Irish Grand Slam dream ends with last-gasp Smith drop-goal

Irish Grand Slam dream ends with last-gasp Smith drop-goal

Ireland's quest to become the first side ever to win a back-to-back Grand Slam was ended at the death of England's Marcus Smith on Saturday afternoon. A 23-22 loss means Ireland will have to tend to their wounds. 

England and Ireland played out an excellent contest at Twickenham on Saturday afternoon, trading blows throughout.

England took the lead through Ollie Lawrence and could have scored another, but he knocked on his second attempt.

Jack Crowley, the Irish outhalf, kept Ireland in the game, and by halftime, Ireland were ahead by four points. The score was 8-12 at halftime, despite England being the better side in the half.

Ireland responded well in the second half and went 17-8 ahead thanks to James Lowe’s try early in the second half, but England roared back with a score from George Furbank.

Shortly after, Ireland lost Peter O'Mahony to a yellow card, and England scored their second try of the half thanks to Ben Earl. The score was 20-17.

Lowe would score again to make it 22-17 in front of a jubilant Irish crowd, but Ireland's poor discipline would hamper them.

Henderson got caught at the bottom of a ruck. England had a penalty inside their own half, but Elliot Daly’s kick went wide with five to go. It appeared that it would not be England's day. Ireland were in the ascendancy and only needed one minute to see it out, but Conor Murray decided to box kick and gave the English a lineout.

From the resulting lineout, England kept the ball, found their way to the line, and after a number of phases, replacement Marcus Smith was found with acres of space. He slotted the drop-goal with the clock in red to end Ireland's Grand Slam hopes in 2024.

Ireland can still win the Six Nations Championship with a win against Scotland in Dublin next weekend.

Speaking after the game, Andy Farrell praised England for their display and admitted Ireland will have to learn how to deal with losses quickly.

“For the neutral, that was a fantastic game to watch. We were on the wrong side of that, but we’ll have no trouble getting back up next week for what is a huge game for Irish rugby. The lads are realists. We will learn the lessons quickly," he said

“Not at all [surprised at how well England played]. Look at the quality of the players that England has. When you are coming off the back of a defeat, it tends to concentrate the mind a little bit. I thought they were super tonight. They were physical and challenging on the gainline, and they played a nice brand of rugby as well.”

Irish scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park added his take on the loss and admitted the team were naturally gutted, but like Farrell said, they will look to learn from it.

"We're pretty gutted," he said.

"It was there for the taking, I suppose, but fair play to England. They showed up today.

"I mean, we were right in it. They obviously won it in the last minute, which meant we were on the right side of the ledger towards the end of the game.

"I don't know; it's tough. There are plenty of things to review, and obviously we have to dust ourselves down because there's still a championship on the line."

Ireland vs. Scotland will take place on Saturday, March 16, 2024. Kick-off is at 4:45 pm. The game will be live on ITV (UK) and Virgin Media (ROI).