15. Rob Kearney: 8.5
Both fullbacks were heavily involved in their sides’ attacking threat, and while it was Brown on the winning team, Kearney scored Ireland’s only try in the 42nd minute, picking a perfect line through the English defence and rounding his opposite number to dot down underneath the posts.
14. Andrew Trimble: 6.5
Making the most of his ‘last chance saloon’, Trimble threatened the line on a couple of occasions but English scramble defence just covered in time. His kick chase is world class, but over eagerness led to the concession of an unnecessary penalty by straying offside at a ruck.
13. Brian O’Driscoll: 8
His 139th international and 63rd in the Six Nations ended in disappointment but O’Driscoll had his best game of the championship so far, starting with real intent to take the game to Twelvetrees and Burrell in the English midfield.
12. Gordon D’Arcy: 7.5
Defeat at Twickenham ended any hopes of an Irish Grand Slam, meaning D’Arcy won’t be shaving off the magnificent headline grabbing beard as promised. A couple of miscommunications in the backline aside, he continued a good run of form.
11. David Kearney: 7.5
Ireland’s second most prominent runner with ball in hand – only his elder brother made more metres – Dave Kearney was solid under the highball and benefitted from the attacking intentions of those inside him creating space but English defensive solidarity prevented a clear cut opportunity.
10. Johnny Sexton: 6.5
Sexton orchestrated Ireland’s dangerous set plays straight off the training pitch but credit to the English defensive system, they held firm, and a couple of reactionary and poorly executed chips summed up a frustrating day for the talented fly-half.
9. Conor Murray: 7
His passing wasn’t quite as sharp as it can be and his kicking accuracy lacked the precision he found against Wales, but he deserves praise for his efforts in dislodging the ball from Jonny May, saving a certain try. Danny Care otherwise stole his limelight.
1. Cian Healy: 7
Ireland upped the ante at scrum time during the last quarter with Healy and co arguably unlucky not to be rewarded with penalty and a chance to tie the game, but they didn’t really achieve the dominance we thought could be possible in Dan Cole’s absence.
2. Rory Best: 5.5
Became the most capped Ulster international on the occasion of his 73rd cap, but his tackling stats do not read well, uncharacteristically missing five tackles. We’ll have to wait and see if an impeccable set piece and a couple of contributions in turnover ball will save Rory from Schmidt rotating his starting hooker for the Italian test.
3. Mike Ross: 6.5
With Marty Moore a capable deputy, Ireland don’t rely on Mike Ross on the tight-head side quite so much and this appears to be driving his performances upwards. Another solid hour from the dependable Ross, Moore may get a start against the Italians though.
4. Devin Toner: 7.5
Lineout possession can never be guaranteed, even with Toner as your primary jumper, so John Plumtree will be pleased to see that set piece come up trumps against a much lauded English defensive lineout. Toner couldn’t disrupt England’s throw either, mind.
5. Paul O’Connell: 8
The captain rued the ‘silly errors’ which cost his team victory, and he was culpable of a few, but this was another superb performance by the tight five with O’Connell, as always, at the heart of it. He relished the challenge of Launchbury and Lawes.
6. Peter O’Mahony: 7
Munster’s captain has reached a new level in these championships, but a powerful English back row quartet met his challenge and limited the influence O’Mahony had on proceedings to a large extent. He carried well however, and provided an alternative lineout option.
7. Chris Henry: 8
Henry continues to quietly go about his work with a commendable 15 tackles topping his side’s tackle stats. It was thanks to Henry that Ireland’s halfbacks had such quick ball, and he showed good feet and strength when involved in the loose.
8. Jamie Heaslip: 7.5
Facing two physical challenges from the powerful Billy Vunipola and his equal Ben Morgan, Heaslip showed that the role of a number eight isn’t just as a bosh merchant with a perfectly weighted inside pass which put Rob Kearney clean through.
With Joe Schmidt having decided to stick with the same XV these replacements have had to bide their time for an opportunity, but they continue to impress in cameos appearances and he may see a chance to reward a few with starts against the Italians.
Marty Moore had a solid final quarter in particular, and Jordi Murphy made his international debut in the most testing of circumstances.
By David Blair (@viscount_dave)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images