March 23, 2018

Confirmed: Ireland crowned Six Nations champions as England lose

12 March 2018, 06:45 | Lucia Cruz

Head coach Jacques Brunel watches his squad during the session in Marcoussis

Head coach Jacques Brunel watches his squad during the session in Marcoussis

I was a bit alarmed how everybody was trying to play down the need to win with four tries to stay in contention for the tournament after Ireland's excellent win over Scotland earlier.

With only one Premiership club in the last eight of Europe's Champions Cup - there are four from France's Top 14 and three from the Pro14 - the problems encountered by England are mirrored at domestic level.

The championship is Ireland's third in five years.

If Ireland win in London they will secure the third Grand Slam in their history, following previous triumphs in 1948 and 2009.

"Everyone knows the size of the challenge".

The English will be keen to return the favour at Twickenham - where they are yet to taste defeat under Eddie Jones since he took over after the 2015 World Cup debacle.

"That's been part of why we've done so well, that we work so hard for each other, and you saw that in the last 20 minutes against England, we grew and grew". And as Ireland welcomed the championship title back over the Irish Sea, Jones was left looking for answers to why Jaco Peyper - as Nigel Owens did in Edinburgh - frequently found fault with his side's approach to the ruck.

Two wayward Peter Horne passes cost Scotland dear, the first forcing Blair Kinghorn to dive to retrieve, when if accurate could have let the full debutant fly into the corner.

"While we're all disappointed, we're all gutted, we've got to make sure we learn from it and make sure we're stronger next time we play", Jones told the BBC. However, the throw-in wasn't caught.

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But the visitors dug in and got the first points on the board when Laidlaw stroked over a routine penalty in the 13th minute.

Scotland bore more gifts for the hosts. On three occasions in that first half Ireland tried to exit and managed to find touch but Scotland took quick throws and relaunched another wave of attacks. Best was the backup hooker to Jerry Flannery, while Kearney was the starting fullback in all five matches. Sexton's conversion pushed Ireland into a 21-3 advantage.

Scotland are actually happy that the ref is Wayne Barnes, who they think will want a contest at the breakdown.

The Scots, 21-8 behind, should have had another try moments later when Horne slipped through a big gap.

Heeding their latest reprieve, Ireland stole a Scotland lineout to storm clear.

"We won thanks to our defence", said scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud, who converted his four penalties. "We were beaten at the breakdown, we gave away too many penalties, and when we had the momentum we didn't score, whereas they did".

When the first kickable penalty of the match was awarded, instead of taking the three points on offer, Johnny Sexton chose to kick to the corner but unfortunately Rory Best's throw didn't connect with his target and Scotland lifted the pressure without conceding any points. "We are always going to go through this at some stage".

Luke, Will, Ethan, Christopher, Benjamin and Todd, sent us their messages for the Ireland team.

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