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Classy Ireland win Six Nations after heartbreak for England at Twickenham

Ireland retained the Six Nations in dramatic circumstances, after England failed to beat France by the required points margin at Twickenham.

In a day where three possible countries could have won the tournament, Wales delivered against Italy running up a plus 53 goal difference putting the ball well and truly in Ireland and England’s court. Their second half performance against Italy was outstanding, with George North running in a terrific hat-trick of tries. A 60-21 victory had exceeded all expectations, on a day where new records were wrote.

For Ireland to beat Scotland 40-10 at Murrayfield, it was an almost super-human effort, as Joe Schmidt’s side put in a very measured and mature performance, staying relatively tight in defence and timing their breaks. This team are playing at the peak of their powers right now, and will certainly be one to watch at the World Cup. Even captain Paul O’Connell, in what was a break of his usual character, got on the scoresheet, along with man-of-the-match Sean O’Brien who ran in two. They passed the total set by Wales, with not long left to go, and simultaneously made England’s task even harder. With a plus 63 goal difference set, it would mean England needed to achieve the near impossible and beat France by at least 26 points.

So it came down to 80 minutes in a Twickenham stadium packed to capacity. Not a spare seat in sight. When Ben Youngs crashed over in the first two minutes, it appeared Stuart Lancaster’s side had made the perfect start. However, perhaps they took their foot off the gas, maybe convinced this wouldn’t be as hard as first thought. When France ran in their second in four minutes inside the 20 minute mark, you could have heard a pin drop inside Twickenham stadium. Way to silence a crowd.

However, England rallied and took a 27-15 point lead at the interval. The second half arrived, with the crowd seemingly positive. Two converted tries would be enough to secure the Championship, though France made sure it wasn’t that simple. Three tries from the visitors in the second half, still didn’t beat England’s four, as Jack Nowell crossed twice to add to George Ford’s while Billy Vunipola’s impact off the bench was instantaneous, as he made his mark beyond the whitewash.

It was a brave effort by England, who beat France by a record 55-35 coming just six points short of their required margin. In the end, the best, most consistent team won, and Lancaster’s side who certainly have potential, are not quite experienced enough. Rash decisions throughout the game cost them, though it certainly could be their tournament next year.