Leinster v La Rochelle

La Rochelle Fightback To Claim Back To Back Champions Cup Crowns

La Rochelle are European Champions for the second successive season as in a monumental final, they recovered from 17-0 down to snatch victory by one precious point, 26-27.

This final was eagerly awaited by any rugby fan for the sheer quality of both sides, and it lived up to its hype in the first forty minutes alone, a helter-skelter half comprising of 37 points on both sides!

Within a minute, an already adrenaline-fuelled Aviva was on its feet in delight, Dan Sheehan sprinting in after jack Conan freed him, Ross Byrne converting as La Rochelle were caught cold.

It was an unrelenting sea of blue shirts attacking and they profited once again with an emphatic try.  Jimmy O’Brien finishing fabulously in the corner after the forwards did the grunt work to free half backs Jamison Gibson-Park and Byrne to send O’Brien scampering in.

Visiting scrum half Tawera Kerr-Barlow then saw yellow by referee Jaco Peyper and less than a minute later, instigated by a rapid Gibson-Park penalty tap and go, Sheehan scorched across for his second try of the game, with only twelve minutes played!

Byrne’s two conversions struck the post in the only early luck La Rochelle were afforded.

The defending Champions soon found their feet though and with a dominant scrum, always had a platform to attack.  Inside Centre Jonathan Danty finished ferociously from the twenty-two, Antoine Hastoy bringing it back to ten points, 17-7 after twenty minutes.

A spout of handbags ensued in-between two ruthlessly slotted penalties from Byrne as Leinster threatened to run away with the score.

Yet, it was Ronan O’Gara’s men on top as the break loomed, Hastoy freeing their other Centre, Ulupano Seutini, who tidily trotted over, the French fly-half converting to leave it 23-14 after a breathlessly fun first half.

Hastoy and Byrne exchanged penalties early in the second half before Hastoy’s second nudged La Rochelle within striking distance at 26-20.

If the first half could (debatably) be deemed ‘Leinsters’, the second, undoubtedly, belonged to Ronan O’Gara’s defending Champions, who just like last year, patiently chipped away at Leinster’s lead and demonstrated ultimate courageous confidence by repeatedly choosing the corner, the try, instead of straightforward three points.

And fortune finally favoured their bravery, in the seventy-second minute, replacement Prop, George Henri-Colombe etched himself into the Champions Cup history chapters, stretching out superbly after a big surge, backed up by his buoyant (sensing blood) teammates. 

Even more important was to come as Hastoy lined up the pivotal conversion.  Pressure?  What pressure?  Hastoy struck it sweetly and for the first time, from the brink of oblivion at seventeen points down, La Rochelle led with seven minutes left.

Rubbing salt in the wound was Sheehan’s replacement, Ronan Kelliher, getting sin binned himself, it only illuminated Sheehan’s importance to Leinster.

As the Aviva crowd, apart from the disbelieving gleeful section of La Rochelle fans, slumped back in stunned silence, Leinster won a penalty with five minutes to go and kicked to the corner, with Byrne feeling it was too far out to kick at goal.

From there what ensued was a barrage of blue shirts piling into yellow before Peyper made a decisive, and fully correct to his credit, call.

Michael Alaatoa spotted by the TMO to have led with an elbow, an atrociously dangerous act and worthy of the red card brandished his way. 

The stark contrast of the impact between the respective substitute Props was undeniable.

With that, La Rochelle manged a nerve-shredding spell professionally and booted it out to spark the ultimate contrast of emotions.

Leinster players in tears at their second last-gasp, agonising one-point knockout rugby defeat in two weeks that has abruptly curtailed their (previously) undefeated season to leave them, to general astoundment, trophyless again.

La Rochelle retain their crown and with the guts, game-management and everything else they displayed in their fantastic fightback, deservedly are 2023’s Rugby Kings of Europe, Leinster looking certain but ultimately unable to dethrone them.

Leinster v Munster

Late Crowley drop goal stuns Leinster

A late Jack Crowley drop at goal saw Munster reach the final of the BKT URC Championship, overcoming their bitter rivals Leinster.

Big games, big moments, it was Crowley who proved to be the killer for Leinster, they went behind after the hour mark and from being pushed deep into their line, went up the field and Crowley shades of Ronan O’Gara hit the crucial score.

