Finlay Bealham and family enjoy special moment at Twickenham

Canberra-born prop was seeing his parents for the first time in two-and-a-half years

As the Irish players lapped the ground in a nod of appreciation to the vast number of singing supporters in green, Finlay Bealham went to the touchline to meet up with his parents, who he hadn't seen in two-and-a-half years.

The 30-year-old from Canberra has worked his way into the Irish team since first landing in Ulster almost a dozen years ago. His grandmother hails from Ulster and he played for Belfast Harlequins as well as the Irish under-20s before taking up an offer of a full-time contract in the Ulster academy in 2011.

The pandemic must have been particularly tough on those players whose families live in the southern hemisphere and one of the most special days in his career, marked by his third Irish try to seal a bonus-point win, was made more so by an overdue reunion with his parents.

“I had my parents there who I hadn’t seen for the last two-and-a-half years with Covid,” explained Bealham.

“It was a really special day for the team and for me personally as well.

“I got to meet them after the game in the crowd and it was a really emotional moment for us, that I hadn’t seen them in the last two-and-a-half years. It was really special for me.

“Certainly this is a day that the Bealham family won’t forget,” added Bealham, as pictures of the reunion caught his father in tears.

Bealham has been an ever-present this season, albeit restricted to endgame cameos, save for the last half hour against Wales and last quarter against Italy. He generally provides high energy on both sides of the ball with his quick line speed and tackling in defence, as well as his carrying.

After Conor Murray had sniped off a strong catch-and-drive to link with James Lowe, who effectively took three defenders out of the game, Bealham's low body position – helped by Tadhg Beirne's latch – was unstoppable.

It was his first Test try since scoring in both of the summer wins over Japan and USA.

“He [head coach Andy Farrell] was really proud of the performance,” said Bealham. “It was backs-to-the-wall stuff but we stayed in the game really well. It was brilliant to get on and unreal to score thanks to James Lowe’s carry. It was a lovely team try.

“It put me in a nice position to get over the line and it was a lovely try. It was just nice for me to be out there.”

Indeed, Farrell hailed the importance of the bench in seeing the game home after England had recovered from a 15-6 deficit to draw level on the hour.

“It’s fantastic. I mean, Finlay, he hadn’t been on the field for too long at all but he was straight into the game and he was ready and focused and I thought he did unbelievably well there.

“I thought Conor [Murray] was really controlled, added a lot when he came on as well and obviously we would have liked to have got Joey [Carbery] on a little bit earlier but it is what it is, that’s Test-match rugby.

"Jack Conan has come off the bench against Italy and was outstanding and he's come on and done exactly the same again so really pleased with the bench. They were a big part of the reason why we got to where we got to in the end."

The Irish players know their performance was far from perfect, but they flew home soon after the conclusion of Saturday’s 32-15 win in Twickenham knowing they had come through a more searching examination of their credentials as a team than perhaps should have been the case.

A top-two finish is guaranteed and a 12th Triple Crown is in the offing against Scotland next Saturday at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 4.45pm), which ought to make it more atmospheric than has been the case for the previous games against Wales and Italy. A win could also secure the Championship if France subsequently slip up against England on what should be some occasion in Paris.

"It's massive. It puts us in a strong position," said Bealham, whose try meant Ireland secured their fourth bonus point in four games.

“That game’s going to be massive next weekend. We’ll be solely focused on our game and do everything we can to put out a really good performance and let the chips fall where they may.

“England are a quality team and France are a top-quality team, so there’s going to be fireworks in that game.

"Thankfully, throughout this tournament we've racked up a couple of bonus-point wins and then the losing bonus point and they're very critical; going into the last game of the Six Nations those extra points add up."

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times

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