England team's post-match gesture to victorious Ireland a lesson to us all
He may not have played a minute during this Six Nations championship but Keith Earls was a popular man after Ireland claimed the Grand Slam.
Manu Tuilagi, Owen Farrell and Jamie George were just a few of the England players to seek out Earls as Ireland's Grand Slam winners partied all over the Lansdowne Road pitch. Ireland had won 29-16 after playing the second half against 14 men, but it was far tougher than this sentence reads.
Paul O'Connell was another that received hand-shakes and words of congratulations from the England players. Maro Itoje stopped for a while and even gave the former Ireland lock a one-arm embrace before shuffling off to join his teammates.
Six years ago, at the same venue, Itoje and his England teammates had a muted celebration as they raised the Six Nations trophy aloft but rued missing the Grand Slam.
Ireland had spoiled the party, that day, but had lingered at the edge of the pitch to give England their dues and stick around for the presentation ceremony. This evening, in a Dublin town that ended up much more serene than the weather forecasts had predicted, England repaid the gesture.
England's post-match gesture
As 'Freed From Desire' and 'Where The Streets Have No Name' blared out on the sound system, Steve Borthwick and his staff stood along the sidelines. They made room for the friends and family of the Ireland players that were spilling onto the pitch to join in on the party.
The easiest thing to do would be to shake some hands and high-tail it. To leave the stage to Ireland.
Instead, they remained and were joined by their beaten players as Ireland were presented all the trophies they could possibly get their hands on. The Triple Crown and the Six Nations trophy were there. The Grand Slam is not a tangible trophy, but it is the accolade that means so much to the players.
England, en masse, hung around while the victor enjoyed their spoils. They could gripe about the Freddie Steward red card or how Ireland avoided some trips to the sin-bin, at least, but they corked it. Ireland were the best team of this championship and England paid their dues.
The very first thing England captain did, when ITV collared him for a chat, was to pay tribute to the hosts. The victors.
"First of all," he said, "congratulations to Ireland. Winning a Grand Slam is special.
"We showed a tremendous amount of fight. We probably gave too many penalties away in the first half which allowed Ireland in."
In the post-match press conference, Owen Farrell called the team coached by his father, Andy "fantastic" and he spoke of how special an achievement in the career of a player and Grand Slam is.
"Ireland are the number one team in the world... we reacted well to the (red) card but we didn't quite manage to hold on against a top, top side. Congratulations to them and their Grand Slam
Asked what son and father had said when they crossed paths, after the game, Owen Farrell said they had only spoken for 'two seconds' but he congratulated the old man.
"We'll catch up again, after this... to win a Grand Slam is special."
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