Dan Sheehan scores brace as Ireland win Grand Slam in Dublin for the first time

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A fourth Grand Slam, a first secured on home soil since 1948, and a result that befitted a great Irish team even when the performance didn’t.

t the end of a jittery, error-strewn performance, they still came away with a four-try bonus point to make it 24 out of 25 points and the most dominant clean sweep in recent memory.

None of the home fans at the Aviva Stadium cared much as they sang the team home with their phones held high to record the piece of history against an England team who threw everything at them but finished the game with 13 men.

They’ll complain about Freddie Steward’s red card for an elbow to the head of Hugo Keenan, but their discipline undermined their resurgence as they looked to bounce back from a record defeat to France and they can’t have any issues about Jack Willis’ late yellow.

Their fire and fury caused Ireland no end of issues, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The hosts made a nervy start and the expected English response came in the form of some strong breakdown play from Willis and more accurate attacking work with Manu Tuilagi prominent as Owen Farrell punished Andrew Porter to open the scoring from the tee.

Porter made up for it as Hugo Keenan kicked to Henry Arundell, snared the winger as he attempted to run it back and the prop got over the ball.

Sexton found touch on the edge of the ’22, Ireland looked to attack and, after Arundell cut off Lowe’s attempt to exploit overlap, he killed the ball on the deck. Sexton tapped and went quick, but Maro Itoje and Farrell held him up.

Another Porter concession allowed the England captain extend his side’s lead and again they survived the Irish attack as Tadhg Furlong butchered another overlap on the back of a sublime Keenan break before Lowe forced his pass.

Sexton got his side off the mark and broke Ronan O’Gara’s all-time Championship points record in doing so, but Ireland’s error-strewn performance continued.

Josh van der Flier stripped Ellis Genge to put them in a strong position, but another Furlong error was capitalised on by the English and when Keenan miscued his clearance the home side were under pressure.

England threw everything at Ireland, but the green wall held and the series ended with James Lowe putting Tuilagi into touch and Itoje tackled Peter O’Mahony in the air to allow Sexton ease the pressure.


Dan Sheehan with Ireland team-mates after scoring his side's first try. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Alex Dombrandt hit Sexton late and Ireland moved into position, but again their attack was too frantic and a James Ryan’s knock-on and a scrum penalty concession meant another opportunity came and went.

England’s indiscipline kept giving Ireland ins, however, and when Genge took Jamison Gibson-Park out off the ball, Sexton kicked to the ’22.

This time, they executed brilliantly as Sheehan found Ryan Baird at the tail, Van der Flier peeled off and pulled Dombrandt out of position before putting his hooker through the hole and there was no stopping him.

Sexton’s conversion made it 10-6 and Ireland needed an old-fashioned choke tackle from Caelan Doris and van der Flier to deny Arundell before the game-changing moment happened in first-half injury.

It began with a sublime Sheehan pass that looked like unlocking the English defence only for Mack Hansen to knock on. Keenan raced through to try and recover the ball, but ran into the elbow of England full-back Steward. As the Irish No 15 lay prone, referee Jaco Peyper took a look and reached the conclusion it was a red card offence.

Ireland’s attacking jitters continued into injury-time and it stayed at 10-6 at the break and Keenan didn’t return after half-time with Jimmy O’Brien staying on.

Despite losing their full-back, England went to the air repeatedly after half-time as they looked to slow things down but the Irish nerviness continued and the errors kept the visitors in the game.

A scrum penalty against Tadhg Furlong allowed Farrell narrow the gap to one and Ireland grew increasingly nervy as the half went on, letting England dictate a slow-pace game and kick and scrum their way into the ascendancy.

Gibson-Park and Baird were the ones pulling against the tide and a big, breakdown turnover from the second-row led to the game-turning moment.

Sexton found touch, then launched a cross-kick in behind Anthony Watson who allowed it to bobble before being forced over his own line by Hansen, O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw.

Within seconds, Lansdowne Road was able to erupt in catharsis. England collapsed the scrum and then strayed offside, so with penalty advantage Ireland worked an opening for Henshaw to take Bundee Aki’s pass and dive over.

Sexton’s conversion made it a two-score game, but when Ryan dropped the restart they needed a turnover tackle from the captain and Aki to relieve more English pressure.

Finally, they could breathe with 10 minutes to go as they put together their best attack of the day when they needed it most with Sheehan heavily involved off a blindside move before appearing on Jack Conan’s shoulder to take receipt of a deliciously delivered offload to score.

Despite receiving attention from the Irish doctor, Sexton stepped up and delivered the conversion before leaping high and punching the air.

With 10 minutes to go, he knew the day was done, even if it didn’t stop him getting involved with Joe Marchant as the fire raged on.

His day came to an end as he tweaked his groin trying in vain to stop a rampant English maul, with Jamie George touching down and Farrell converting to make it an eight-point game.

The dominance of that drive caused some butterflies, but England again committed hari kari as Willis lifted Ross Byrne beyond the horizontal and was sent to the line.

Byrne kicked to the corner, Ireland attacked the blindside off the lineout and Rob Herring darted over to deliver the bonus point.

The replacement out-half’s conversion drifted wide, but the party had already begun for Ireland’s history boys.

Scorers: Ireland: D Sheehan 2 tries, R Henshaw, R Herring try each, J Sexton pen, 2 cons; England: J George 73 try, O Farrell con, 3 pens;

IRELAND – H Keenan (J O’Brien 40 HIA); M Hansen, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Lowe; J Sexton (R Byrne 74), J Gibson-Park (J Gibson-Park 73); A Porter (C Healy 76), D Sheehan (R Herring 70), T Furlong (T O’Toole 59); R Baird (K Treadwell 75), J Ryan; P O’Mahony (J Conan 56), C Doris (P O’Mahony 79 HIA), J van der Flier.

ENGLAND – F Steward; A Watson, H Slade, M Tuilagi, H Arundell (J Marchant 59); O Farrell, J van Poortvliet (A Mitchell 70); E Genge (M Vunipola 64), J George, K Sinckler (D Cole 68); M Itoje, D Ribbans (N Isiekwe 71); L Ludlam, A Dombrandt (B Curry 65), J Willis (B Curry 53-65 blood).

Referee: J Peyper (South Africa)