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Final Score – Ireland 32–18 England

Jack Conan’s try at the end of a fantastic series of play late in the first half set the tone for an impressive Ireland victory in the final round of the Six Nations, despite a late red card for Bundee Aki.

The Leinster number-eight barrelled over Luke Cowan-Dickie after 36 minutes, following over 20 phases of quickly recycled play, to give Ireland control they would not give up, as regular Johnny Sexton kicks took advantage of repeated England penalties.

The game had started at a frantic pace from both sides, with England dominating the early possession.

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Owen Farrell continued his great kicking form when he opened the scoring with a 9th minute penalty, before Anthony Watson trapped Jacob Stockdale in the corner to give England an early opportunity.

However, Ireland did well to hold up Maro Itoje in the middle of a rolling maul from the resulting line-out, and England let the pressure off by pushing early at the scrum.

Sexton then levelled with a simple kick after 17 minutes after good chasing from Robbie Henshaw.

Ireland grabbed the initiative moments after losing Dave Kilcoyne to a blow to the head tackling Kyle Sinckler, as had happened to the England prop himself in the World Cup final.

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Conan did well to turn a long line-out back inside to Keith Earls, who burst through the England line and stepped Jonny May to go over in the corner in the 21st minute, with Sexton adding the conversion.

Farrell and Sexton then traded similar kicks of over 40 metres, but England’s early purpose made way for Ireland control.

The play leading to Conan’s converted try underlined that control as Ireland took a 14-point lead into the break.

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England attempts to get back into the game after the restart were repeatedly undercut by turnovers and infringements

CJ Stander, on his final Irish cap before retirement, was leaving the game without any regrets as he crashed into some huge contacts.

Keith Earl’s excellent grounding of a bouncing Sexton kick in the corner was ruled out for a Cian Healy knock-on in the build-up, but an earlier advantage still allowed Ireland’s 10 to stretch the lead with another penalty.

Despite his protestations, captain Farrell was withdrawn for a head injury assessment, and in his absence a huge Ireland push at an England scrum let Sexton push the advantage to 20 points around the hour.

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The door was opened for England soon after when a massive hit from the recalled Aki on Billy Vunipola resulted in shoulder-contact to the head and referee Mathieu Raynal showed a red card.

Ben Youngs immediately took advantage to sneak in for a 64th minute try from a Jamie George blindside break after the line-out, but with Farrell off the field the returning Elliot Daly missed the conversion.

Despite the man advantage the pattern of play continued as Ireland forced more England errors.

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When Sexton’s fourth penalty went through via the post, and neither Farrell or Vunipola returned from HIAs, the result looked clear.

Conor Murray was sin-binned in the closing minutes as Ireland frustrated England’s late attacks with repeated infringements of their own, although Jonny May added a consolation try to his personal tally once England had a two-man advantage.

An emotional Stander went out with a win and Andy Farrell will have been pleased with the final performance, although son Owen and his coach Eddie Jones will be disappointed to finish second-last.

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July 2024