Munster will rue not taking three points shortly before Leinster crossed, hindsight a great thing, but a game of tight margins that would have had them more comfortable but Crowley’s kick with live long in the memory.

The game got underway but play halted after a minute as Munster cleared their lines, Leinster’s Will Connors needed some attention, looked to be a head/neck injury as the replay showed, he collided with Diarmuid Barron's arm on the face, an early change as he was replaced by Josh van der Flier.

A penalty followed for the hosts, the tackle illegal and Harry Byrne stepped up to land the early penalty from 36m to give them a three point cushion, 26,795 spectators packing themselves into the Aviva Stadium.

Possession changed hands numerous times in the opening half, Tadhg Beirne was penalised and Leinster kicked down field, then Munster won a penalty as Barron got over Tommy O'Brien.

Munster started to get a succession of penalties to put them in the Leinster half of the field, Ben Healy opting for the corner, but solid defence by the homeside saw them regain possession, Van der Flier driving Loughman back before stealing the ball, that allowed Luke McGrath to clear to halfway.

Three minutes later Munster would get points on the board, Jack Conan was penalised in the ruck and Healy pointed for the posts, a long range effort but the out-half nailed it with precision.

Back came Leinster however, Keith Earls was strong in the tackle as bodies were flying everywhere, the hits like two heavyweight boxers going 12 rounds, again however their discipline questioned early, penalised for a tackle off the ball, then Beirne conceded another penalty to stop Leinster playing an advantage.

Phase after phase Leister swarmed the Munster backline and creeped slowly toward the tryline, but ran out of space on the near touchline, the departing Dave Kearney doing well in the carry but bundled into touch with a stern hit.

A game of kick tennis ensued but then Leinster found an opening, Ryan Baird collected a loose ball on the halfway line from a aerial duel and sprints for the line, the second row racing a full 50 metre dash to cross the whitewash, however the TMO wanted to take a second look and he felt a blue hand knocked it forward, in an aerial duel Tommy O'Brien had the ball strike his hand and the score ruled out.

It was Munster to strike next as Healy and Craig Casey combined to try break the line but Van Der Flier showed his calibre in that back row to stop them dead, play brought back for a penalty Munster went to touch, that materialised minutes later to a kick in front of goal, as Ronan Kelleher made a tackle off the ball, Healy stepped up and put Munster 6-3 ahead after 24 minutes.

Munster still had a positive spell of possession after that, their defence again solid just outside their 22, their patience paid off as Jeremey Loughman forced a knock on, killing the move, the visitors found their shape after they earned a penalty advantage after Luke McGrath tackled a player while on the ground, Healy kicked to the corner as the noise from the travelling fans picked up.

Munster mauled well towards the line from the resulting lineout, cries of heave reverberating around the Aviva Stadium, but the ball popped out the back of the maul on the Leinster side as they cleared it up the field, Healy misjudged the clearing kick as it slipped through his hands, but a penalty was awarded for Munster close to halfway, Healy off for treatment for a blood injury, Rory Scannell on in his place with Jack Crowley shifting to 10.

It was full steam again for Munster, Leinster conceding another penalty as McGrath knocked on in the tackle, phase after phase transpired as Munster once again drove toward the line but once again possession was stolen close to the line, Byrne then booted a missile of a clearing kick long before Earls knocked on, a scrum turning to a penalty following an infringement.

Leinster were allowed to waltz into the Munster zone, they would leave with points, winning a high ball, they kept possession with Robbie Henshaw breaking stride, gaps opened in the Muster rearguard and Jason Jenkinspowered over from close range, Byrne converted for a 10-6 lead, just shy of the break, a lead Leinster wanted and left the field the happier of the sides.

Munster started the second half much the brighter, Peter O'Mahony making a 40 yard dash but a terrible pass by Casey ended the attack, a minute later Gavin Coombes broke away with a strong drive, him and Stephen Archer linked up to to break the line, phases transpired before Archer knocked on inside the Leinster 22. 

The pressure paid off six minutes into the half, Munster awarded another penalty close to goal, they opted to tap and go, holding possession and playing a penalty advantage, Beirne rumbled over for the visitors opening try, Munster back ahead as Crowley made it a three point gap from the tee.

