Reuters DUBLIN (Reuters) — Two tries by Jacob Stockdale set up Ireland’s dominant 28-8 victory over Scotland on Saturday, which a few hours later proved to be enough for the Irish to clinch the Six Nations title.
Ireland’s 11th successive win, crucially with a four-try bonus point, turned the screws on England, which knew it would have to beat France with a bonus point to keep the title race alive for the final weekend.
England’s 22-16 defeat in Paris meant Ireland’s celebrations could begin, although Joe Schmidt’s side will go to Twickenham next weekend with only their third ever grand slam tantalizingly within reach.
“It’s special because we won it at home,” Schmidt said. “It’s bizarre [also], because we won it watching a game over which we didn’t have any control over. But we managed to control enough of the things that we were involved with to get the 19 points on the table that we needed.
“It was a great performance for France. They made it really tough for England to get any fluidity. We’ll have a look at England now and try to strike out again next week.”
A day that ended so joyously for the Irish had begun nervously as the Scots, buoyed by a victory over England last time out, matched their hosts for much of a high-tempo first half.
Ulster flyer Stockdale went over twice, however, the second on the stroke of halftime as Ireland went in 14-3 ahead.
Scrumhalf Conor Murray wriggled over early in the second half to widen Ireland’s advantage, but it was replacement Sean Cronin’s try in the 68th minute that drew the biggest cheers as it secured the bonus point.
Ireland will be wary of its visit to Twickenham, especially as it was the Irish who denied England the grand slam last season in identical circumstances.
“It’s been in the back of our minds, and it’s something you always dream of,” Murray said of the possibility of emulating the 1948 and 2009 feats.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to this point.”