Referee microphone picked up England players calling out hits on Conor Murray
If you want to stop Ireland, you get to Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton.
That has so often proved easier said than done. Even when the opposition get to these men, you will find that both Murray and Sexton bounce back up and keep playing.
Last year, when Kieran Marmion partnered Sexton in the final day victory over England, in Dublin, he told us how they tried to get into the heads of the half backs and lined up hits. He told us:
"I could hear them at all the rucks, giving me a good bit of verbal pressure. You can hear them shouting, ‘I’m all over him, I’ve got him.’ I guess it’s just a way of putting people off."
It has almost been passed over, amid the Grand Slam euphoria, that Murray stepped up to kick another penalty and extend Ireland's lead to a monumental 24-15. It is taken for granted now. It's Conor Murray, not a bother.
England knew they had to get after the Ireland No.9 from the get-go. They rocked him a couple of times but could not knock him off his game.
There were two late charges on his box-kicks with Chris Robshaw's the most egregious. Neither were punished but the bumps only went to show how the Munster man was England's public enemy No.1.
Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Chris Robshaw [twice] and James Haskell all took late darts at Murray at and match referee Angus Gardner was twice asked to look back at footage.
MURRAY: "Did you see the [Robshaw] shoulder in the back from that kick?
GARDNER: "We've checked it. We've checked it?"
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) March 17, 2018
I know there's nothing in the laws against it but it gets a bit old listening to "Murray, Murray, Murray" every time Conor gets the ball. Now Robshaw hits him late and the ref does nothing
— Nick Smyth (@NickSmyth01) March 17, 2018
The worst of the hits came on 35 minutes as Robshaw - with cries of 'Murray, MURRAY!' ringing out on the ref's microphone - lined him up.
Gardner told Murray that he had just seen the infraction as a push and not warranting any sanctions.
That's twice that Robshaw has clattered Murray after a box kick.
— Dan Cancian (@dan_cancian) March 17, 2018
That was the theme, England trying to get after Murray whenever they could but they often could not lay a finger on him.
The scrumhalf made a number of smart snipes down the blindside to set England back on their heels and his kicking from hand was immaculate. His best contribution of all was drawing in a couple of defenders and teeing up Jacob Stockdale for his crucial try in first half injury time.
Pure timing and class.
It must be noted that Murray carved up the English defence less than four minutes after being barged so unceremoniously by Robshaw.
Our Player of the Tournament, no doubts.