Play started to get scrappy between the two, Munster sloppy from the restart, then Leinster again conceding a penalty, Munster again allowed to get ticking toward the Leinster line, 18 phases of big hits and movement before they won a penalty, opting for touch a three pointer looked on the cards.

Approaching the hour mark Munster stayed pressing and pressing, using their powerful forwards they laid siege to the Leinster line, 12 more phases before Max Deegan turned it over and they could break.

Leinster almost snatched a try straight after they turned it over, Byrne kicked long with a foot race ensuing between Mike Haley and Tommy O'Brien, who knocked on over the line, the pace of Haley was impressive as O’Brien looked in.

Patience and persistence paid off for Leinster three minutes later, almost 20 phases of build up play, they could smell the line and the frame of Joe McCarthy somehow in a sea of bodies found the gap to score, Ciaran Frawly missed the conversion Leinster back in front after 63 minutes, 15-13.

Leinster pinned Munster back late on and they had to work a score from deep, Fineen Wycherley turned it over, Casey kicking long to push Leinster back, they got up the other end of the field, then space opened for Crowley, he dropped into the pocket and put Munster ahead with a drop goal, shades of Ronan O’Gara in 2009, it's a Munster out-half to decide a game.

They got another big boost from the restart as Leinster chasers were ahead of the restart, a scrum in the midfield resulted for Munster, the clock ticked down possession all theirs, booting to touch a big win they now meet the Stormers in the decider.

Terenure College v Clontarf

Dooley inspires Terenure College RFC to Energia League Glory

Terenure have beaten Clontarf 50-24 in a replay of last year’s AIL Division 1A Final in the Aviva Stadium. Two tries at the end of the first half fired Terenure into the lead, where they didn’t look back.

The boot of Caolean Dooley was vital in Terenure securing their first ever AIL Division 1A Championship.

It was a first half that certainly lived up to all epic expectations, with two tries scored by either side. It was the defending champions Clontarf who got off to a brighter start, as they looked to dominate Terenure physically.

In the opening half, Clontarf had the better of the Terenure scrum, earning three penalties from the set play.

After a Caolan Dooley penalty gave Terenure an early lead, Clontarf fired back just nine minutes later through Aitzol Arenzana King, who defied the odds to fly in for a score in the corner.

Under immense pressure, King dived towards the try line from two meters out, his momentum propelling him over the try line in what was a fantastic James Lowe-esq score.

‘Tarf were over again in the 20th minute thanks to a pick and go try from JJ O’Dea, who benefitted from a controversial Mick Kearney clearout. The Second Row flew into the ruck, making no attempt to wrap, leading with a shoulder to the head of Terenure’s Harrison Brewer.

The incident was dismissed by referee Peter Martin, much to the surprise of the Terenure crowd as the incident was shown on the big screen multiple times.

It looked as if it could be a long afternoon for Terenure as Clontarf were much the dominant side in the opening 30 minutes. Last year’s champions dominated the set pieces and ran crisp attacking lines, carving open the Terenure defence.

Against the run of play, Terenure got a score back of their own, as Adam La Grue intercepted Hugh Cooney’s pass inside the Clontarf half, with the full back sailing away for an easy score.

Thanks to another penalty from Dooley ten minutes earlier, and Clontarf missing both conversions, Terenure now found themselves in the lead.

On the stroke of half time, with a penalty advantage, Terenure winger Craig Adams chipped the ball over the Clontarf defence, and thanks to a lucky bounce, was able to regather the ball and run in for a score underneath the posts. There were shouts for a knock on, but the ball clearly came off the winger’s knee as he then regathered the ball.

After being under the kosh for much of the first half, Terenure headed into the break with an 8 point lead.

After conceding two tries late in the second half and heading into the break 8 points down, Clontarf started the second half with work to do to get back in the game. In the 49th minute, following a brave decision to kick a penalty to the corner, Alex Soroka went over for Clontarf’s third try of the match.

The score came after 7 phases of pick and go’s from the dominant Clontarf pack, to put the defending champions back in the game.

Terenure all but sealed the championship in the 66th minute after Conall Boomer broke off the base of the Terenure scrum, running 20 metres, before splitting two Clontarf defenders with a brilliant pass to winger Stephen O’Neill for an easy finish in the corner.

Boomer got his reward in the 78th minute, finishing off a delightful Terenure move to score in the opposite corner, fending off Clontarf captain Matt Darcy before celebrating in front of his own fans.

