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England 23-22 Ireland: Marcus Smith last-gasp drop-goal crushes Irish Six Nations Grand Slam dreams

Ollie Lawrence, George Furbank, Ben Earl scored tries, before Marcus Smith struck a drop-goal with the final kick to beat Six Nations leaders Ireland at Twickenham, denying them the title a week early and halting dreams of a consecutive Grand Slam; James Lowe scored two tries for Ireland

Image: Marcus Smith struck a drop-goal with the final kick of the game to crush Ireland's Grand Slam dreams

Ireland's hopes of historic back-to-back Six Nations Grand Slams were ended by England with the final kick at Twickenham, as Marcus Smith struck a last-gasp drop-goal to seal a 23-22 win.

England, who produced their best performance of the championship by a considerable distance, scored tries through Ollie Lawrence, George Furbank and Ben Earl.

Ireland scored their points through four Jack Crowley penalties and two James Lowe tries, but fell behind from a position of nine points ahead as England got the better of their lineout, two injuries to backs forced scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park to the wing and skipper Peter O'Mahony was shown a costly yellow card.

England 23-22 Ireland - Score summary

England - Tries: Lawrence (4), Furbank (48), Earl (60). Cons: Smith (61). Pens: Ford (17). Drop-goal: Smith (80+1).

Ireland - Tries: Lowe (44, 73). Pens: Crowley (3, 20, 35, 40+1).

Crowley kicked Ireland into a 3-0 lead in just the third minute, but England hit back almost immediately with the Test's opening try, as after Ireland wing Calvin Nash closed down space with a big tackle and was out of the game hurt, Lawrence raced into space down the wing, handing off Crowley to score in the corner.

England's Ollie Lawrence scores their first try
Image: England's Ollie Lawrence scored the opening try of the Test in the corner
England's Ollie Lawrence celebrates scoring their first try

Ford's conversion slipped wide, but Ireland were forced to shift full-back Hugo Keenan to the right wing with Nash unable to continue.

England's impressive fast start continued, as the opening try appeared to breed confidence to play at massive tempo, with only crucial Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Beirne turnovers in the Ireland 22 avoiding the concession of further tries.

A penalty against Ireland centre Bundee Aki for lying on the wrong side saw Ford extend the England lead to 8-3, but Ireland hit back via the boot of Crowley quickly to narrow the gap back to two points.

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A poor Aki carry off the restart straight into touch brought England onto the front-foot again, as they kicked to the corner with their next penalty instead of for a shot at posts, with a potential second Lawrence try ruled out for a Furbank knock-on.

Six Nations
Image: A second England try was ruled out after George Furbank knocked on in a tussle for the ball with Ciaran Frawley

Ireland centre Aki then jackalled superbly to win a penalty near halfway, which Crowley dispatched with a low drive for an improbable lead based on the balance of play to that point.

Image: Jack Crowley kicked Ireland into a 9-8 lead via long-range penalty

A costly few minutes from Furbank handed Ireland the final attack of the half, from where Crowley kicked them into a four-point lead after England were caught offside.

A blistering start to the second period saw Ireland finally string their notes together in attack, producing a try of stunning quality through Lowe, as Keenan did brilliantly to claim a high ball to set the platform before Crowley showed great composure and skill to send Caelan Doris running into space.

Ireland's James Lowe scores a try
Image: James Lowe scored Ireland's first try early in the second half

Crowley's tough conversion veered wide, but with England needing to score next from nine points behind, they did just that as a superb Sam Underhill carry and offload created the space for Furbank to sprint in down the left.

Ford missed again with the boot to leave England trailing by four, but Ireland were then forced into playing Gibson-Park on the wing as replacement Ciaran Frawley also departed for a failed HIA.

O'Mahony was then sin-binned for cynically diving over a ruck after a line-break, with England kicking to the corner for a massive chance, which they took to lead via Earl after several phases of close-range attack.

A Ronan Kelleher breakdown penalty saw Crowley produce a superb kick to touch, and once Lowe scored with seven minutes to go after more good hands on the run, Ireland looked to have done enough for victory.

James Lowe of Ireland celebrates the first try
Image: When Lowe crossed with seven minutes to go, Ireland seemed to have won it

Elliot Daly missed a penalty wide from distance with four minutes left, but the very final attack of the game saw Immanuel Feyi-Waboso attack down the wing for a big gain of distance, and Smith then provide the most dramatic climax.

Earl: Quite the accolade for the 'worst England team ever'

Player of the match Ben Earl said...

"Unbelievable. I am a bit emotional really. Apparently we are the worst England team ever so we did pretty well for that accolade.

"We knew from the beginning of the game that if we played our best stuff we would have a chance.

"Everything came together today and we are very fortunate. Amazing stadium, amazing fans and amazing teammates.

"I am just so pleased. People don't see have the stuff they do and they can write what they want."

Ben Earl
Image: England's Ben Earl was full of emotion as he said 'apparently we are the worst England team ever so we did pretty well'

Ireland skipper Peter O'Mahony...

"Credit to England. We spoke beforehand about how dangerous they can be and how they can disrupt our attack and they defended really well so I think credit goes to England.

"We were frustrated with some of our discipline, it was poor including my yellow card. I think it was more down to them putting us under pressure.

"Their ability to disrupt our ruck was really good and they put quick ball together.

"We will go home, review, get back into camp, kick on, and try and win a Six Nations Championship."

What's next?

Ireland face Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin in the final round of the championship on Saturday March 16 (4.45pm kick-off GMT).

Ireland's Six Nations 2024 fixtures

Friday, February 2 France 17-38 Ireland 8pm
Sunday, February 11 Ireland 36-0 Italy 3pm
Saturday, February 24 Ireland 31-7 Wales 2.15pm
Saturday, March 9 England 23-22 Ireland 4.45pm
Saturday, March 16 Ireland vs Scotland 4.45pm

England travel to play France in Lyon on Saturday March 16 (8pm kick-off GMT) for their final Test of the 2024 championship.

England's Six Nations 2024 fixtures

Saturday, February 3 Italy 24-27 England 2.15pm
Saturday, February 10 England 16-14 Wales 4.45pm
Saturday, February 24 Scotland 30-21 England 4.45pm
Saturday, March 9 England 23-22 Ireland 4.45pm
Saturday, March 16 France vs England 8pm

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