Champions. And from the moment Caelan Doris barreled over to score in the opening minutes in Cardiff six weeks ago, it hardly seemed in doubt.

It's Ireland’s Grand Slam, their first to be secured in front of a raucous Lansdowne Road crowd, and it’s the most emphatic of the lot.

The stars aligned for Andy Farrell’s side from a long way out; a packed Aviva Stadium, a wounded England and the ultimate way for their captain and talisman Johnny Sexton to sign off his 14th and final Six Nations.

This was far from the best performance of the five, but it was the most important. At times in the first half Ireland looked frustrated when promising attacks were ended by handling errors, and misplaced kicks saw them put under pressure.

But the mark of this team under Andy Farrell is when things start to look pear-shaped, they have the mental ability to make it right.

Falling 6-0 behind inside the first quarter of an hour, Ireland were feeling the full force of a determined English side who harried the hosts into a number of early mistakes.

For the second year in a row between these sides, a red card arrived at a crucial juncture, England’s Freddie Steward sent off right before half-time for a shoulder to the head of Hugo Keenan, which saw the full-back replaced by Jimmy O’Brien for the rest of the game.

There will be some who suggest the game flipped on the red card, but in reality Ireland were starting to show their superiority, having gone 10-6 in front a few minutes earlier when Dan Sheehan burst through the 22 to score after a clever lineout move.

The energy shifted just after the first quarter; a big defensive stand led by O’Mahony (above), Sheehan and Lowe was followed by a penalty for Ireland at the resulting lineout to which the crowd responded.

And by the time the red card arrived 18 minutes later Ireland looked to be in control, as England’s discipline deteriorated, conceding 10 first half penalties.

The 10-6 half time lead was cut to 10-9 early in the second half with a third Farrell penalty, and while Ireland were yet to catch fire, they never looked in any real danger, with the visitors offering very little in attack.

They killed the game off just after the 60-minute mark, Robbie Henshaw crossing for a try which was followed shortly after by Sheehan's second, and although England's Jamie George replied with eight minutes to play, Rob Herring's bonus-point try with three minutes left popped the corks on the Grand Slam party.

Josh van der Flier and his team-mates found it hard going against a fired up English defence

Ireland have gained a reputation for fast starts in recent seasons, but were off the pace early on this evening. A lineout malfunction was followed by the concession of a turnover in their own 22, and when Andrew Porter was penalised for not rolling away it allowed Owen Farrell tap over the first points of the day, to send England 3-0 in front after five minutes.

The hosts responded by winning back-to-back penalties, the second of which saw Sexton take a quick tap and dart towards the tryline, only to be held up by the covering tackle of Maro Itoje.

The opening quarter was dotted with uncharacteristic mistakes; Keenan knocked-on after over-running a pass, Hansen sliced a kick out of touch, and from the resulting lineout they conceded another penalty, allowing Farrell make it 6-0.

Sexton cut the arrears to 6-3 with a penalty of his own on 18 minutes, and in doing so surpassed Ronan O'Gara’s Six Nations points record, but there was little time to dwell on the achievement, as the Irish sloppiness continued.

Ten chat: Sexton and opposite number Owen Farrell have a discussion

Keenan shanked a clearance in his own 22 which left Ireland under pressure, but the defence stood tall, with O’Mahony, Sheehan and eventually Lowe coming up with some dominant tackles to force England into touch.

Ireland were far from their best, but some dreadful English discipline was giving them a constant source of possession. Alex Dombrandt and Ellis Genge both conceded penalties for late hits on Irish players, with the latter of those being the eighth penalty given away in the opening half hour. And it gave Ireland the platform from where they finally broke through to grab the lead.

It started and ended with Sheehan, who found Baird at the lineout, and after feigning to maul, Van der Flier broke from the back to sprint towards the posts and bring Dombrandt with him, before popping back inside to Sheehan, who found the covering defence napping, and the hooker burst clear to score the game’s first try.

Sheehan bursts through to score the opening try

It was converted by Sexton to nudge Ireland 10-6 in front after 32 minutes, and while they looked to be slowly wrestling control back from the visitors they had to be alert in defence, with Gibson-Park, Doris and Van der Flier combining to hold Henry Arundell up in the tackle and force a turnover.

Then, right on the stroke of half-time, England’s hopes of pulling off a shock were dealt a hammer blow when Steward was red-carded for a head-high challenge on Keenan. It was a ferocious collision which ended Keenan’s game, but it was hard not to feel for the English full-back, after his opposite number had dipped to pick up the loose ball.

Referee Jaco Peyper and his officials weren’t for mitigating that, however, sending the Leicester Tigers man off, the only comfort for England being that their goal line defence held firm in the closing stages of the half as Ireland lead 10-6 into the break.

Steward's hit on Hugo Keenan earned him a red card

England landed the first points of the second half, Farrell slotting his third penalty of the evening to make it 10-9 after Porter was pinged for collapsing the scrum.

The nervous energy was creeping back in. Sexton mishit an exit from his 22 to give England a lineout in a dangerous position on 53 minutes, but Jack Conan – on for Peter O'Mahony - disrupted the maul to allow Gibson-Park bring Ireland back into English territory.

The relief arrived on the hour mark, as Van der Flier’s decoy run opened the door for Henshaw to burst over and extend Ireland’s lead.

The try was built several minutes earlier when Baird won a jackal penalty in his own half, while from the resulting lineout a perfectly weighted kick from Sexton, and chase from Hansen, O’Brien and Henshaw drove Anthony Watson back over his own line to force a five metre scrum.

Penalty advantage was to come from the scrum, and after moving infield Ireland pulled the ball back towards the blindside, with Aki laying the pass on a plate for Henshaw to barge over and score.

Sexton’s conversion made it a two-score game, 17-9, with just under 20 minutes to play. Suddenly, Lansdowne Road started to breathe a little easier.

Seven minutes later it was party time. Attacking then blindside again, a Hansen pass put Sheehan into space to bring Ireland into the 22, and after recycling the ball the hooker held his spot on the wing, with Conan playing him in with a delightful offload to dive over for his second try of the game, converted by Sexton to all but kill things off at 24-9.

With eight minutes left, England mauled their way over for a try, Jamie George getting the decisive touchdown, and while Farrell converted, it still left Ireland eight points in front and with the trophy in sight.

Sheehan's second try sealed the Slam

There was to be no miracle comeback. Jack Willis saw himself sent to the sin-bin with five minutes left after a brainless tip-tackle on Ross Byrne, who replaced Sexton in the final 10 minutes, the Ireland captain limping out of the game, but doing so to a ferocious ovation.

And in the final stages Rob Herring burst off the back of a maul to score the fourth try and seal the win, capping off the most memorable of championships.

Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Ryan Baird, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris

Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Tom O'Toole, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ross Byrne, Jimmy O'Brien

England: Freddie Steward; Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi, Henry Arundell; Owen Farrell (capt), Jack van Poortvliet; Ellis Genge, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler; Maro Itoje, David Ribbans; Lewis Ludlam, Jack Willis, Alex Dombrandt.

Replacements: Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell, Marcus Smith, Joe Marchant.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)