“Traffic Report: Chariot loses wheel outside Lansdowne Road Station”
It’s always special an Ireland v England game in Dublin. To all the commentators in the lead up stating that it was a “dead rubber” obviously have very little concept of the English coming to town on an 18 game win streak and a grand slam at stake.
What could be sweeter than taking another scalp of one of the most in-form teams heading towards a world record whilst also showing a certain goateed head coach exactly what they could do on an open paddock 18,616km away? We were set for a hum-dinger from the off.
Payne – 7
First main play was a dropped high ball (splitting your eyes on the ball and the on coming man only leads to one outcome…) but made up for it with defensive shepherding and structure in a dogged second half. Experience was needed and Payne delivered the goods.
Earls – 8
Worked hard during the week for this and delivered on the pitch with even more hard work, nearly grabbed himself a try. Deservedly came out on the winning side and has boosted his credentials ahead of the summer tours. Imagine if he’d been on for both halves?
Ringrose – 8
He can attack, he can defend, he can still do so much more. We’ve seen a lot of his potential over this Six Nations and with the paddocks getting harder and firmer we’ll be seeing a lot more of him. His tackle (and subsequent drive backwards) on Joseph was inspiring from the young centre.
Henshaw – 8
Ben Te’o will be waking up in a cold sweat having seen a rock solid Henshaw blocking his way. Enforced his way around rucks and ran with impetus keeping the ball going forward. Get him on the plane.
Zebo – 7
Keeps on popping up as the extra playmaker (taking some attention off Sexton) and has a deceptive boot for needed clearances. Went quieter in second half but still part of a solid defensive line.
Sexton – 7.5
He’s a target for teams, they try to bully him, but he’s got to have a smug look on his face knowing that he came out on top. Slotted a huge penalty after being knocked for six by Wood and led the back line for a whole 80. His experience and leadership is what separates him from the younger sparks in the fold.
Marmion – 7.5
Very lively and dealt with the pressure of stepping into Murray’s shoes well. Not quite there with the tactical kicks from the base but crisp passing and tackles when needed. Not yet masterful, but a worthy stand in.
Stander – 7.5
Had to step into Heaslip’s shoes with five minutes notice but dealt with it well (luckily a regular position for Munster). 30 odd metres made from 16 carries and punched a few holes where needed. Fought hard all game and can look forward to heading off to New Zealand (why wouldn’t you take him?!).
O’Brien – 8
Bar two fumbles and some miss-positioning this was the best game from the Tullow Tank of the Six Nations. Ignoring his aggressive runs for a second his best contribution was a well worked turnover with his skipper. Took the game to England all day long in attack and defence. Welcome back Seanie.
O’Mahony – 10 (Yup. He’s getting 10. Anyone who disagrees can tell O’Mahony themselves.)
MOM display – Highest on the tackle count, highest on the carry count, just played out of his skin knowing the opportunity to start had come in unexpected circumstances. Ran rampant over the field and leapt like a salmon to steal that final ball. What a game for the man.
Ryan – 8
Part of an engine room that powered all day long. Knew that his role was to dominate the tight and that’s exactly what he did. Not a perfect display, there were some missed tackles, but made up for it with some powerful tight carries.
Henderson – 8
His first try in emerald, a classic forwards try – low and powerful drive over the line and gained more yards around the field as well as marshalling the English line to keep their gains to a minimum. Given an opportunity over Toner, a change we might be seeing more often now.
Furlong – 9
He’s back! After a quiet week he gave Marler the work out of his life and gave Vunipola a lesson in scrummaging. Furlong isn’t just here for the set piece, 10 tackles around the park and a few carries to boot. He prefers the window seat and only one item of carry on.
Best – 7
Looked to have departed at an early stage of the match laying some pressure on young Scannell, but returned to redeem himself from some of the previous failings from last week. Hit the darts when it mattered, but, his best part was his dialogue with Garces and his focus on protecting his team.
McGrath – 7
Silly penalty to give away could have been the tide turning in the game, fortunately, he was supported by his compatriots. Part of a set piece group that operated all day long and was smart enough to dive on the loose ball to secure another important turnover.
Replacements – 8
Kept the momentum rolling when it was needed. Conway kept up Earl’s style on his first cap and even gave a couple of England challengers a shrug off. Healy rampaged up the field off the back of a maul to great effect. Toner, Leavy and Ryan added grunt and grit to a physical match whilst McGrath showed signs of promise with that beautifully placed box kick in the dying minutes.
By Lorcan O’Duffy