Caolan Dooley had a fantastic day from the tee, scoring eight penalties and three try conversions, recording an astounding 30 points out of Terenure’s 50.

Dooley’s 4 penalties in the opening 20 minutes of the second half would prove vital for Terenure, as they kept the scoreboard ticking and kept an ill-disciplined Clontarf at bay.

It’s a first AIL Championship for Terenure, who produced a fantastic second-half performance to get revenge in the replay of last year’s final.

Despite a slow start, they scored two crucial tries at the end of the first half to lead at half time, and were able to keep the score board ticking to end up 26 point winners.

Following an incredible performance from the kicking tee in this afternoon’s AIL Division 1A final, we spoke to Terenure’s Caolan Dooley about his kicking technique and routine.

Dooley slotted 11 out of 12 kicks this afternoon, recording an eye-watering 30 points out of Terenure’s 50. Ironically, his easiest kick from straight in front of the posts, was his one miss of the afternoon!

Speaking with Dooley after full-time, he told us about his mental routine ahead of striking a kick, ‘You are practising the same way, it is the same as throwing a ball into a lineout, you have to have the same process every time’, he told us.

Dooley’s routine was noticeable throughout the game, as he changed nothing between kicks, regardless of distance or angle.

On distance, he said, ‘As soon as you step away from the process you are asking for trouble. If you don’t have the distance don’t take it on.’ Dooley nailed 11 out of 12 kicks this afternoon, and spoke to us about his mindset whilst he lines up to take the kick. ‘If you line the ball up the same way, take the same number of steps in the same direction as you always do, the kick is going to look after itself.’

Hailing from Limerick, Dooley grew up watching the illustrious Ronan O’Gara on his tv set, the former Ireland Fly-Half an inspiration for the young centre, ‘I am from Limerick, grew up with Ronan O’Gara as my idol. Even to hear him how he was so nervous before some kicks.’

Dooley produced a ROG-esq performance this afternoon, scoring an incredible 30 points in today’s final, looking calm and composed in all of his kicks. Dooley’s penalties in the second half allowed Terenure to gradually pull away from Clontarf on the scoreboard, and he was rightfully awarded player of the match.

Leinster v Cell C Sharks

Leinster Outclass Sharks To React Semi Final Stage

Leinster despite a raft of changes, comfortably outclassed defending URC Champions, Cell C Sharks, as the table toppers reached the semi-final stages.

With the reigning URC Champions (and Bruce Springsteen!) in town, Leinster needed another high-level performance to advance. 

Yet, they started sluggishly, sliced open with ease by Sharks’ scrum half Gran Williams’ sniping dart through the hole, Dave Kearney was left for dust and despite Boela Chamberlain’s conversion missing, Sharks had silenced the (admittedly, not full) Aviva.

Caelan Doris rumbled over as an unstoppable force from a lineout after Kearney redeemed himself with his own arcing run up field to win the territory. Byrne added the extra two for 7-5 with winger Makazole Mapimpi yellow carded for an ill-judged, and failed, tackle on Doris.

Just after twenty minutes, tighthead Michael Milne bundled across the whitewash after Leinster had kept Sharks under the pump, Byrne’s touchline kick perfect to ensure the conversion.

Byrne continued his bright half by assisting the third home try, Jordan Larmour gobbling up the fly half’s incisive chip to the right flank.  Although both players have Hugo Keenan to thank, the Ireland international’s shimmying run creating the space.

Sharks piled forwards for the final ten minutes of the first half but a Chamberlain penalty that fell short was as close as they came, frustration the primary feeling for the men wearing white.

Milne wobbled a yellow card tightrope, warned three times at scrums. 

Leinster, as always though, overcame this potential hurdle and flankers combined down the left side, replacement Jack Conan freeing Max Deegan to canter into the corner, Byrne four from four with another excellent strike from the tee.

As both sides emptied their benches, one of the new arrivals, Liam Turner nearly had Leinster’s fifth try, chomping in from his wide berth but held up by bodies under the ball.

Joe McCarthy made his comeback from injury after ankle surgery in the final dozen minutes.

Williams, Sharks’ perkiest player throughout, set up what looked to be their second score when Rohan Janse van Rensberg dived over but like their early lead, it evaporated and ultimately boomeranged back at them with flanker James Venter yellow carded for a needless high tackle on Andrew Porter.

