Grand Slam Defining Moment: Joseph’s electric hat-trick

As a new coach, you want to quickly make your mark on the job – instil your values and culture into your new environment and, if possible, secure immediate results.

As a new coach, you want to quickly make your mark on the job – instil your values and culture into your new environment and, if possible, secure immediate results.

Eddie Jones did all that and more when he took over as England boss in November 2015, as the disappointment of an early exit from a home World Cup just months prior was quickly forgotten.

The no-nonsense Australian instantly put the unmistakeable Jones stamp on the Red Rose and in his maiden Six Nations at the helm – the 2016 Championship – delivered a first title in five years and a first Grand Slam since the legendary class of 2003.

The clean sweep was littered with key moments but Jonathan Joseph’s exhilarating second-half hat-trick against Italy in Round 2 helped set the tone and signalled a new era at Twickenham.

And it was a new era that would lead to immediate glory.

A lot of good came from Stuart Lancaster’s reign as England coach but the Championship trophy always just eluded him as he recorded an impressively consistent four consecutive runner-up finishes between 2012 and 2015.

Wales and Ireland just pipped England to the post twice each during that spell and after a group-stage exit during a World Cup on home soil in the autumn of 2015, the RFU decide to make a change.

Enter Eddie Jones.

The Australian was already well known to England fans as the man coaching against them when they beat the Wallabies in the 2003 World Cup final, while more recently he had led Japan to one of the greatest shocks in Rugby World Cup history – defeating South Africa in Brighton shortly before he took the Twickenham job.

His first game in charge was a gritty 15-9 triumph over Scotland at BT Murrayfield in Round 1 of the 2016 Championship as England retained a Calcutta Cup they had held since 2008.

A trip to Rome in Round 2 provided another stern examination and at half-time, the visitors narrowly led 11-9 with George Ford’s try and penalty, combined with an Owen Farrell three-pointer, just enough to better Carlo Canna’s three kicks.

But the Azzurri were right in the contest and sensed an opportunity to notch a first-ever Championship win over the Red Rose.

But they hadn’t counted on the electric Jonathan Joseph, who took the game by the scruff of the neck when the score was still 11-9 on 52 minutes, barely 120 seconds after Canna had hooked wide a penalty that would have given the hosts the lead.

The Bath centre spotted a telegraphed, looping Leonardo Sarto pass on his own 22 and gleefully plucked the ball out of the air for an interception try under the posts.

Just five minutes later, the brute force of the England pack combined with the flair of the backs as a ten-man rolling maul had Italy on their heels and Danny Care’s cute grubber off the back of it was neatly gathered by the onrushing Joseph for his second try.

Add in another Farrell penalty and that precarious 11-9 advantage had become 28-9 in the blink of an eye with the sort of panache Jones had promised we would see from his side.

And Joseph put the result beyond doubt ten minutes from time by completing his treble in style.

When the Azzurri knocked on in the tackle on their own 22, England spread the ball left where Joseph dummied to pass outside but instead went for the line himself, showing imperious strength to drag three defenders with him and dot down.

The victory was rounded off when Jamie George produced a sumptuous pop pass out of the tackle to Farrell for another late score but it was Joseph’s brilliant hat-trick that had won the day and got England fans dreaming.

With two away victories under their belts, England headed back to Twickenham with a pep in their step and recorded two wins over the sides that had denied them during the previous four years – downing Ireland 21-10 and Wales 25-21 in a thriller.

That sent them to Paris in search of a first Grand Slam in 13 years and although Maxime Machenaud’s boot kept Les Bleus in touch for most of the contest, England did enough to beat France 31-21.

Early tries from Care and Dan Cole, allied to Anthony Watson’s score midway through the second 40 and a solid performance from the tee by Farrell, proved enough and the Jones era had begun with a bang.

Five wins from five and the Australian was just getting started – sending England fans on a rollercoaster that continues to this day – but it was Joseph’s clinical streak at the Stadio Olimpico that had sent a message and proved to be the 2016 Grand Slam’s Defining Moment.