“You never have Ireland’s number. They’re a tenacious side and a tenacious country,”John Mitchell – England Rugby Union Defense Coach (March 19th, 2021)
England‘s confidence pregame
During the leadup to this Ireland vs. England test match, not once did England Rugby management refer to the skill set of Ireland as being a threat in the fixture.
The words picked up by Darren Cave during VM Sports coverage hit home. No words about the skill set of the side. England came into this fixture full of confidence that they would continue their winning streak over Ireland in Dublin.
Ireland galvanize to give CJ Stander a proper send-off
I was slightly wary of this fixture for Ireland. The performances in the Guinness Six Nations tournament prior to yesterday saw defensive and attacking inconsistencies.
The number of changes in the Ireland matchday squad suggested potential cohesion issues but I forgot one key element from the test match. The emotional farewell to CJ Stander in an Ireland jersey.
The news of CJ Stander retiring from rugby during the leadup to this fixture clearly galvanized the squad and backroom staff. Ireland were a different animal to the one seen in previous weeks.
Everyone looked to perform and give CJ Stander the send off that he thoroughly deserved. Mission accomplished with the comfortable victory over an England side who have questions to answer quickly heading into the RWC 2023 run-in.
Ireland resolute in discipline, defense early
How was it done? Ireland had to dig in those early exchanges. England winning turnover ball and looking to put their stamp on the fixture early.
As the Irish pack looked to get on parity, cue Robbie Henshaw to produce some standout defensive and turnover moments. Momentum shifted with each Henshaw in that opening quarter. Ireland’s pack platform started to assert itself and the side did not look back thereafter.
Ireland planned move executed to perfection
The opening Ireland try was the turning point of the contest. A planned move which England’s Tom Curry nearly thwarted. All credit to Jack Conan for having the composure to palm the ball under huge pressure from Tom Curry to the onrushing Keith Earls.
Keith Earl’s running line for the opening try was inch perfect, his turn of direction to burn Jonny May on the outside incredible and the touchdown clinical. A training ground move executed to perfection. Ireland had the buffer required.
Marquee test match victory for Andy Farrell
For Andy Farrell and backroom staff, this was a marquee win. A victory over England given the run of results against this opponent in recent fixtures is a standout moment.
The manner of the victory stood out here for Ireland. The discipline of Ireland for sixty-five minutes was exemplary while England chasing the game early lost their heads at regular intervals.
Ireland’s scrum dominant. The front row had the measure of England’s front row unit from early. The early England engagement infuriating Raynal.
Ireland’s lineout had variation and it had to given the line out threat posed by England. The breakdown battle was evenly contested but Ireland had key assistance from Beirne and Henderson to support the Ireland back row unit of Stander, van der Flier and Conan throughout.
Jack Conan had a standout game at eight for Ireland. His mobility and ball carrying to the fore yesterday. A superbly opportunistic try spotting a defensive gap from Cowan-Dickie to score. The second try before half-time; a killer blow for England and Sexton was lights out off the tee.
England’s early second half salvo thwarted
England came out all guns blazing early in that third quarter. Elliot Daly winning turnover ball with a crunching tackle on Keith Earls but England’s indiscipline again exposed with a penalty to give possession back to Ireland and territory.
England’s attacking threat which looked to be progressing in recent fixtures crumbled as Ireland’s defensive line intoxicated England’s passing game. George Ford forced to go the aerial route where Hugo Keenan, Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale dealt with efficiency.
Ireland’s attacking variation catches the eye
I liked how Ireland changed the point of attack yesterday. Conor Murray’s distribution was outstanding, his game management was top class and did not give England any opportunities.
Sexton and Henshaw orchestrated plays with the back three and Aki providing good running lines and ball carries throughout.
Aki red card and Genge incident
Bundee Aki’s red card was the sour point of the day for Ireland. A ferocious hit on Billy Vunipola with which each slow motion replay looked more precarious.
A red card offense but it would have been nice if Romain Poite and Mathieu Raynal had a look at Ellis Genge’s work on the ground soon after which looked rotten.
For Bundee Aki, it is time to regroup and see if adjustments can be made to this tackling technique to avoid such an outcome going forward. He is still a massive player in the squad; his presence yesterday was huge.
32-18 win for Ireland. The Guinness Six Nations tournament campaign looks respectable after the opening two losses to Wales and France.
Andy Farrell and backroom staff have run the rule over several players during this tournament and it will be interesting to see how the side evolve from here. CJ Stander departs stage left so opportunity knocks for other back row unit players on the cusp of the national side.
This test match victory though was all about CJ Stander who returns to South Africa in the summer. The definition of a project player; he committed to the Munster Rugby and Ireland jersey from day one.
There were hugely frustrating times early in his career in Ireland but the hard work and determination paid off for both province and national side. Best wishes CJ! Thank you for your outstanding years of service! You will be missed. Gone but not forgotten!