English dreams of a first Grand Slam title since 2003 became a nightmare when they lost 24-8 to Ireland in Dublin.
Barring a big Welsh win against France in Paris later tonight, Martin Johnson’s men will still be presented with the Six Nations trophy, but missing out on the big prize will hurt.
Ireland came into this game on the back of two defeats (to France and Wales) and two unconvincing narrow wins (against Italy and Scotland), and weren’t given much chance of finishing their campaign on a positive note. However, the hosts rose to the occasion and were full value for their victory.
Two penalties from Jonathan Sexton gave them an early 6-0 lead, with a nervous looking England making several basic errors. Brian O’Driscoll’s try at the start of the second quarter was disallowed for a marginal forward pass, but the referee was playing advantage and Sexton sent the ball through the posts again.
Soon after, England failed to find touch, Jamie Heaslip ran the ball back and offloaded to Tommy Bowe, who scored in the corner. Sexon missed the conversion.
The visitors finally got on the scoreboard through a Toby Flood penalty but that was cancelled out by another Sexton strike. The Irish should have scored a second try just before the break but Paul O’Connell knocked on with the line in sight.
However, the hosts did get over again, early in the second half, when a botched England lineout resulted in a record 25th Five/Six Nations try for O’Driscoll.
The visitors responded in the 50th minute with a try from Steve Thompson, who intercepted a careless pass from Eoin Reddan, but Jonny Wilkinson’s conversion attempt went well wide.
Neither side could add to their points tally in the remaining half an hour, and Ireland celebrated a famous victory.