nerves to the end | 

Mick Galwey: We won the Grand Slam with a poor, poor performance

Ireland legend salutes Andy Farrell’s men after memorable victory

Ireland's Jonathan Sexton celebrates with team mates after the Guinness Six Nations match at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Picture date: Saturday March 18, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story RUGBYU Ireland. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder.© PA

Mick GalweySunday World

Oh the nerves, the nerves, but we got there in the end.

Just the fourth Grand Slam in Irish rugby history and the first one ever nailed down in Dublin.

It was a great, great day for Irish rugby and I salute the players and coaching staff who made it all possible.

Without a doubt, nerves and emotion played a part in this, Ireland’s worst performance in the 2023 Six Nations.

Yes we won the Grand Slam with a poor, poor performance.

All the things we did well in the other matches seemed to go astray in the Aviva Stadium last night.

Poor handling, poor scrummaging, balls knocked on time and again.

It was all a bit of a mess that will annoy coach Andy Farrell and his staff - this was a day they would have wanted their boys to be really clinical.

Instead there were many passages in the match where we were all over the place.

Maybe the nature of the occasion got to them.

But partly that was because of the ferocity of England’s performance.

Our team should have known there had to be a backlash from England,

They were so bad against France last weekend that the Red Rose had to come good in this one, pure professional pride from their players demanded nothing less.

And it took Ireland a long time to subdue Steve Borthwick’s side.

On a day like this heroes were needed and Ireland found them when they were most wanted.

Dan Sheehan with two tries was superb. Ryan Baird was magnificent, winning turnovers and popping up all over the pitch.

I’ve been praising this lad for ages in this column, but he’s still just 23 and improving all the time.

He’s going to be a big player for Leinster and Ireland in years to come.

Bundee Aki was downright marvellous too. He made tackles and he made carries and he pushed the English back time and again, every time they tried to build a bit of momentum.

It was worth the ticket money in alone to see his collisions with English centre Manu Tuilagi.

These are two guys who just don’t have a reverse gear. Aki was superb.

And what about Johnny Sexton? My God, he played as though it was his first cap, not his last Six Nations game.

Really, we will only really miss Johnny when he is gone.

Only then will Irish rugby realise the gem we had in this man since he made his international debut in 2009.

Did the sending-off of England full-back Freddie Steward turn the game?

Yes, possibly, but in the current climate, as the ref said as he reviewed the incident on the big screen, you cannot hit someone in the head.

Players have been told that time and again by World Rugby, you have to drop your body when going into a tackle.

And not even the fact that the contact may or may not have been an accident will save you from a red card.

Hugo Keenan could not play on after Steward’s elbow pounded him and that was severe punishment for Ireland.

Keenan has been one of our best players all season, one of the best players of the Six Nations in fact, and was missed in the second half when Ireland could have run through the England defence.

But again the depth of the squad that Farrell is building came to the fore.

Lads like Jack Conan, Rob Herring and Ross Byrne all did their bit as Ireland got the job done late on.

Of course, England were going to tire, playing the whole second half with 14 men.

But there was a lack of spark about England all through the match. There was fight, yes, but no spark.

What glossy back moves do you remember from them, even when they still had 15 men on the pitch?

Their one try came from a rolling maul. It was all a bit too much the old power England of Clive Woodward and Eddie Jones.

Make no mistakes and batter the other lot into submission.

Well England made far too many mistakes yesterday in Dublin Four.

They gave away way more penalties than Ireland over the 80 minutes last night.

And that despite the fact the South African referee Jaco Peyper seemed to think Ireland had a problem in the scrum - penalising us for more then he did England.

Yet the one time either team got a push on, it was Ireland’s eight who mashed the English backwards.

Does English rugby culture not think of flowing back-moves or centres with pace and creativity?

Really, this bish-bosh stuff is never going to get them anywhere in terms of winning things.

Yes, because of the stupid draw for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, England will probably be in a World Cup semi-final next October.

But be sure, if they don’t open out their game and start to play the way World Rugby want the game of rugby to be played, then in that semi-final any of South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, France or even Scotland will beat them.

For now, the players will go back to their provinces for the European Cup and then link up in July for pre-season training to start the preparation for the World Cup.

As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, such is the depth of talent in Irish rugby, that Andy Farrell will have an issue picking the 33 to take to the Rugby World Cup, even though the squad to travel is that big.

These are the good times lads and lassies, enjoy them.

More Columnists

Latest Podcast

Latest News