Three first-half tries set Ireland on their way to a third ever Grand Slam as they withheld a second-half English fightback to emerge 15-24 winners in blizzard-like conditions at Twickenham.
Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale touched down in the first half which had Ireland in touching distance of a Grand Slam and they clinched it in the second 40 after a Conor Murray penalty stretched their lead further and Jonny May’s try at the death was mere consolation for the hosts.
Iain Henderson set the tone for the game when he put in a huge carry in the opening seconds of the game which drew the roar of the packed Twickenham crowd. Both teams exchanged kicks early on and it was a clear tactic due to the swirling conditions.
Ireland found themselves under pressure until a late hit from Owen Farrell on Rob Kearney when he attempted to clear resulted in a penalty to where the ball landed.
From the resulting lineout, just outside the English 22, Ireland just about secured the ball. Sexton put up a huge ball in the air which Kearney and Anthony Watson competed for in the air. Watson spilt the ball when he hit the ground and Garry Ringrose was first to react to touch down for the first try of the game. Sexton landed the conversion to give Ireland a 0-7 lead after seven minutes on the clock.
Some poor English discipline gave Ireland a foothold in England’s half and when Farrell’s attempted clearance hit his own man, Ireland were awarded a scrum in midfield just outside the English 22.
Ireland went through a huge number of phases and they were gaining ground thanks to some excellent carries from the likes of Bundee Aki and Dan Leavy but it was the former who knocked the ball on when he was found with some space on the touchline.
With 20 minutes on the clock, both captains got the opportunity to speak to the referee. Rory Best reckoned that England were not releasing in the tackle while Hartley believes Ireland were going in off of their feet at the ruck.
Kyle Sinckler then went off his feet and was penalised but Sexton’s long kick at goal hit the post and Farrell was eventually able to kick clear. From the resulting lineout Ireland broke through midfield thanks to an Aki break, he passed to CJ Stander who was able to get the ball down at the base of the post which the TMO eventually confirmed.
Ireland switched off immediately when they didn’t secure the kick-off, England went through a number of phases but Joe Schmidt’s side held firm in defence and England eventually knocked on. The play was called back as the referee reviewed an incident involving Aki and Elliot Daly. Aki led with the shoulder but did not receive a yellow card.
England then went to the corner twice after their initial lineout maul was illegally brought down. England seemed to lose the ball but Henderson was quickly penalised for being offside and the home side went for the corner yet again searching for that elusive try. This time referee Agnus Garnder ran out of patience and he sent Peter O’Mahony to the bin for bringing down the English maul.
England then got their first try of the game when Farrell put in a grubber kick to the corner which Daly was able to collect and dot down. Farrell made the initial linebreak in the build-up and he offloaded to Anthony Watson who got injured when tackled by Keith Earls. Farrell missed the conversion so there were nine points between the teams with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
Just before the half-time whistle went, Jacob Stockdale chipped and chased down the wing and he was able to ground the ball before it went dead which meant that Ireland went in 5-21 to the good.
Keith Earls shot out of the line when the ball went wide to Daly, it looked like Earls made a grave mistake to allow Daly in but his outstretched hand clipped the England flyer and he was subsequently put into touch by his teammates. Murray cleared the ball but England came back through numerous phases but Daly cleared Kearney out of the ruck by grabbing him around the neck. Gardner gave Ireland a penalty and they were thankful to be able to clear their lines.
Ireland saw Aki go off with an injury and he was replaced by young Jordan Larmour, the Leinster flyer showed excellent pace to get up the right wing and Ireland almost got their fourth try but play was brought back for a penalty advantage and Murray dissected the post to give Ireland another three points.
With 15 minutes remaining, England showed they were still up for the fight when Daly grabbed his second try of the game when the home side had a huge overlap. The conversion was unsuccessful so there was a 14-point margin with 14 minutes to go.
As the Fields Of Athenry began to reverberate around the famous English venue with just minutes remaining, despite Jonny May’s late try in the corner, Ireland became the third ever Irish side to win a Grand Slam.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Keith Earls (Marmion 73′), Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki (Larmour 55′), Jacob Stockdale, Johnny Sexton (Carbery 34′ Carbery 66′), Conor Murray, Cian Healy (McGrath 50′), Rory Best (Cronin 65′), Tadhg Furlong (Porter 65′), James Ryan (Toner 66′), Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Dan Leavy CJ Stander.
England: Anthony Watson (Brown 34′), Jonny May, Jonathan Joseph (Ford 55′), Ben Te’o, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Care 61′), Mako Vunipola (Marler 53′), Dylan Hartley (George 57′), Kyle Sinckler (Cole 53′), Maro Itoje, George Kruis (Launchbury 71′), Chris Robshaw, James Haskell, Sam Simmonds (Armand 66′).
Referee: Angus Gardner