Sunday, March 20, 2011
Englands Grand Slam dream became a painful nightmare at the hands of a ruthless Ireland team, who demolished the Red Roses 24-8 at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this weekend.
England may have been crowned the champions of the 2011 Six Nations, but the defeat, and the one-sided nature of it, will have left a bitter taste for England fans.
It was undeniably Irelands performance of the tournament, with David Wallace, Sean OBrien, Brian ODriscoll and Jonathan Sexton immense in every aspect of the game. England had no answer to the pace and power of Ireland, and no response to tries from Tommy Bowe and O Driscoll who set a new all-time record for the tournament with 25.
England were harassed and bullied around the breakdown and the contact area, losing possession and even getting shoved off their own ball. The fierce environment had clearly rattled a few of the more inexperienced English players; most notably Toby Flood, Chris Ashton and Ben Youngs - who was shown a yellow card for throwing the ball into the crowd.
England coach Martin Johnson looked to his senior players to provide some stability in the second-half, bringing on Jonny Wilkinson, Steve Thompson and Tom Croft. But unlike last week, there was to be no second-half heroics from the bench. Steve Thompson saved some face for England and showed a surprising turn of pace to run in for an interception score, but it was small threat to an all dominant Ireland team.
The result was a reminder of the work that needs to be done before this year's World Cup in New Zealand, and a frustrated Johnson admits mistakes were made. "We got it wrong today," said Johnson, who captained England to the Grand Slam in 2003.
"Our first-half was horrible. We did everything you shouldn't do when you play away from home. We had a lot of guys doing this for the first time - not a Grand Slam decider but playing a full championship - and there were a few errors. We came to win and we've fallen way short. This is a scar and we'll have to wear that scar."
Ireland captain O'Driscoll was glad his side had proved that they had 'not become a bad side overnight'. "We knew we had a performance like that in us but for some reason we had not put it together in our four previous matches," said the Irish captain.
"We felt we hadn't set down a marker at the Aviva Stadium and we needed a reason to call it home again and there's no better way to do that than by beating England and it's a nice moment."
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