Early intent

Right from the off Ireland were positive in everything they did and took the fight to Eddie Jones’ side who were clearly short of confidence.

The kick-off saw Maro Itoje come immediately under pressure from two Irish defenders as he was driven backwards.

Richard Wigglesworth box-kicked downfield and Rob Kearney, rather than return with interest to seek territory, ran straight back, slipping past Elliot Daly and evading the clutches of Mako Vunipola.

Dan Leavy’s first carry was a sign of intent as he made valuable yardage in a move that was at that point going backwards.

Leavy receives the ball five metres inside the English half
The flanker makes significant headway

Still in the opening minutes, Keith Earls' first taste of the action was to receive an England kick. Similar to Kearney, he resisted the temptation to boot downfield and backed himself in open space.

Earls makes a positive play with his first involvement with ball in hand

The Munster man evaluated the situation and dinked over the cover defence. Claims that he was taken out by Kyle Sinckler were ignored, and when Ireland got their hands on the ball again, the chance to play territory was again turned down with players fanned out across the field deep in their own territory.

It was attritional at times, but Ireland were happy to go through the phases as they began to wear the hosts down early on.


A pre-requisite for a Schmidt team, but evident throughout the contest, no more so than in the opening try courtesy for Garry Ringrose.

Sexton booms a Garryowen where Anthony Watson waits to collect
England's defence reacts slower than the chasing Irish attack of  Kearney, RIngrose, Stockdale and Aki
Kearney races forward to contest aerially, while Garry Ringrose and Jacob Stockdale sprint in pursuit
Ringrose touches down for an early lead

Bundee Aki has made a significant contribution in midfield, especially with a number of different centre partners, but his ability to clean out rucks and influence the breakdown is a massive weapon for Ireland.

Similar to Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll before him, he plays like an auxiliary backrower and slows down opposition ball.

With England looking to poach, the Connacht centre decides to join the ruck
Aki counter rucks as the home side struggle to win quick ball
Aki helps buy valuable seconds to allow the Ireland defensive line set


Claims that Ireland are straight-jacketed in their approach at times couldn’t be levelled at the approach in Twickenham.

From one to 15, each and every player is comfortable on the ball and that allows the men in green a number of different plays, no matter the personnel.

Few props look as eager to get on the ball as Tadhg Furlong. Minutes before CJ Stander’s try, we can see Johnny Sexton linking up with the tighthead prop.

Furlong lines up as first receiver
The prop returns the pass to Sexton on the loop

Better would follow shortly between the pair in what was one of the tries of the competition. In a move that saw decoy runs, a wrap around pass, incisive runs and peripheral vision.

Murray shapes to pass to Stander (far right) who has his hands out but is making a decoy run
Sexton is the recipient who immediately looks to Furlong on his shoulder with Bundee Aki trailing behind
Furlong's subtle pass to Aki opens up space in the Enlish defence as Sexton continues his run
Three English defenders are taken out of the equation as Aki bursts through
Aki looks set to play in Ringrose on his right shoulder, but without looking, slips the ball to Stander to his left who powers to the line

Patience with and without the ball

For the first time in the competition, Ireland were second best in the possession stats (46%). Regardless, few teams look as comfortable going through phases as Joe Schmidt’s side, while few sides, notwithstanding the All Blacks, retain such discipline on the backfoot.

Ireland happy to run rather than kick in the early stages

Ireland's ability to keep the ball also has the effect of frustrating opponents. Opponents often cough up cheap penalties and let their discipline slip in an effort to wrestle back possession.

Saturday was no different, with Maro Itoje guilty of losing his composure in the first-half.

The England lock attempts to block down Conor Murray's box-kick
Itoje, the closest English player to the ruck, is clearly beyond the hindmost leg of his team-mates

Battle of the 10s

With Owen Farrell getting his first start of the season at 10, the battle of the out-halves was always going to have a significant impact on proceedings and unfortunately from the perspective of the majority in the stands, it was the Leinster man who came up trumps.

Farrell made an inauspicious start when he was penalised for a late hit on Rob Kearney after chasing his own kick. It would be a sign of things to come for the Saracens man who was that little bit off all day.

Farrell was penalised for a late hit on the Ireland full-back.

Farrell missed three conversion attempts, while he also was caught out defensively on a couple of occasions. No players missed as many tackles (17) in the competition, and this one on Rob Kearney allowed the full-back gain valuable yards.

The full-back receives the ball and again resists the temptation to find territory
Kearney evades the 26-year-old to return England's kick

Sexton soldiered through the contest like a man on a mission. He was forced into a HIA shortly before the break, though it was nothing more than a bloodied nose, before making way for Joey Carbery with 14 minutes remaining on the clock.

Again he more than held his own in the defensive line, with 11 tackles in an all-action display.

"Some of the attention he brings on himself, trying to smash people back when he's standing on the tryline, making sure they don't get over it," Schmidt said afterwards.

"Then he was fine, he was totally coherent, but he was starting to fatigue, for sure, just because of the workload, his confrontational tackle ability, his commitment and general insanity.

"He's such a fantastic contributor to the group."

Sexton races over to an isolated Keith Earls
The out-half assists Earls as Elliot Daly attempts the choke tackle
Sexton helps bring his team-mate to ground before the turnover is conceded

His role in the first two tries has already been highlighted, while the trusty sidestep (see below) was again in evidence as he left his opposite number trailing in his wake.

Sexton jinks back inside to change the point of the Irish attack

Farrell has shown remarkable consistency of performance over the past two years, but he was very much second best against his Lions team-mate.


Defensive lapses

Even in the midst of the hysteria of a Grand Slam, perfectionist Schmidt admitted that it won't be long until the management team review the game. When they do, they will admire the attitude, work-rate and ability to cope in adversity, but so too will they see defensive lapses.

Only five points were conceded with Peter O'Mahony in the sin-bin and England in the ascendancy, but it could have been avoided.

Farrell's cross-kick was weighted perfectly for Wasps winger Elliot Daly, but Keith Earls' decision to take one step out was fatal. The Munster winger immediately turned on his heels to try to atone for his error, but it wasn't enough as Daly stretched to touch down first.

Farrell spots space behind Earls who has taken one step forward
The England winger nips in ahead of Earls for England's opening try

In the second half Earls again showed excellent recovery skills to thwart Daly.

The home side began strongly after the resumption and when the ball was spread wide, Earls gambled on making the intercept. The 30-year-old didn't reach the ball which fell to Daly, but immediately spun around and executed a perfect ankle tap as he closed in on the try line.

Earls spots the possible intercept and shoots out of the line
Earls recovers to ankle tap Daly


A third Grand Slam to add to the feats of 1948 and 2009 means there is very little to quibble about after a famous victory over our near neighbours.