rigours against France, Scotland and England, and a bit of a fright against Italy, but the best side in the world have proved exactly that across this Six Nations.
Ending on a high
Andy and Owen Farrell share a warm hug in the stands, son congratulating father after his own defeat before the Ireland head coach joins his squad on the pitch for the celebratory ceremonies. The first of the Ireland players take their medals, Bundee Aki carrying his littl’un, sharing the moment. How lovely. “One of the best nights of our careers. We spoke about the opportunity this week about the chance to win a Grand Slam in Dublin it in front of our home fans. We didn’t get it right in the first half but we stuck at it and eventually found a way. “There was a bit of pressure but every game you play for Ireland there is pressure. We were a little bit off kilter in the first half, but we wanted to test ourselves and we are delighted to get a result at the end. “These are the days that are special. It is really special. Johnny [Sexton]’s last Six Nations game today – what a servant he has been, an incredible player, an incredible person.”
Marking a historic moment
Ireland’s injured squad members (and there are quite a few) make their way up to the stage. Vice-captain James Ryan is afforded the opportunity of lifting the Triple Crown – Johnny Sexton has his own trophy to raise…
Ireland’s victory marks their fourth Grand Slam win in Six Nations history. With a dominant performance against England, they have proven themselves the best side in the world heading into the World Cup. Despite a red card for England, the match showcased exceptional talent and determination on both sides. The Irish squad celebrate in triumph, while England’s fight shows hope for the future.