Jamison Gibson-Park made a more permanent scoring substitute appearance, he enjoyed the simple task of running in unopposed after Kearney’s crafty grubber kick exposed Sharks’ lesser man. 

Big brother of the Byrnes’, Ross, added the extras to leave a whopping margin of thirty points.  

Cian Healy, who came on at half time, limped off a minute from time but by then, it was mission accomplished for Leo Cullen’s men who will sit back and watch with interest to see who they will face next weekend, the winners of an enticing encounter as Glasgow host a resurgent Munster.

On this fiery form though, Leinster look a sure bet for a potential URC and HCC double.  

Leinster v Toulouse

Clinical Leinster book European final spot

Leinster advanced to the Champions Cup final courtesy of an emphatic 41-22 win in a high-scoring demolition of Toulouse which saw eight tries scored in total. 

With some dubbing this, a not inaccurate, version of club rugby Ireland vs France, the game started at an exhilarating tempo, Leinster’s Ross Byrne notching the first points with an easy penalty after Jack Willis had been pinged for not rolling away by Wayne Barnes. 

Willis though made amends moments later, his barnstorming run powering Toulouse’s attack.  Conducted by Antoine Dupont, it was patiently worked through Thibauld Flament for centre Pita Ahki to nimbly evade tacklers and finish well.  Thomas Ramos’ conversion putting them 3-7 up.

A Byrne penalty reduced the gap to one point before Ramos saw yellow for an adjudged deliberate knock on, Leinster proving as reliably ruthless as ever, flanker Jack Conan drifting through tacklers to dot down with Byrne easily converting.

Within four minutes of his first score, Conan had another after Josh van der Flier set his fellow flanker free down the left touchline, Conan shimmying the last man and scoring with rather more aplomb!  Byrne’s impeccable conversion stretched the lead to thirteen.

Jimmy O’Brien then had a sore disallowed by the TMO after he had a foot in touch, miniscule margins denying the winger.   Nonetheless, fourteen points and two game-changing tries in the ten minutes with a man advantage for the men in blue.

Toulouse then gifted their hosts a third try shortly after, replacement scrum half Paul Graou being seized upon deep in defensive territory and the ball ripped for Dan Sheehan to gleefully rampage over the whitewash, Byrne making it five successful kicks from five.

In a thrillingly high-scoring first half, Toulouse struck through lock Emmanuel Mefaou muscling his way through, the unstoppable forward extending a massive arm to ground the ball stupendously, Ramos adding two for 27-14.

A stunning first forty minutes with the total points eclipsing the minutes played (forty-one to forty)!

Despite Toulouse emerging all-guns blazing, a vital defensive intervention by Charlie Ngatai reprieved the Dublin province. 

Ramos slotted a penalty to make it a ten-point game as Toulouse built momentum.

However, their good work was hindered by another sin binning for replacement prop Rodrigue Neti after a head-to-head collision with Josh van der Flier.

Immediately, Leo Cullen’s side made maximum gains once more, the icing on the cake being a try for van der Flier in his fiftieth Champions Cup appearance.  Byrne’s conversion doubled the lead.

Fresh legs proved key to Leinster’s clincher score with Jason Jenkins profiting on leggy Toulouse defending to virtually seal his side’s spot in the final.

With the clock red, Willis surged over from a maul for the final score of an enthralling encounter.

Dupont struggled to get a foothold in the match and although threatening for large parts, Toulouse, ultimately like last year were blown away by a not dissimilar scoreline!

Leinster keep motoring on as an unbeatable machine this season and will wait to see who they face in the final, either Exeter Chiefs or La Rochelle, as they bid to lift the Champions Cup for the first time since 2018. 

Leinster v Leicester

Leinster Rugby v Ulster Rugby

Second Half Tries Secure Leinster Last Eight Spot In Champions Cup

Tries from Jamison Gibson Park and Andrew Porter in the second half, ensured that Leinster would make the Quarter Finals of the Champions Cup, in a entertaining tussle with Ulster at the Aviva Stadium.

Ross Byrne was also a big performer for Leinster as he managed 15 points from the boot to add to Tries from Ryan Baird, Jamison Gibson Park and Andrew Porter.

