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Six Nations: Ireland win grand slam

NatWest 6 Nations Round 5 results: England 15-24 Ireland, Wales 14-13 France, Italy 27-29 Scotland

The fifth and final round of the 2018 Six Nations Championship got underway in Rome, where Scotland narrowly defeated Italy at Stadio Olimpico. Then at Twickenham Stadium, Championship winners Ireland dominated England to secure the Grand Slam. In the last match on Super Saturday, Wales went past France at the Principality Stadium to take the runners-up spot. With displays of Irish class and courage, Ireland earned an incredible achievement and were fully deserving of their triumph - 'An incredible achievement' in a green-shirted onslaught against their Six Nations opponents.

England 15-24 Ireland

England (5) 15
Tries: Daly 2, May
Ireland (21) 24
Tries: Ringrose, Stander, Stockdale, Cons: Sexton 2, Carbery. Pen: Murray
Man of the match - Tadhg Furlong
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Attendance: 82,062

Ireland won their third-ever Six Nations Grand Slam, completing a clean-sweep with their 24-15 victory against England in Round 5 at Twickenham Stadium in London on Saturday, March 17. Ireland easily scored three first-half tries as the Irish cemented their status as one of the greatest Irish national rugby teams ever. Although England rallied in the second half, their efforts were not enough to prevent the Irish from collecting their silverware. Ireland added joy to the St Patrick's Day celebrations all over the United Kingdom when they completed their surprising Grand Slam as England surprisingly fell to a 24-15 defeat. A record-extending 12th successive Irish victory was sealed as a 21-5 half-time lead established an unbeatable position to put Joe Schmidt's Ireland side in the ranks of the former heroes of 1948 and 2009. Garry Ringrose and CJ Stander crossed and Jacob Stockdale earned a record-breaking seventh touchdown in the 2018 Six Nations tournament, with a try that occurred due to the extension of the in-goal area in anticipation of snowfall on the ground.

England are concerned as their 14-Test unbeaten home record under their head coach Eddie Jones drew to a close, in the process registering a third successive loss and a first championship defeat at Twickenham since 2012. Their fifth-place finish represents England’s lowest finish in Six Nations history. A tired England side ended their title defense one week after the crown had been surrendered in Paris. Elliot Daly delivered two tries while Jonny May went over in injury time. Ireland’s Rob Kearney and Rory Best were the only rugby players carried over from their 2009 Grand Slam triumph. In the 6th minute, Jonathan Sexton’s kick was spilled by Anthony Watson while at his own whitewash enabling Ringrose to touch down. An attacking line-out was well defended by Ireland. England’s Maro Itoje strayed offside, as James Haskell's head blocked the path of a clearance by Owen Farrell. In the 24th minute, a line-out was worked to Tadhg Furlong via Conor Murray and Sexton. Bundee Aki raced through and Stander scored by grounding the ball at the base of the post. England next sent four close-range penalties into the corner. A try eventually happened when Owen Farrell chipped into the left corner for Daly to touch down. Peter O'Mahony was sent to the sin-bin, Watson left the clash on the medical cart and Sexton disappeared for an HIA. England’s momentum shut down amid a succession of penalties. Ireland scored a first-half injury-time try, exploiting a tight blindside. Stockdale burst free and beat the cover to finish a stunning solo try. Daly's high tackle on Rob Kearney ended England’s attack and Murray landed a penalty. England’s quick hands sent Daly over and May was able to grab an injury-time try in a late consolation.

Man of the match Tadhg Furlong is a brilliant prop, like a back who carries like a second row. The Wexford man is of the true heroes of Ireland’s Grand Slam team. Six Nations 2018 Irish coach Joe Schmidt couldn't be much prouder of Ireland. "I thought our boys showed that they can deliver in the big moments on a number of occasions today - they worked incredibly hard and merited the win, said Joe Schmidt. "We showed a little bit of class where we opened them up and at the other end of the pitch it was pure courage." Ireland captain Rory Best was also proud of his Irish side. "I'm massively proud of everyone today. It was a ferocious Test match and words can't describe how we feel having won today,” said Irish captain Rory Best. "We had to make every moment count and try to build as close to a perfect 80 minutes as we could. We showed what we were made of today."

"It's an incredible achievement for this team,” added Former Ireland wing Denis Hickie. “It'll mean so much for them to do it here, to close it out and get over the final hurdle here. There are some world class players in this Irish team - it's very fitting for them to win the Grand Slam." England boss Jones talked about his side’s defeat and how individual discipline let England down. "We gave them too many penalties at the start of the game and allowed them to build a lead,” said Jones. "They are a good tough team, very worthy Grand Slam champions and they've performed extremely well today." England captain Dylan Hartley also talked about his side’s lack of individual discipline. "Individual discipline was poor today,” said Dylan Hartley. “It leaves a dirty taste in the mouth to lose the last game in the tournament. In the grand scheme of things, we're on a journey and are learning about ourselves. It's not a great thing to lose three games but it gives us a reality check and it keeps us honest and hungry." Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson believes Ireland are currently the best rugby team in the world. "I would put Ireland as the best team in the world at the moment,” said Dawson. “They were so ruthless in every department and I don't think New Zealand would have been able to do that to England today."

