Ireland have won their third Grand Slam after beating England 24-15 at Twickenham.
The 2018 Grand Slam success comes 70 years after Ireland first claimed Grand Slam glory in 1948, with the only other clean sweep coming in 2009 in dramatic fashion against the Welsh.
Tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander, and Jacob Stockdale handed Ireland a 21-5 lead at the break, with Elliot Daly scoring England’s only score in the first half.
Conor Murray’s penalty extended Ireland’s lead in the second half, before Daly’s second try offered England a faint glimmer of hope. Jonny May scored a consolation try with the last action of the game, but it wasn’t enough to deny Ireland an historic victory nine point victory in London.
Captain Rory Best and Rob Kearney are the sole survivors from the 2009 triumph, and they have become the first two Irishmen in history to win two Grand Slams.
Jacob Stockdale also created a bit of history on the day. The 21 year old has become the first player to score seven tries in a single Six Nations Championship after today’s excellent try, taking his overall tally to 11 tries in nine international outings.
Ireland’s victory marked a third successive defeat for England for the first time in four years,and Ireland’s first win at Twickenham in eight years.
Joe Schmidt was full of praise for his players afterwards.
“It was such a gritty performance; a real mix of class and courage,” he said.
“Some of the play we put together was really impressive. It was exactly what we were looking to do in the first half, in pockets.
“In the second half we had immense resilience, that eight minutes after half-time when we couldn’t get out of our own 22 and they launched assault after assault. We didn’t let them through and that was a massive turning point.”
The New Zealand native also revealed that Christy Moore had visited the players on Monday, and used one of the Irish singer’s songs to sum up his players.
“He sang ‘Ordinary Man’ at one stage,” he said, “and they (the players) are ordinary men who are an extraordinary team, who’ve delivered exceptional deeds.”
None of the above would be possible, however, without Johnny Sexton, who yesterday became Ireland’s most decorated player of all time. His stunning drop-kick sealed victory in Paris against a resilient French outfit on the opening day of the tournament, rescuing victory from the jaws of defeat.
Ireland were staring down the barrel of a huge upset at the Stade de France as the last grains of sand dropped from the hourglass, but Joe Schmidt’s side dug deep, and Sexton produced a magical moment which will be talked about for years to come.
Inevitably, the kick has earned comparisons to Ronan O’Gara’s phenomenal drop-kick, which sealed the Grand Slam against the Welsh in the dying seconds of the 2009 Championship.
Much has been made of the rivalry between O’Gara and Sexton over the years, but both are assured a special place in Irish rugby history for their roles in the ’09 and ’18 Grand Slam’s respectively.
Fittingly, Sexton is now the same age that O’Gara was when his kick sealed Grand Slam glory in ’09.
“He just didn’t want to do it the same way as ROG,” Schmidt joked after yesterday’s game.
“They are very much the yin and yang, both absolute class people, and kickers, and players. ROG wanted to finish with one, Johnny thought he’d start with one.
“They both got what they wanted.”