Sports

Rory’s Ireland Derail English Chariot

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

POYNTZPASS man Rory Best expressed a mixture of frustration and pride after leading his Ireland team to a valiant victory over England in Dublin, in rugby's RBS Six Nations Championship.

Ireland's ferociously fought 13-9 win in a raucous Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening ended England's hopes of back-to-back Grand Slams and also stopped them setting a new world record of 19 Test victories on the trot.

The existing record of 18 had been established by New Zealand whose winning run had also been ended by Ireland in that famous first ever victory over the All Blacks in Chicago last November.

Saturday's was a performance full of pride and passion from the men in green who dominated both territory and possession, and Irish skipper Best shared a nation's satisfaction in derailing the English chariot.

However Ireland's display also left a sense of what might have been as the hope had been that this final fixture in the Six Nations would be a Grand Slam showdown between the hosts and the English side.

But a slow start to their opening game at Murrayfield saw Joe Schmidt's side slide to defeat at the hands of Scotland and they also lost their penultimate match to Wales in Cardiff, meaning England came to Dublin already assured of the title.

Denying them the Grand Slam for the third time this century may have been significant consolation but this Ireland team set their sights high and Best wasn't getting carried away with the elation of a one-off occasion.

“I think this Championship campaign will be incredibly frustrating to look back at - our uncharacteristic performance in the first 30 minutes against Scotland and then the fine margins (between winning and losing in Cardiff)," reflected Rory.

“Coming into the last round of fixtures no longer able to win the title wasn't what we wanted but it was important to finish strongly and all the guys really fronted up today.

“There has been so much said about beating England but for us it wasn't as much about stopping them as putting together a performance worthy of this team, this crowd and this occasion. We'd talked about that rather than about spoiling parties.

“England are a massive side who have been going very well so we knew we would have to produce a really big performance and the crowd really lifted us. It was everything a Six Nations game should be and naturally we're pleased to have got the result."

The somewhat controversial last-gasp Welsh defeat to France in Paris had already assured Ireland of a top four seeding at the 2019 World Cup in Japan just before kick-off but as it transpired the men in green didn't need any favours as England lost for the first time under Aussie coach Eddie Jones.

Dominant Ireland led 10-3 at the interval, Best's fellow Ulsterman Ian Henderson scoring the try with outhalf Johnny Sexton added the conversion to his earlier penalty.

He landed another long-range effort in the second half with England's points all coming from the boot of Owen Farrell, son of Ireland defence coach, Andy.

In 2016, Best skippered Ireland to an historic hat-trick of wins over the southern hemisphere big three and beating England means his side have recently overcome all three teams above them in the world rankings.

Rory reached his 100 caps milestone against Australia in November and now will hope to be selected for this summer's British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand for which his name has been bandied about as one of several captaincy contenders.

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