England v Ireland Stats

54% Possession 46%
58% Territory 42%
3 (0) Scrums won (lost) 7 (0)
12 (2) Line-outs won (lost) 14 (0)
11 Pens conceded 12
137 (3) Rucks/mauls won (lost) 107 (4)
30 Kicks from hand 31
133 (20) Tackles made (missed) 173 (18)
409 Metres made 287
5 Off-loads 2
8 Line breaks 2

Squads

England
Watson; May, Joseph, Te'o, Daly; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Vunipola, Hartley, Sinckler, Itoje, Kruis, Robshaw, Haskell, Simmonds. Subs:
Brown for Watson (34), Ford for Joseph (56), Care for Wigglesworth (61), George for Hartley (58), Launchbury for Kruis (71), Armand for Simmonds (67), Marler (for Vunipola 53), Cole (for Sincler 53).

Ireland
Kearney; Earls, Ringrose, Aki, Stockdale; Sexton, Murray; Healy, Best, Furlong, J Ryan, Henderson, O'Mahony, Leavy, Stander. Subs: Marmion for Earls (74), Larmour for Aki (56), Carbery for Sexton (34), J McGrath for Healy (51), S Cronin for Best (65), Porter for Furlong (65), Toner for J Ryan (67), Murphy for O'Mahony (73).

Sin Bin: O'Mahony (28).

Ref: Angus Gardner (Australia).

Six Nations Player of the Championship

Ulster star winger Jacob Stockdale was voted the Six Nations Player of the Championship, with three of his Ireland team-mates completing the top four. Stockdale, 21, scored a record 7 tries in the 2018 tournament. Scrum-half Conor Murray was runner-up with fly-half Johnny Sexton in third place and winger Keith Earls fourth. Next came Italy full-back Matteo Minozzi and Guilhem Guirado of France. More than 78,000 votes were cast after the six-player short-list was compiled by rugby writers and broadcasters. Stockdale, who only made his Test debut last summer, scored two tries in each of Ireland's victories over Italy, Wales and Scotland and added the seventh touchdown during the Grand Slam win that sealed the Ireland Six Nations trophy over England at Twickenham.

"It has been a truly memorable few weeks, making my first Six Nations appearance, winning the championship and then going on to complete the Grand Slam against England," said a delighted Stockdale. "Breaking the try-scoring record was the cherry on top!" Irish Grand Slam winners Rory Best, Iain Henderson, and Rob Kearney signed IRFU contract extensions. Ulster duo Best and Henderson helped Ireland to win their Grand Slam victory. Ulster hooker Best and Leinster full-back Kearney have extended their contracts until the 2019 World Cup. Best secured his second Grand Slam success by leading Ireland to a 24-15 victory England at Twickenham on Saturday. "I feel I can continue to make a contribution to both Ireland and Ulster Rugby," said Ireland captain Best. "I'm delighted to have extended my contract to the next World Cup."

A two-time Lions tourist (2009 & 2013) Rob Kearney has won three Heineken Cups with Leinster and was ERC Player of the Year in 2012. Kearney made his Ireland debut against Argentina in June 2007 and has won 83 caps, scoring 13 tries and a conversion. Kearney started every match of the successful 2014 and 2015 championship campaigns as well as every game of the 2009 and 2018 Grand Slam seasons. "I am delighted to have extended my IRFU contract and look forward to continuing to achieve with this Ireland squad," said 31-year-old Kearney. There have been some fantastic days for both Ireland and Leinster over the course of my career and there is huge potential for growth in both squads as we look to build and develop and challenge for honours."

Versatile forward Henderson has agreed to a three-year extension to keep him at Ulster until June 2021. Henderson has amassed 38 caps for Ireland since his debut against South Africa in November 2012. The 26-year-old started all three Tests in the victorious 2016 Summer Tour of South Africa and played in four games during this season's Grand Slam triumph. "The Irish rugby set up is one of the best in world rugby," said Henderson. "Since turning professional I have been able to develop in an environment that has seen both provincial and national teams being part of some fantastic days and indeed some challenging times over the past seasons." In the other Six Nations Round 5 games Wales barely defeated France, while Italy lost to Scotland by two points.

Wales 14-13 France
Referee: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand)
Attendance: 74,169

Italy 27-29 Scotland
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Attendance: 60,412

NatWest 6 Nations 2018 Table

Team.Matches Won.Drawn.Lost.Total Tries.Total Points 1. Ireland.5.0.0.20.26
2. Wales.3.0.2.13.15
3. Scotland.3.0.2.11.13
4. France.2.0.3.8.11
5. England.2.0.3.14.10
6. Italy.0.0.5.12.1
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