Having been denied a Grand Slam in London and a place in the semi-finals when losing narrowly to England earlier in the tournament, it was a good day at the office for Mike Ruddock’s young stars, who mixed clinical finishing with defensive heroics to finally gain revenge.
Skipper Niall Scannell was clearly delighted, saying: “I guess we owed them that, we didn’t do ourselves justice in London, let it slip last week, so there was no margin for error today. It was a magnificent team performance from the entire squad from 1 to 23.”
Ireland meet France, conquerors of Australia in the fifth/sixth place play-off and Scannell promised his team will be ready: “We have nothing to lose now and we’ll go for it hell for leather.”
Ireland opened the scoring with an early try from Barry Daly, converted by JJ Hanrahan, and it got better with Kieran Marmion’s brilliant break paving the way for a try from Ian Henderson with a little help from Alan O’Connor and Tadgh Beirne. Ireland further stretched the lead with the conversion and then a penalty from Hanrahan for a 17-0 half-time lead.
England got their first reward inside a minute of the restart when captain Chris Walker charged over in the corner but, despite England exerting further pressure, the Irish defence held out and Hanrahan added to their lead with a penalty for a 20-5 advantage.
Ill-discipline cost England in that second half when substitute Marland Yarde was sin-binned for foul play. England paid the price for that when Hanrahan’s perfectly-flighted chip found Jordan Coghlan in space on 72 minutes and the flanker scored a try that the out-half duly converted.
It mattered little that England came back for a try in 76 minutes from Henry Slade, which he converted himself; but there was no way back.
IRELAND: P Nelson (Dungannon/Ulster), B Daly (UCD/Leinster), C Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), C Farrell (Dungannon/Ulster), F Horan (Lansdowne/Leinster), JJ Hanrahan (UL Bohemians/Munster), Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht), D Merrey (Clontarf/Leinster), N Scannell (Dolphin/Munster, capt), T Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), A O’Connor (UCD/Leinster), T Beirne (Lansdowne/Leinster), I Henderson (Queen’s University/Ulster), J Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), J Coghlan (UCD/Leinster).
Replacements: M Sherlock (Clontarf/Leinster) for Horan (44, inj), J Rael (Garryowen/Munster) for Scannell (61), L McGrath (UCD/Leinster) for Marmiom (67), A Conneely (Corinthians/Connacht) for Henderson (71), J Cawley (Old Belvedere/Leinster) for Furlong, S Buckley (Munster) for Coghlan (both 74), P Reilly (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Merrey (76), J Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) for Hanrahan (77).
ENGLAND: B Ransom (Saracens), W Addison (Sale Sharks), S Hill (Exeter Chiefs), R Mills (Gloucester Rugby), J Bassett (Bedford Blues), H Slade (Exeter Chiefs), B Spencer (Saracens), A Hepburn (London Wasps), N Morris (London Wasps), K Sinckler (Harlequins), D Barrow (Leeds Carnegie), G Merrick (Harlequins), D Sisi (London Irish), J Clifford (Harlequins), C Walker (Leeds Carnegie, capt).
Replacements: M Crumpton (Saracens) for Sinckler, L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), M Yarde (London Irish) for Addison (all 40), D Robson (Gloucester) for Spencer (49). B Vunipola (London Wasps) for Hepburn, T Bell (Wasps) for Bassett (69).
Referee: L Hodges (Wales).