Ulster did preform well but just lacked a little in the chance creation as they spent a lot of time having to defend against a wave of blue offence, Leinster will host Leicester Tigers in the quarter-finals at the Aviva Stadium.

The game began with the majority of the earthly action played out in the Ulster half, with Leinster starting bright and making some early exchanges, but Ulster would get a chance to get going and did find themselves, a kick in behind saw Hugo Keenan drop the ball, Ulster were awarded a scrum that came to nothing but a Leinster offside gave Ulster have an easy opportunity to get points on the board.

Nathan Doak tapped over for a 3-0 lead, things got a little bit heated between both sets of players after Leinster won a penalty, some hang bags as players had to be separated but Ross Byrne notched the penalty to tie.

Leinster bagged the games opening try in the 19th minute, as Ryan Baird managed to power over, the TMO was needed to check the grounding on the wet conditions, but it was given and Byrne gave them a seven point margin. Five minutes later Byrne kicked over a penalty from distance the lead ten by the 25th minute.

A piece of magic would bring Ulster back into the tie, Billy Burns showed his vision and kicking intelligence with a pinpoint kick out to the right flank where James Hume was waiting and the centre eventually crossed for their opening try, Doak missed the conversion but the scoreboard reading 13-8.

Jack Conan forced his way through the Ulster defence with a great move in the 35th minute and was celebrating their second try, the TMO was again needed to consult grounding and a knock on, it was brought back for a Leinster penalty as they had advantage but Conan had lost possession of the ball before driving forward.

Leinster kept the pressure on immediately after as Ulster were doing everything to keep them out, conceding a host of penalties under pressure Tom O’Toole lucky to not see yellow, Leinster had the advantage and tried to open the Ulster defence but as it came to nothing Byrne sliced three from the tee and we headed for the break the hosts ahead 16-8.

Ulster remained up against it and yet more penalties against them saw James Hume sin-binned, another tap and go left the pressure on but a try would come against the 14 men of Ulster, Robbie Henshaw attempted to pick out Ross Byrne but the past with astray, however Jamison Gibson Park collected the loose ball and raced in under the posts to score, Byrne’s conversion making it 23-8.

Despite being a man down and trailing by 15, Ulster showed their fighting spirit to get their next try minutes later, their maul powered over as Rob Herring touched down and two points from John Cooney put Ulster back into contention behind by eight points.

But after the hour mark Leinster got some more breathing space as Andrew Porter pumped the legs to cross from close range after their forwards had again laid siege to the Ulster line from a penalty, Byrne converted and Ulster had a bigger mountain to climb.

That served as the final score of the game, Ulster had Harry Sherridan sin-binned late on but were unable to work a score to add late drama at the Aviva as Leinster remained untouched in all competitions.

Ireland v France

France Inflict Heavy Defeat On Ireland In Round 2 of Six Nations

France shrugged off the blow of an early red card to notch nine tries in a thumping win over struggling Ireland in Cork.

The five-time Grand Slam winners lost Annaelle Deshayes for a high tackle in the 21st minute but still had the bonus point wrapped up by half-time.

Scrum-half Pauline Bourdon scored two of France's five first-half tries, with Audrey Forlani, Gabrielle Vernier, Agathe Sochat, Cyrielle Banet, Charlotte Escudero and Pauline Bourdon (2) scoring France’s other touchdowns.

Dannah O'Brien's first-half penalty was the sole score for Ireland, who had Meabh Deely sin-binned late on for a cynical foul.

Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams said: “It’s hard. it is a big scoreline, if you look at the resilience, we wanted players to show that, and they did. I was happy the players worked. The key is to keep building now, three new caps again this week. They are a great group of players, they are learning, they are inexperienced. It takes time, it is a young squad. We own that and we are proud of the players.

Ireland struggled to get a foothold in the game because of France's power, physicality and big-game experience as the visitors clinched their second straight victory of the tournament following their win in Italy last weekend.

Here were two teams at very different stages of their development with a smattering of rookie Irish players only at the start of their journey at international level.

Yet despite another heavy loss to follow last week's opening round 31-5 defeat by Wales, this was an improved display by Ireland and they will learn some valuable lessons.

They won early turnovers, slowed down French ball, had good maul defence and played with an aggression and intensity not seen in Cardiff seven days earlier.

