Full Ireland ratings as England destroyed in Dublin
IRELAND 32-18 ENGLAND
A championship that started terribly ended on an uplifting note as Ireland outgunned and outplayed last year's Six Nations champions. The full Ireland ratings are full of championship highs.
After a slow enough opening 20 minutes, with the scores tied 3-3, Ireland's bold attacking lineout saw Jack Conan release Keith Earls and the Munster winger did the rest. England responded with a second Owen Farrell penalty but Ireland had something even better in store.
After Tadhg Beirne and Tadhg Furlong did well to drive England back, Ireland had two minutes of unrelenting phases and pressure. The highlight was a Hugo Keenan high field and, when play swept back to the left, Jack Conan was there to stretch and get the score.
Jesus, where to start?!
WHAT A TRY!!! 👏pic.twitter.com/8PShiiXt8s
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 20, 2021
Ireland thought they had the game-clincher, on 50 minutes, but another wonderful Keith Earls try in the corner was chalked off for the ball slipping forward. They had to settle for a penalty that put them 17 clear as Eddie Jones began to empty his bench.
It was not working, though, and when Cian Healy won his side a scrum penalty, on 60 minutes, the hosts stretched further ahead. Bundee Aki's red card - for a high dunt on Billy Vunipola - and a Ben Youngs try briefly threatened to make it uncomfortable, but the 14 remaining players never let up.
Sexton added another penalty to all but kill off the game and a Jonny May consolation try was just that.
Here's how we rated Andy Farrell's men in green:
Hugo Keenan - 7
Immense aerial take as key in that Conan try. Spent much of the afternoon sweeping up and bellowing instructions to his teammates. Missed Jonny May at the death but Ireland were badly stretched.
Keith Earls - 8
Scorched England with a superb try off a well worked set-play. Looked to have a second try but the TMO did for him.
Robbie Henshaw - 9
A couple of huge turnover- and penalty-winning hits in the first half. Looked to be covering every blade of grass out there today.
Bundee Aki - 6
Bundled into touch by Owen Farrell on one carry. Came to the rescue when Murray couldn't handle a high pump. Really got under England's skin, physically and verbally. On the hunt all day. Good to see him back to his best. May consider himself unlucky to be red-carded but it put his side under pressure in the final 15 minutes.
Jacob Stockdale - 7
Put his side in trouble by not passing to Keenan after chasing down a Farrell kick. Grew into the game, thereafter, and made a lot of good carries.
Johnny Sexton - 8
In his element out there. Playing that high line and drawing in defenders. His high kicks caused trouble and put some teammates through walls with well-timed passes.
Conor Murray - 7
Conceded early penalty when he got done for not rolling away when trying to stop Maro Itoje. Troubled by a Farrell steepler in the shadow of his posts. Passing had that zip of old and he tackled well, around the fringes.
Dave Kilcoyne - 5
Went off early after shipping a blow to the head.
Rob Herring - 8
Bold lineout dart paid off for Earls' try. The Irish set-pieces were humming and this guy was a big part of it.
Tadhg Furlong - 8
Had big Mako Vunipola sweating in the scrum and won his side an important penalty, 30 minutes in. A monster around the park and huge in the scrum.
Iain Henderson - 8
That Irish lineout - in attack and defence - is all on him and it is ticking over nicely. Made a couple of big carries and threw in a linebreak, as well as locking down is side of the scrum well.
Tadhg Beirne - 10
Good early block on a Ben Youngs kick. Brilliant game sense saw him win his side two turnovers in the opening 30 minutes. The breakdown beasting continued in the second half as he has his way with England. Four turnovers and not out of English faces for a moment.
CJ Stander - 8
Made a few of those first man up hard carries that he loves so much and left several English players reeling.
Josh van der Flier - 7
Came to the party with a great steal in the second half. Brought real line-speed and defensive ferocity all day.
Jack Conan - 8
Lovely pop pass to Earls at the back of the lineout for that opening try. Didn't miss a tackle
Cian Healy - 8
One of his best days in green. Replaced Kilcoyne early and was dialled in from the get-go.
Ryan Baird - 7
Came on and waded into it with big tackles and carries.
More replacement ratings to follow...