Pre-tournament favourites Ireland were feeling the heat. A bad run of form and a poor showing in the Autumn Nations Cup had left many in the Irish media questioning the tenure of their English coach Andy Farrell.
Ireland’s first try was another unravelling of England’s over-throw line-out defence as they were sliced apart, Billy Vunipola unable to react and bring down Keith Earls as he cut through the English defence, and rounded Jonny May.
The second was easily my favourite try of the tournament. In 23 phases, it had everything — dominant collisions, an appreciation of when to play, and when to kick and re-gather, culminating in wonderful awareness from Jack Conan to dive through a gap left by a fatigued English defence.
It was a dismantling. Both from the video analysis spotted during the week, and the feel of the game from Ireland’s standout performers. England, rattled and searching for form, had shown glimpses of it returning against France a week earlier but were left to ponder their worst and most decisive defeat in their last game of the tournament.
It leaves them facing criticism from all corners about the team, their coaches, and their tactics. Head coach Eddie Jones awaits a review like no other in his time in England.
Having ridden the highest of highs of equalling the world record of consecutive wins, and largely eradicating the 2015 World Cup pain by reaching the 2019 final, he now has some unwanted records — the 121 points scored against them was the most England have conceded in a Six Nations tournament, and they lost to the three other home nations for the first time in nearly 50 years.
For a man with an illustrious career, these records will haunt and hurt. All the white noise and fallout will have alerted his bosses at the Rugby Football Union.
RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney will have taken note but Jones has a major factor on his side. The players. He has their ears, their respect and appreciation. Maro Itoje vouched for him post-match in a strong way.
With players behind him like that, who have such influence, it seems likely he will keep his job.
Sport has become business, there is no doubting that, and often in such times of struggle it is a ruthless one. But there is too, especially in rugby, a belief that relationships matter. Those weeks, hours and years cultivating and nurturing those bonds are worth a huge amount. This is why Jones stays. He may need to adapt in many ways. Who he selects, how he sets up his side, but he stays. England’s Six Nations may have been calamitous but great coaches who have tight-knit bonds with his cohort are hard to find.
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