Ireland get their mojo back
Rugby:Despite picking up the Six Nations trophy, there was little cause for celebration in the English camp last night. Yes, they may have got their hands on the silverware after winning the title but they leave Dublin with their tails between their legs after a ferocious mauling at the hands of Ireland.
This was the performance Ireland had been threatening all championship but had only managed to produce in fits and starts. Defeats at the hands of France and Wales had put paid to their title aspirations, never mind a Grand Slam, but yesterday’s emphatic 24-8 win shows that this is a team moving in the right direction.
For Brian O’Driscoll, who scored a record-breaking 25th try and had another ruled out for a forward pass, the result offered a side low on self esteem a redemption of sorts.
"We felt we had a big performance in us,” he said after the game. “We'd been threatening at times during the first four games but lacked composure. We showed real intensity and this was a complete performance. The pack fronted up and along with the control of Jonathan Sexton were the winning of the game.
"Of course there's a little frustration that it's taken until the last game of the Six Nations to produce that, but those games are gone. All we could do today was put in a performance that we felt we owed ourselves more than anyone else. We are the ones who know what hard graft goes in and the sacrifices made.
"I never believed we became a bad team in a year, we just perhaps hadn't got the breaks and been as clinical as we had in the past. We put that right to some degree today. It was an impressive performance and the result took care of itself."
Sexton, restored to number 10 despite a shaky performance in Cardiff the previous week, produced his most accomplished display in an Irish shirt but was quick to give credit to his teammates.
“It's just a brilliant day for everyone involved,” said the man-of-the-match. “It wasn't really about me, it was about me doing as much as I could for the team. We've just been making individual errors and people have been looking for reasons why we've not been playing well, I think penalties have been killing us as well.
“We tend to get a little negative in Ireland and sometimes it was warranted, sometimes it wasn't.”
Ireland unleashed all the anger and bitterness following last week's controversial defeat to Wales on a young England side who played like rabbits caught in the headlights.
Martin Johnson's men lacked composure, a failing epitomised by Ben Youngs' first-half sin-binning for throwing the ball away into the crowd.
Ireland's scrum dominated the set-piece, their back row tore into the breakdown, tackled and carried the ball with an intensity England could not match.
England conceded five penalties and it was no surprise when Tommy Bowe went over after Sexton had taken a quick penalty.
It became worse for England when Donncha O'Callaghan dropped the ball in a tackle from Louis Deacon but O'Driscoll scooped it up and darted over in the corner for his record-breaking try.
The visitors rang the changes in the second half and gave themselves hope when Steve Thompson picked off a pass from Eoin Reddan to gallop over for the try but Wilkinson missed the conversion and they were unable to close the gap.
Youngs admitted he "played like an idiot" as England's Grand Slam dream was shattered. The Leicester scrum-half accepted it was far from his finest performance but has vowed that he and the team will bounce back.
"I'm so disappointed," said the 21-year-old. "I've played like an idiot but I have to man up and take it on the chin. This is a good test of character. Let's see what I am made of. Hopefully I'll bounce back. I have some good guys around me who will help pull me through.
"We are a very strong unit and we'll come back better from this, I'll guarantee that. I will work hard to make sure it never happens again. It has happened and it is not easy to swallow but guys will come back and we'll be better for it. You only have to see what's happening in the rest of the world to realise this is just a game."
Youngs did not return after his sin-binning, but refused to blame referee Bryce Lawrence for the yellow card.
He added: "What can I say? He's the boss and if that's what he decides, that's what he decides. It came as a little bit of surprise to me, but what can I do? I've been done and I won't do it again. I have to face up to it. I should hopefully come back a stronger character.
"Obviously, I regret it - of course I do. If I knew what would happen I wouldn't have lobbed it in."