Ireland v England: A history of Grand Slam deciders

Ireland’s Rory Best celebrates winning the grand slam   17/3/2018
Saturday will mark the sixth occasion the Grand Slam has been on the line in a Round 5 match between Ireland and England.

Saturday will mark the sixth occasion the Grand Slam has been on the line in a Round 5 match between Ireland and England.

However, as their five previous Grand Slam-deciding encounters show, the favourites do not always prevail.

Ireland can almost touch the Championship trophy, and their fourth Grand Slam, but first they must overcome their fierce rivals at the Aviva Stadium.

Hopefully for their sake, they are not reading this…

Super Saturday has not always been kind to England, who saw Grand Slam opportunities pass them by in 1999 against Wales and 2000 against Scotland.

In 2001, Keith Wood and Ireland made it a hat-trick of near-misses as the hosts recorded a famous victory to deny their great rivals the ultimate prize.

In a Championship delayed by the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease, England waited six months between matches and the rust showed in Dublin.

Wood crossed in the 15th minute and Ireland were rarely behind, with David Humphreys kicking through three penalties and Ronan O’Gara a further two in a famous 20-14 win.

It look two years for England to exact revenge…

Finally, England got it right on Super Saturday – and in a twist of fate, they had the sweet pleasure of denying Ireland a Slam of their own.

In a rare match between two potential Grand Slam champions, Ireland were hunting their first in 55 years and only their second ever, while England were attempting this feat for the fourth time in five years.

There was drama even before the game had kicked off at Lansdowne Road as England captain Martin Johnson led his team out to the wrong side for the national anthems and refused to move when asked, forcing the Irish President Mary McAleese to walk across the grass in order to shake the players’ hands.

On the field, David Humphreys struck the first blow of the contest with a drop goal that signified Ireland’s intent after just five minutes, but England had the perfect response, with Matt Dawson darting through the Irish defence to set up Lawrence Dallaglio under the posts.

Jonny Wilkinson’s two drop goals put England 13-6 up at the break, and they ran riot after that – Mike Tindall and Will Greenwood (2) scored three tries between them, before Dan Luger went in unchallenged at the end to cement a 42-6 win.

It was the first of many successes for that England team as they lifted the Grand Slam trophy for the first time since 1995, while Ireland would have to wait another six years to make history.

Ireland won the Slam in 2009 but had to wait eight years for revenge on England in such a big match, and they certainly served it cold.

Brian O’Driscoll became the Six Nations all-time leading try-scorer as England’s Grand Slam dreams were smashed to smithereens in a 24-8 defeat at the hands of a relentless Ireland in 2011.

Led by a magnificent performance from fly-half Johnny Sexton, Ireland were simply superb and the visitors had no answers for the hosts’ intensity that lasted from the first minute to the last.

Sexton more than justified his inclusion ahead of Ronan O’Gara in the starting XV by kicking 12 first-half points as well as creating the game’s opening try for Tommy Bowe to give Ireland a 17-3 advantage at half-time.

The one-way traffic continued after the break as captain  O’Driscoll took himself ahead of Scotland’s Ian Smith as the Championship’s all-time leading scorer with his 25th tournament touchdown early in the second half.

The match proved to be Martin Johnson’s last as England head coach, with the former captain waving goodbye after a World Cup quarter-final defeat six months later.

Ireland have a proud history of denying England the Grand Slam in Dublin and in 2017, they did it again with a stirring display at the Aviva Stadium.

England arrived in the Fair City on the back of 11 straight Six Nations wins and were looking to become the first team to claim back-to-back Grand Slams since Italy joined in 2000.

But they faced an Irish team that were itching to make up for the disappointment of losing to Wales in Cardiff a week ago while also chasing second place in the table.

Iain Henderson scored the only try of a tight game, while Johnny Sexton added eight points with the boot, to hand England their first defeat under Eddie Jones and halt their winning run at 18 matches altogether, one shy of the outright world record.

The 13-9 result proved a turning point for both teams.

Only France in 1981 had previously travelled to Twickenham and clinched the Grand Slam but, since those 41 phases and that Johnny Sexton drop goal, Ireland never looked back in the 2018 Championship.

They won the third Grand Slam in their history as they saw off England 24-15 in the snow at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day.

Joe Schmidt’s side had already secured the title a week before with victory over Scotland but they were desperate to complete the Slam, and did so with tries from Garry Ringrose, CJ Stander and Jacob Stockdale before half-time.

Stockdale scored seven tries in all and finished as the Player of the Championship, while the result marked England’s first Championship home defeat since 2012.