England's Grand Slam hopes ended by Ireland

Ireland 24 England 8

Ireland celebrated St Patrick's weekend in Dublin by wrecking England's anticipated Grand Slam party with a ferocious performance at the Aviva Stadium.

Brian O'Driscoll broke a 78-year-old championship record with his 25th try after Tommy Bowe and four penalties from the magnificent Jonathan Sexton had given Ireland a 17-3 half-time lead.

Steve Thompson came off the bench in the second half to snatch an intercept try but England's quest for a first Grand Slam since 2003 came to a crashing halt.

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.

Bowe was too hot to handle on his wing whereas England's game was riddled with mistakes and dropped balls. Put simply, it was a horror show of a performance.

England still had one hand on the Six Nations title but would not be crowned as champions - however hollow that may feel tonight - until after France had played Wales in the evening kick-off.

Wales had to win in Paris by 27 points to be certain of snatching the title from England's grasp.

England have been here before. In 2000 and 2001 England were crowned champions after losing the Grand Slam deciders against Scotland and the Ireland.

That team grew to become the best in the world by 2003 and this young England generation still boast the potential to hit those heights.

But all their inexperience and deficiencies were exposed today by an Ireland side for whom victory ensured they finished a difficult campaign with a winning record.

Nick Easter captained England after Mike Tindall was ruled out with ankle ligament damage and Matt Banahan took over at outside centre.

Ireland brought Sexton back at fly-half and started with Andrew Trimble on the wing, while scrum-half Eion Reddan recovered from concussion to play.

England's early enterprise was undone by a huge Irish shove at the first scrum and some quick-thinking from Sexton, who took the tap penalty.

Earls turned England on their heels with a hack downfield and Sexton's beautifully judged kick into the corner earned Ireland a platform.

England's backs were penalised for coming up too quickly at the lineout and Sexton slotted the penalty to give Ireland an early lead.

Ireland were fired up. England were rattled. They made mistake after mistake and conceded five penalties in the first 20 minutes.

A careless offside at the kick-off gifted possession back to Ireland, and even when Reddan knocked on after a charge from Sean O'Brien, England lost the scrum.

Chris Ashton was penalised for a high tackle on Sexton and the Leinster fly-half landed his second kick of the game before Ireland carved England open beautifully.

Bowe burst onto Jamie Heaslip's off-load and broke through two defenders but his pass later in the move was judged forward and O'Driscoll's try was disallowed.

England tried to gain a foothold. Ashton looked for an opening, Alex Corbisiero took it on and Ireland were penalised for hands in the ruck.

But Toby Flood hooked the penalty wide left and Ireland continued their onslaught, roaring back downfield and England's defence was in pieces.

Ben Foden mopped up after Donncha O'Callaghan had fly-hacked into the England 22 but England failed to retire and so were offside when Heaslip charged forward.

Referee Bryce Lawrence awarded Ireland a penalty on the 22. With England's defence in chaos, Sexton took it quickly and Bowe crashed over for the try.

England finally got themselves on the board with a Flood penalty but Ireland were in complete control and could have scored twice more before the interval.

When Shontayne Hape was stripped of possession, David Wallace broke clear. England scrambled well with Flood tackling him into touch but Youngs threw the ball into the crowd and was sin-binned.

Sexton landed his fourth penalty of the afternoon before Wallace went close again, only for referee Lawrence to rule O'Connell had knocked the ball forward in the build-up.

Youngs did not return, replaced by Danny Care, but nothing else changed after the interval as England botched a lineout on their own five-metre line.

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.

England made four more changes, with Thompson, Jonny Wilkinson, and Paul Doran-Jones all sent on.

Almost immediately, Thompson picked off a pass from Reddan to gallop over for the try but Wilkinson missed the conversion.

England enjoyed some possession in the final quarter but they lacked penetration and direction.

Simon Shaw was stripped of possession by Heaslip as England drove from the line while England's back division were so lateral that Ireland's lead was never under threat.


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