Moments of the year: Sweet night in Dublin as England’s train derailed

O’Mahony and Sexton heroic as Ireland end old rivals’ long unbeaten Test run

 Peter O’Mahony steals  a lineout against England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Peter O’Mahony steals a lineout against England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Highlight

Has to be thumping England by four clear-eyed points.

There were many winding subplots. In the warm-up Jamie Heaslip’s previously indestructible career screeched to a grinding halt. Peter O’Mahony did not fill the void, he became it. The Munster captain owned Maro Itoje, James Haksell and Billy Vunipola – helped out of Krystle in the wee hours – with some help from Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander.

The Lions backrow conundrums solved over a brutal 80 minutes.

“He’s a bloody good player,” said Eddie Jones after O’Mahony’s lineout clinic and disruptive chaos.

On the hour all tributaries converged into the great river. Familiar terrain. Ireland clinging on against perceived immortals, defying logic, their battered outhalf wincing through every motion. New England eroding old Irish resolve, as the All Blacks world record for Test match wins curved into view.

Owen Farrell hits Johnny Sexton illegally high.

“Come on now boys,” roared Donnacha Ryan, on his last day in green, evoking the spirit of Ciarán Fitzgerald. “They had their patch! They had their time!”

Tom Wood plants a shoulder into Sexton after the pass was gone. Cian Healy picks up up the chieftain who was earlier felled by Haskell while twice Itoje almost decapitated him.

“I have a responsibility to my team,” Rory Best pleaded with the referee. “They are targeting Johnny. I’ll get it in the neck from Joe!”

Iain Henderson buries Itoje. Sexton holds up Joe Launchbury. Garry Ringrose catches Jonathan Joseph cold. The irony of Robbie Henshaw and Ben Te’o causing tremors in midfield is lost on no-one.

And every time your man got up to kick his goals.

“A real warrior,” Best added, “but a humble, good guy off the pitch.”

Sweet night in Dublin especially as Dylan Hartley lifted the Six Nations trophy.

Lowlight

The treatment of females by Irish rugby.

“How much of a shit do they give?” asked Ruth O’Reilly, the veteran prop, as Ireland’s calamitous World Cup campaign under Tom Tierney and Anthony Eddy stumbled to a disastrous eighth-place finish.

An answer came with the framing of a “part-time casual” advertisement to replace Tierney as Ireland head coach. The ‘#Legacy?’ campaign that followed was described recently as a “bit of fuss” by Mary Quinn, the only woman on the IRFU committee and key figure in future strategic planning.

Also, RTÉ’s offer to put the women’s home internationals in prime time Friday/Saturday night slots was rejected without a logical reason. The struggle for equality continues.

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