A BELOW-PAR performance but a once-in-a-lifetime day for Irish rugby.
We got to see the Irish captain step forward to receive the Triple Crown, Six Nations and Grand Slam trophies and bow out from the Six Nations while breaking the competition point-scoring record. Incredible stuff from Johnny Sexton!
Sexton isn’t quite finished yet as he still has the World Cup to navigate. Whatever happens there we can't argue that he is now the greatest fly-half to ever have worn the much-coveted number 10 jersey for Ireland.
Grand Slams are tough to win but when you are playing with supreme confidence, the expectation is huge. Ireland couldn't live up to that pressure but regardless, it was all the sweeter the final hurdle was against the nearest and dearest.
England may be only a shadow of their former selves, but for the future of the game, it is important that the faded Rose starts to replenish its colour. They love their position as the country everyone else relishes beating.
I doubt it very much if the final score would have altered much if England’s full-back Freddie Steward hadn’t received a red card at the end of the first half for an elbow to the head of Hugo Keenan. However, it would have been nice not to have given the visitors an excuse to offer up after their third loss in this year's competition.
Earlier in the day Italy lost to Scotland and France’s campaign ended in predictable fashion as they inflicted a 41-28 defeat on Warren Gatland’s struggling Wales.
Les Bleus' handsome victory against another nation we all need to see rising from the ashes ensured the title race with Ireland was to run its distance. That might have put an extra bit of pressure on Andy Farrell and his players.
When you string a run of very impressive victories together as Ireland have done, you find yourself in a place where you can afford to play well below your normal average and still emerge victorious.
I like to call it the winning habit.
For vast periods in the first half here, Ireland looked like a side that were trying too hard. And because the English decided to make an effort after their embarrassing implosion against the French seven days earlier, lots of plays that Ireland looked to implement failed.
The only way that England were going to have any chance of raining on Ireland's parade was by implementing a negative game plan that solely focused on slowing down the speed of ball delivery from Jamison Gibson-Park at the breakdown.
England were successful up to a point in their negativity albeit, Dan Sheehan’s try on the half-hour mark put a big dint in their strategy.
And Steward's red card which followed shortly after allowed Sexton and co take full control of proceedings and dictated the pace of the game for the remainder.
Throughout this campaign, certain individuals shone brightly, but I think it would be very unfair to single out any particular player for extra acclaim.
To achieve what Ireland have achieved isn’t possible without a gigantic effort from the players, management and the organisation itself and it was magical to see everyone who was involved present on the sideline come the final whistle.
This Six Nations crusade will be the highlight for many of these Irish players, but with the World Cup approaching at a considerable rate of knots it might come to pass that what happened on Saturday, March 18, 2023, is only a prelude to what might transpire on October 28 in Stade de France when the William Webb Ellis trophy is handed over to the World Champions.
Even though I thought I’d never say it, I now believe that reaching the Everest of the game is very much within our capabilities.
Many congrats to Johnny Sexton, Andy Farrell and everyone involved.
May the rollercoaster continue to gain the necessary speed to bring us to places never deemed possible.