Ireland fronted up and fought to the end with a couple of late forays into France's 22 in a game that a young, inexperienced side can learn from.

Lansdowne RFC v Clontarf RFC

Ireland v England

Ireland Secure Fourth Grand Slam On Paddy’s Weekend

Ireland have secured their fourth Grand Slam, a first in Dublin after a dramatic win over 14 man England this evening, on St Patrick's weekend.

Three second half tries from Robbie Henshaw, Dan Sheehan and Rob Herring got Ireland over the line against a ruthless England side who did everything to stop the party.

Sheehan grabbed a try in the opening half to put Ireland ahead before a sending off for Freddie Steward gave Ireland a big boost, one they failed to take until Henshaw and Sheehan crossed for tries, some nervy finish but the result goes the way of the hosts.

Belfast 1948, Cardiff 2009, Twickenham 2018 and now Dublin 2023 as Andy Farrell's side have their immense recent record alive with another big showing in the Six Nations making good on the defeat here in 2003 when England spoiled a Grand Slam.

Ireland started brightly with an early penalty for a tackle on Jamison Gibson-Park as he claimed a high ball, Johnny Sexton kicked for touch and they were able to build an early move, England however turned the ball over in the midfield but then the referee penalised them for a man off his feet making a tackle, Sexton landed a big kick to put them inside the English area.

England however came to play and as Ireland were punished for being too slow to roll away at the breakdown after a sustained spell of England pressure, this gave Owen Farrell a shot at the posts and he made no mistake for a 3-0 lead after eight minutes.

A penalty brought Ireland inside the England 22, a couple of nice phases brought Ireland close to the line, Sexton tapped a quick penalty but he was held up over the line as it looked like he had done enough to break the scoring record, the TMO was called to check if England had retreated and the call was a goal line drop out.

Down the other end and again more errors from the Irish gave Farrell his second penalty at goal and the lead was doubled to six points, a nervy cagey opening in Dublin as Ireland looked shell shocked but Sexton would get his record after a long range pena;ty in the 19th minute put Ireland on the board and put him in the history books.

As the half wore on both teams had chances, Ellis Genge tackled off the ball and awarded Ireland a penalty just inside the English half, Sexton nailed the kick inside the 22, Dan Sheehan delivered another quality lineout, Ryan Baird caught the lineout, the maul formed well as Josh Van der Flier burst away from the maul and played a superb pass inside to Sheehan, who barged past a couple of tacklers on his way to the line for the opening Ireland try, Sexton adding two more for a 10-6 lead in the 33rd minute.

Composure was needed toward the end of the half as both produced errors, Ireland almost had a late try but Mack Hansen produced a forward pass in the buildup, however Hugo Keenan was tackled by Freddie Steward, the England full-back made deliberate contact with his elbow to the head of Keenan and he was shown a straight red card as headed for the break.

It was a nervous opening half in Dublin and the second was the same as Ireland were unable to really put a foothold on the game, Farrell made no mistake on his third penalty after 51 minutes as Ireland were penalised in the scrum, with Ireland ahead by a point.

Peantlies and errors were creeping into the game for both but Ireland looked deflated as they were second best for a lot of the tie to England, at the scrum especially with Tadhg Furlong having to come off as his side was collapsing a lot.

On the hour mark Sexton produced a  cross kick that England were unable to deal with, Anthony Watson carried over the tryline and Ireland had a 5m scrum, Ireland had an advantage and ran the phases well, Bundee Aki produced a great pass to his midfield partner Robbie Henshaw to get over for their second try, Henshaw missed the last grand slam win but was key in this game, with Sexton edging the Irish further ahead.

Four minutes later and Ireland could dream about the Grand Slam, Sheehan grabbing his second try in the corner, Mack Hansen and Jack Conan both pivotal in the build up after Sheehan was initially short, they carried well before Sheehan had space on the right wing to dot over, Sexton with a sublime touchline conversion as Ireland were dreaming ahead 24-9.

Some late drama however as Jamie George powered over for England’s opening try in the final ten minutes, a big wakeup call for Ireland as Farrell reduced arrears, however Jack Willis was sent to the bin for an illegal move on Ross Byrne, the kick to touch set up a powerful maul and at the end was Rob Herring to stretch over and grab a bonus point try that secured the Grand Slam.